Time Lines

A time line is a list of key events in the history of a community that helps identify past trends, events, problems and achievements. The time line should go back as many generations as participants can recall, and include details of significant events.

Understanding the past of a particular community is often necessary to analyze present conditions, and to try to forecast how present conditions may evolve in the future. The time line helps the community understand what local, national and international events they consider to be important in their history, and how such events have affected their lives.
Also, knowing past events might show how and why individual and community activities have been shaped.


  • Through group discussion, encourage participants to list all the significant events they can recall. If the group is very large, divide participants into smaller groups by gender or age, or randomly, then collate the information later

  • Draw a long line on paper (a roll of newsprint is useful) with one end representing the 'distant past' and the other 'today'; have each group record significant events, with dates, on the 'wall paper'. Participants can use symbols or illustrations, or glue symbols /materials to the time line to represent specific events

  • Opening questions: What were the main events in the village? When did this community settle here? Who were the founders? What was the first important event they can remember? Have there been migrations, epidemics, famines, floods, droughts, or other natural disasters? What are some of the best things the community has done? What were some of the happiest times? Preferably, participants identify what is important to them in their history, what they want to discuss and put on their time line. The facilitator should probe for information and explanations, but allow the group to decide on what new details to add to their line until new ideas and memories are exhausted

Debrief: seek out trends. Identify highs and lows. Initiate discussion about how the community deals with challenge, (i.e. flooding), or builds traditions (i.e. celebrating ethnic diversity). Ask about efforts by government, churches and the community to address past problems. Ask who created awareness and action to deal with the problems, and how?

Resources: Materials participants can use as symbols; newsprint in rolls- or manila paper, tape, markers.

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