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Learning and Knowledge Exchange


Understanding causes and effects in a project/ initiative

A Timeline is a visual method used to review major past events in a project, organization or community. Its objectives include establishing a common perspective and shared understanding among participants; reflecting on gaps, lessons and emerging trends; and supporting future planning for ongoing projects.

Timelines are created through a group activity that enables participants to map out milestones, achievements, obstacles and other major developments together, and depict them in chronological order. This is followed by a plenary discussion to flesh out details and to validate the Timeline and the facts it includes.

Timeline can be a good complement for other knowledge exchange tools, notably the Retrospect: Doing a Timeline as part of a Retrospect session is a good way to sharpen the group's focus on the significant or critical moments that occurred during the implementation of a project/ initiative. This in turn helps identify the lessons to be learned. (See also the Retrospect elsewhere in this Toolbox.)


  • Facilitator
  • 1 - 2 rolls flipchart paper (for taping up on a wall)
  • Several pin boards (if taping flipchart paper on walls is not permitted at your venue)
  • Plenty of post-it notes (size approximately 3¡¨ by 5¡¨), in 4-5 different colours
  • Marker pens
  • 2 - 3 hours (maximum)
  • Up to 20 participants (more possible, see Variations)
  • Participants should include persons with firsthand experience of key events in the project/ organization/ community that is the focus of the Timeline exercise

Download the full module on the Timeline (PDF), including when and why to use, how to apply, tips for success, variations, and references. 



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