Privilege & Oppression Activity – “Who Makes The Rules” (+Facilitator Tips)

Video explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzzLajmQaQE

I created this activity to help groups of diverse backgrounds and experiences to have conversations and begin (continue) to act on societal norms that exclude members of our community.

It involves visual art, improvisation, verbal share back, and can be adjusted to suit your needs. Please feel free to take and use!

If you’d like to offer feedback or ask me to come facilitate please connect with me at wearemanyrivers[at]gmail.com

Would love to hear your experience if you do facilitate this activity!

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Many thanks to the people and organizations who have shared creative facilitation tips with me:

The Didi Society
Youth Program Quality Initiative
Equitas
Power of Hope
Partners for Youth Empowerment
and thank you to the women, trans folks, non binary peeps who continue to make space and share their stories.

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Details:

“Who Makes The Rules?” Activity

Timeline: (45min-1hr)

Group size: 8+ participants (works best in my experience)
Ages: 10+ (works best in my experience)
Facilitators: ideally 2, but can be done with 1.

Materials:

  • Plenty of colourful markers/crayons/pastels/etc. for everyone (definitely red and green)
  • Paper slips (1/4 of a blank page) ~3x number of participants
  • 2 copies of a) one slip with a red square, and b) one slip with a green triangle

Outcomes:

  • Everybody has unique aspects of themselves.
  • People make rules and some rules benefit some people while harming some people.
  • People who don’t “fit in” to the rules are often negatively impacted.

Introduction:

(5 min) Quick go around intros (name, pronoun, question to spark imagination, such as “if you were an animal other than a human today, which one would you be?”)

“We’re going to play an activity called ‘Who Makes The Rules’. Together, we are going to be in a community. You are all citizens and we are the Ministers of Education, Food, Water, and Shelter.”

[Note: One facilitator is ‘Minister of Edu. and Water’, and the other is ‘Minister of Food and Shelter’]

Part 1 (10 min):

  • If group >10, split into smaller groups.
  • Hand out 1 paper slip to each person and distribute colouring utensils.
  • (4 min) – Invite everybody (not just “guys”) to create their personal identification card by sketching a symbol that represents who they are and decorating as much/little as they want so that it expresses who they are.
  • (4 min) – Go around circle and invite each person to share 1 brief thing that’s unique about them/their ID card.

Part 2 (10 min):

“Welcome to Community 1. You are the citizens and we are the ministers. The Objective is for you to get all 4 of these basic needs/rights from us. We are here to help you. You are successful once you’ve obtained all 4.”

[Note: If anyone asks clarifying questions just reiterate that they can line up and ask the Ministers for help getting their 4 rights]

  • Ministers sit side by side at a desk at the front of room.
  • Citizens line up with their ID cards to get rights/needs.
  • Ministers greet the first people (their can be two lines, one for each minister) and ask how they can be of service. Citizens can ask for the appropriate rights/needs.
  • Ministers ask for ID card, thank the people, appreciate something on the card, flip it over and write the first letter of the rights/needs (e.g., E for education) and give a checkmark.
  • Process continues so that everyone has been accepted for who they are (even celebrated) and everyone has achieved success.
  • Once everyone is done ask if there is anyone who has yet to receive their rights/needs. Ask if everyone has been successful and acknowledge everyone for being successful.
  • Quickly shift to Community 2

Part 3 (10 min):

Welcome to Community 2. The roles are the same—You are the citizens and we are the ministers—but the rules have changed slightly. The Objective is the same—for you to get all 4 of these basic needs/rights from us. We are here to help you. You are successful once you’ve obtained all 4.”

  • Ministers sit side by side at a desk at the front of room and have their red squares and green triangles ready.
  • Citizens line up with their ID cards to get rights/needs (they’re probably feeling pretty successful from first round).
  • Ministers greet the first people (their can be two lines, one for each minister) and ask how they can be of service. Citizens can ask for the appropriate rights/needs.
  • Ministers ask for ID card. UNLESS their ID card exactly matches the plain green triangle or red square that you have you cannot give them their rights/needs. Make a remark about their ID about how it’s: “wrong”, “doesn’t fit with the system”, “broken”, “fun but not legal”, etc. and suggest they go get another one that looks like the two standards that you have using the resources in a room.
  • Once people have made a new matching ID card (and remember it can’t be of both, only one ID per card), you can enthusiastically thank them for “fitting in” and give them their rights. Here’s the hitch:
    1. Red square can get all rights.
    2. Green triangle can’t get education (period) and can ONLY get shelter if in a committed relationship with a red square.
  • Process continues until almost everyone has their rights/needs or time runes out. Either way, make a remark close to the end about “being on a budget, we’re just doing our jobs, we know rights/needs are important but we’re closing in 1 minute.” Then close and suggest “everyone come back in a month”.
  • Return to seats and make it very clear that the activity is over an we’re back in the space as ourselves. Inviting people to take a couple of breaths with you or shake off those feelings is encouraged.

Part 4 (15 min):

Debrief:

  • Invite everyone to take an individual silent 30 seconds to reflect on:
    1. One thing from the activity that stood out, and,
    2. How they felt/feel.
  • Group share back. Thank people for sharing and acknowledge patterns of feelings.
  • How does this activity connect to our world?
    1. This activity can be geared towards any/all forms of discrimination. We’ve had people share their stories of immigration, sports team segregation, bathroom gender binaries, race issues, transgender and gender non conforming issues and a bunch more.
    2. One of our main learning outcomes is the title of this activity, “Who Makes The Rules”. Getting this across is super important.
      1. “Who made the rules in this activity?”
      2. “How does that compare to our lives?” –> every time the history of white mostly men in prime minister position comes up.
  • “Why do they make these rules?”
  • “Who is excluded and what are the consequences?”
  • Actions (small, specific, achievable) that we can take in our life to change the rules?
    1. Invite 30 seconds for silent personal thought.
    2. Pass around the Red square ID as a talking piece and invite people to share and make a tear in the rules that exclude. Passing is okay, but strongly encourage a rip by everyone.
    3. Thank everyone for participating and offer resources if any body needs to chat to someone about things that may have come up during the activity.

Good luck!

 

 

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