3-Year Participant Advisory Project

Halton Community Legal Services Participant Advisory Committee

May 2019 – July 2021


HCLS ran a 3 year project where they sought feedback from newcomer communities in the Halton region about the benefit of receiving legal information through workshops held by lawyers. They organized meetings in which members of these groups could give advice on how to gather the feedback from these communities, how to digest the feedback collected, and advice on what recommendations to move forward with to improve the impact of the workshops based on the feedback received.

Neolé’s role was to facilitate these meetings in such a way that a diverse group of newcomers with different levels of Canadian experience could participate and give their ideas and opinions with a level playing field.


Since this project started in 2019, we had to shift from facilitating the meetings in person, to facilitating them online when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This was a bit of a challenge because not all of the PAC participants joined from computers (some had to join from their phones), so we were limited with the types of softwares we could use to facilitate the meetings.

It is often easier to participate in an in-person setting than in a Zoom meeting when there is an English language barrier among participants. We had to plan facilitation strategies that are very inclusive of people with differing levels of communication skills.

The other factor that we had to take into consideration was that they only met every 3-4 months, so we had to make sure that we were rekindling the relationships and the trust that had been built in the previous meeting(s).


Trust Building Activities

We designed a variety of activities that create psychological safety. We made sure the activities were simple and meaningful, helped reconnect the group from their time apart, create opportunity to rebuild the trust within the group, as well as for personal connection with others and comradery. We also wanted to include an element of fun and lightness in these activities. An example of these activities is the postcard sharing activity, where participants were invited to choose from a selection of postcards one that represented an update in their life. They then would each present their image and corresponding personal story. This activity elicited laughter and sympathy, and helped the group to reconnect in a genuine way.

Discussions and Communication

During discussions, we had focused questions for the meetings as opposed to free-form discussion, and really promoted turn-taking. This created an opportunity for every participant to use their voice without having to worry about talking over each other, or finding the “right time” to say something.

The Halton Community Legal Services had a researcher at each meeting, and provided summary updates at each meeting. They would tell us what their desired outcomes for each meeting. The lead facilitator, Ginny Santos, would plan an agenda and an approach to facilitation that ensured the desired outcomes were met.


This project allowed us and our client to bring together a diverse group of people to work towards a common goal. The group generated ideas and suggestions at every meeting that were useful to the client and met the project’s desired outcomes.

Since we were able to help the organizers shift this program online, the research has been able to progress despite the pandemic. The Halton Community Legal Services has managed to follow their framework and timeline, and have been able to meet the funding deliverables.


Started May 2019, ran 8 meetings over 3 years

Sol Santos-Pyne Chief Innovator and Prototype Evaluator. He is always ready to help design, paint, cut and install. Sol will show you what’s possible and will also try the impossible. He is the bravest monkey of all.

Ayla Larzabal Zavitz Artist-in-Residence and Director of the Safety Patrol. She makes sure that everyone is following the rules and having fun at the same time. She is the time-keeper and turn-taking monitor. She helps paint the wood for the monkey bars and will give you great advice on the best accessories.

Beto Santos-Pyne Video Producer and Editor as well as a Reliable Helper during heavy installations. When he is not building intricate systems in Minecraft he is the top ranking swinger on the monkey bars. 

Mateo Larzabal Zavitz is our Media Relations Expert and Installation Helper. Mateo knows what’s cool and what’s not cool. He helps us maintain a realistic outlook on the world and stay up to date on the latest movies and video games.

Matias Larzabal Designer and Lead Installer. Matias has more than 20 years of experience working in construction, 14 years of experience as a dad, 11 years of experience as an uncle, 10 years as a helpful Canadian neighbour and handy-man, and a lifetime of experience as a monkey. Matias is also an artist with a unique upbringing. You can learn more about him and his art on his gallery.

Ginny Santos Monkey Supervisor, Visionary and Managing Director. Ginny is a nutrition coach and entrepreneur who is always looking for ways of involving children in creative thinking and problem solving. You can learn more about Ginny’s other work on NeOle Coaching.