Two exercises as an introduction to discussion
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These two exercises could be both used as part of a series
but in a shorter time frame could best be thought of as alternatives
(since both culminate with 'nonviolent' alternatives to violence).
They can be used with any mobile group of people of any age
(mobility in wheelchairs is fine) but older or more infirm
people may find it impossible to participate; there is however
the need for observers, and this is an important role as they
will see things that others will not. As only those happy
to participate should do so, there is a need to explain what
the exercise involves (without saying what the stages of the
exercise are in advance). Care is needed in both cases but
particularly with the second exercise which is best done on
grass outdoors, and the facilitator needs to keep a close
eye out for obstacles or dangers; the facilitator would be
wise to advise beforehand that calling 'halt!' or 'stop!'
means everyone should freeze - this is then a speedy means
of getting people to stop if a danger is seen. Exercises adapted
from training by De Expeditie, Amersfoort. INNATE would be
happy to facilitate this or assist if appropriate.
This can easily be done indoors. You will need ten or twelve
people for the circle, plus a couple of people for the middle;
fewer than ten can make the circle too small. Others can be
observers/note takers. Those in the circle stand as close
as they can together, feet together, and arms around each
other; two volunteers are placed in the centre and are 'trapped'
there. The two in the centre are then told to get out; the
people in the circle should move to try to prevent the 'trapped'
getting out. It is a non-verbal exercise so there is no talking.
Once the first two have tried it, and either
failed or succeeded in getting out, another two people may
be allowed to try (these can be people from the circle or
observers). The exercise is tried one final time, with another
two volunteers to be 'trapped'. But this time the two for
the centre are told, out of earshot of the rest, to try to
use imaginative, creative and nonviolent ways of getting out,
Debrief when the exercise is finished by asking
for reflections from the 'trapped', the circle, and observers,
on each attempt.
This is best done outside, on grass, in a clearly defined
area without two many obstacles but certainly no hazardous
ones (some trees should be fine); an area 30 metres by 30
would be sufficient for up to fifteen or twenty people but
use whatever is available - the larger the area the more energetic
it is. It can be done inside in a large classroom or in a
hall but runs a greater risk of someone being hurt so additional
care is needed (and if indoors you will need to give guidance
about staying on the floor if furniture is present). Be ready
to call 'halt' or 'stop' at any point if needed. The exercise
is non-verbal except at stage c) and e). It sounds complicated
but gets quite clear once tried, and is good fun.
Those who want to participate are paired off;
one person in each pair becomes the 'attacker' and the other
the 'victim'. Again there is a need for observers and observers
can, if desired, join in the exercise at c) below. You should
explain that roles will be reversed and shared around! The
attackers then make for themselves newspaper batons by rolling
up perhaps a couple of newspapers (you need to bring sufficient
papers for this).
Role play a) You get 'attackers'
together and tell them that on 'go' they are to chase and
hit their partner (no one else); you call 'victims' aside
and tell them they are to run away as fast as they can from
their attacker, both keeping within the defined area. Call
'go' and see what happens. You can call halt after a minute
or so when it is clear how everyone is reacting, or immediately
if there is a risk or someone is being hurt beyond what people
are happy with as part of the exercise.
Role play b) You then get 'attacker'
and 'victim' to change roles (and newspaper batons). Again
you tell 'attackers' to chase and hit their 'victims'. But
this time you tell 'victims', without others hearing, that
instead of running away they are to stand their ground where
they find themselves on 'go' and try to make open, non-verbal,
friendly and non-physical contact with their attacker. Let
it run long enough to see the pattern and for people to get
Role play c) At this stage
people need to form into groups of three; the facilitator
can make up a number if needed and any observers who wish
to join in can do so, likewise any participants who want to
become observers. This time the roles are of 'attacker', 'victim',
and 'intervener'. 'Victims' are called aside and told to run
away and try to avoid the 'attacker' on the word 'go'. 'Attackers'
are told to attack, as before. 'Interveners' are called aside
and asked to intervene 'politely' but not physically, it can
be verbal as in the kind of "Excuse me, that's not really
a very nice thing to be doing attacking people, is it?"
intervention. Again, let the role play run long enough for
people to find out what happens.
Role play d) Switch roles.
'Victims' are again to run away, 'attackers' to attack. When
you call 'interveners' aside, this time tell them they are
to intervene physically, to try to physically prevent and
restrain the attack (but also tell them it is only a game
and take care!).
Role play e) Switch roles.
'Victim' and 'attacker' roles are the same. This time when
you call 'interveners' aside, tell them they are to try to
prevent the attack by imaginative, creative and nonviolent
methods (which could range from offering to buy them a pint,
telling them their granny is mortally ill, that the victim
has a bad heart and they're going to be done for murder or
some imaginative non-verbal action). Don't start the exercise
until interveners have had a minute to think what they're
going to do and are happy to proceed.
When this last role play is finished, call everyone
back together and discuss the exercise, starting with role
play a), and if necessary asking 'what did the observers think?',
'how did the attackers feel?', how did the victims feel?',
and, with the later role plays, 'what did the interveners
Any general points raised should be invited
when you have worked through a) to e). This can include general
reflections on violence and responses to it in our society
Timing; allow at least an hour
to this point if doing 'Chasies', half an hour to three-quarters
of an hour minimum for 'Trapped'.
The exercises above can be freestanding or used
as a starting point for discussing physical attacks and violence
and oppression in general which are within the experience
of those present. 'Within the experience' of those present
means that it has affected people present in some way - so
it could include fictional violence which has impacted on
someone strongly although the focus is mainly on people's
personal lives. However this discussion should only be undertaken
by an experienced facilitator who is confident in allowing
anything that comes up to be dealt with and who is prepared
to see that anything arising which should be is followed up
(not necessarily by them - the responsibility of the facilitator
is to see that it is done).
1) Before starting there has
to be agreement about a) confidentiality (e.g. 'what is shared
here of a personal nature should not be repeated outside')
though this may already be part of a group contract and b)
people only volunteer information about themselves, not about
other people (even if they are not present). It is a good
idea to ensure everyone is agreed.
2) A possible starting point
is breaking the group up into pairs who don't know each other
or know each other well. One person is to speak for 4 - 5
minutes about their own experiences of violence and oppression
in whatever situations they want to share - at home, school/college/work,
in the neighbourhood, in relationships etc. It is important
in Northern Ireland or in other situations of recent or present
overt conflict to stress that this is not just about 'the
Troubles' or large-scale attacks and physical violence - although
this can come into it; it is a more general exploration of
violence and oppression, including experiences of being put
down or humiliated. The other person is to listen without
interruptions except for clarification. Before starting also
state that nothing is to be later shared beyond the pair unless
the person sharing the information so wishes. When the time
is up for the first person, the facilitator should call 'time'
and the pair switch roles whenever they are comfortable to
do so, allowing the other person to speak for the same length
3) After the sharing in pairs,
come back into plenary session and ask people to share what
they would like, again reminding people only to share from
their own experience and not from what their partner has said.
Pick up on any points worth following and a discussion can
4) A suitable way of ending
this kind of session on a positive note is to use a brainstorm,
defining the topic as 'Positive responses to the kinds of
violence and oppression we have been talking about', or more
narrowly if the discussion focuses on particular kinds of
violence and oppression.
5) It can also be taken further
by role-playing certain situations, perhaps based loosely
on incidents shared by people though only with the agreement
of the person who shared (and they should not play the same
role in the role play as in life). The aim here is to explore
Timing; How long is a piece
of string? If there are no expectations of an in-depth session
then it may be possible to do enough of this in a couple of
hours, or it may even run out of steam within that time. Alternatively
you could find enough to work on for much longer. It would
be wise if this is undertaken with an 'ongoing' group where
there is space to pick up on anything important subsequently,
even if you will not be the facilitator (i.e. you could be
a once-off facilitator with an ongoing group who passes on
to a group leader an issue which needs followed up).