Let’s play with our racism

Five people in a tableaux showing various responses to the workshop: Four with open arms, many open palms and one person on the floor her head threaded through someone's leg.

An open space session I facilitated at the G I I symposium on Friday morning 17 May.

How I introduced the session:

I am a racist. Not because I intentionally discriminate or harm people outside my own race, but because I was brought up in a racialised system. Because of this, I may behave and speak in a discriminatory and hurtful manner without noticing. Some call it “unconscious bias“. I think it is time we take responsibility and become conscious.

To experiment with new and unfamiliar behaviour, we need a safe space to fail. What better way to create such a space and to experiment with new behaviours then through improvisation?

So, five of us got together and played with our racism. This is the session design, but it does not contain people’s stories. These remain confidential.

Session design

This session was designed using one of the techniques from the Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM suite. We call it the ‘Pig catching signature move’ – it is designed around the archetype of the flying pig, but for this session, we used it to play with racism – an equily illusive concept. The structure is great for working with any number of abstract ideas. For a full description and facilitator guide for the technique, contact petro@playingmantis.net

Note: All sessions are designed according to the SNE STORI-model (What is STORI?)

SNE = Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM (What is SNE?)

S – Strategic intent

The strategic intent is set at the start and ‘parked’ outside the space to define it, but not drive it.

Facilitator note: Setting up the strategic frame is the most important part of holding the facilitation when working with applied performance. It is the contract that helps us know which possibilities to choose and work with. These possibilities arise each time an individual interacts with the story in the room. The disruption itself is welcome and part of the point and it is framed and made sense of through the lens of the strategic frame. This strategic frame along with the ‘rules’ of the various exercises hold the safety and structure of the work where there is hardly any particular content or ‘script’.  Also, when working with something as complex and potentially triggering as racism, these structures and safety measures are important.

We were clear about our frame as we set up the open space session: To play with racism so we can better make sense of our own relationship to it.

We further refined these intentions by sharing stories of racism where we ourselves were either a perpetrator, witness or victi of racism. These stories clarified to us our individual stance for the session.

Four people in a tableaux: One person on the floor looking up hlding something on her lap, the others standing. Two with open arms, one with hand on his chest.
What we got from this session

T – Transition

Facilitator note: When we work with the arts in OD processes, it is really important that people transition from their minds only to include body and emotions, from past and future to the present and from individual mindset into collective mindset. Also, people need to practise following the ‘rules’ of the game. These ‘rules’ keep them safe when we let go of our scripts and experiment with new ways of thinking and doing.

 

Walking exercises are great for this.

Examples:

http://www.playingmantis.net/walking-exercise/

http://www.playingmantis.net/exercise-walking-with-enlarged-body-parts/

O – Open experimentation

Pig Catching Signature move:

  • The facilitator asks people to work in pairs. They should try to work with someone they are curious about.
  • Each person thinks about the character of racism in their own story. They will represent this form of racism as a character with body, movement and voice..
  • Flow is as follows:
    1. Person A uses movement and sound to show their racism character to person B.
    2. Person B mirrors the character back as accurately as they can.
    3. Person A looks to see if it expresses what they want it to and offers an adjustment, or simply enlarges what is already there.
    4. Person B mirrors this adjustment or enlargement.
    5. Person A again adjusts and enlarges.
    6. Person B again mirrors.

Note: Sometimes it is useful to allow participants to interrupt the mirroring for a short clarifying conversation, especially if B battles to express the essence of the racism character as A sees it. However, the showing and moving is always more important than the talking.

  • A and B swop roles working with person B’s racism character.
  • Facilitator asks participants what this is like for them and gets a few responses.

Note: Participants who do this for the first time may need to talk about its awkwardness, or how impactful/difficult/funny it is. Debriefing these feelings is important to help them engage with the next step which takes them deeper.

  • Facilitator now asks participants to show each other how they usually react to their racism character – or how they reacted that day when the story happened.
    1. Person A: ‘When my racism character goes [show character as refined through previous round] then I go [show their own response through sound and movement].
    2. Person B: ‘When your racism character goes [mirror character] then you go [mirror movement and sound].
    3. A adjusts or enlarges only their own sound and movement, not racism character too.
    4. B mirrors
    5. This happens three times as before and then they swop. Again a short conversation in between may be useful, but keep it short.
  • Now each pair will work with one story at a time as follows: Person A play themselves while B play their racism character. The racism character begins with the sound and move assigned to him. Person A reacts as rehearsed but now they let the scene play out. The pig reacts again and Person A responds until it runs its course. Run the scene again but Person A chooses a different reaction – again the scene runs it’s course. Repeat three or four times until A is satisfied that the scene has been transformed.
  • Repeat with B’s story.

Note: The partner plays the character so that the person whose story it is can try out alternative ways they could behave.

R – Reflection

Have a conversation with each other about what this experience was like and what it means for you in relation to the intent you set for the session.

What gift did you receive from your partner in the interaction?

What shift can you see occurring in relation to your real life situation?

What else we got from this session

I – Integration

Talk about possible changes in attitude or action you can make as a result of the interaction between you and your racism character.

In our session, we used images to express 1. What this session gave us. And 2. What we want to say to others about racism, We also had three people join us at the end who witnessed the final conversation and also provided their embodied responses to what they heard.

 Facilitation note: People can end up sharing very deeply with their partners and a round of appreciation is essential to allow people’s gratitude to be expressed.  On another note: ot ALL the integration necessarily happens in the space of the workshop, or session. It is worthwhile drawing participants’ attention to this.

Improvisational mindfulness in action

Session design –  Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium on Wed 14 May.

This session was designed with the action learning cycle in mind: starting with an experience followed by a theoretical framing.

Note: All sessions are designed according to the SNE STORI-model (What is STORI?)

SNE = Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM (What is SNE?)

Diagram showing How story moments are used to design a session.

 

Join us this Friday 31 May for an online experience of the same process

S – Strategic intent

The strategic intent is set at the start and ‘parked’ outside the space to define it, but not drive it.

Group intention:

We are here to discover what improvisational mindfulness is like and to understand how it relates to contemporary forms of mindfulness

Individual intent:

Each person set an individual intention for the session – what they want out of it. This intention is written down or tucked into a corner of the mind where it can be retrieved.

T – Transition

Exercise’s help transition from the mind only to include the body and heart, from individual thoughts to collective energy, from the past and future into the present.

Walking and shaking

As we walk and spread ourselves randomly in the space, shake out the imaginary grains of sand from your joints starting from the toe joints and moving gradually up the body to the jaw joint. Participants can imagine the sand making room for warm comfortable lubrication of the joints.

Nudge hello

Participants are invited to become aware of each other and make contact using small nudges. Use any part of the body to exert a small amount of pressure as you gently nudge each other, leaning into the nudge for as long or short as you please and always making sure both partners are only going as far as is comfortable for both. (Contact improv style)

Pair breathing

Find a partner, stand back to back and become aware of your breath. Breathe into your back so that your partner can pick up the rhythm of your breathing. At the same time concentrate on picking up your partner’s rhythm. Gradually find a collective rhythm so you breathe together.

Group breathing

Two pairs now come together. Again, stand so that you can become aware of one another’s’ breathing. Find a collective rhythm. You may begin to move in pulse with the rhythm with movements as big or small as you want to. Find a collective movement and rhythm.

O – Open experimentation

In this section we use longer form structures to deepen the experience. Here we use a structure from the SNE suite of techniques called ‘Moving story structure’

Moving story structure – Shortened version (complete instructions plus reflective worksheet available from petro@playingmantis.net)

Step 1:

  • One by one participants find a position that symbolises what they want (based on the intention set at the start of the session) . Add to the image one body at a time until everyone is part of the image. Breathe three times as a collective to set the position. AS you breathe imagine that your body is filled with soft cement as you breathe in and imagine how it sets as you breathe out. When you are finished, step out of the ‘statue’ you have created and turn back to look at it in your imagination.

Notes:

  1. Urge participants to stay in each moment breathing deeply three times. Make sure they allow themselves to fully experience the position. When they leave the position, they must look back on it in their imagination. This helps with objectification and distancing. It means they gain insight into their inside.
  2. About the breathing: I like to facilitate each of the three breaths slightly differently:

Breath 1: Just breathe and imagine your body is filling with cement and it sets on the out breath.

Breathe 2: Imagine that the cement flows to the extremities of the body – toes, finger tips, crown…

Breathe 3: imagine that it flows to the centre of your heart, your bones your soul.

Step 2:

  • Find a position that symbolises the obstacles you face when you try to achieve your objective. Again, do it one body at a time. Breathe three times to set the position. Again imagine it as cement setting and once again step out of the ‘statue’ and look back on it.
  • Move through A and B a few times with complete awareness.

Note: Encourage participants to move with awareness and care. Let them move between the first two positions a few times aware of the other bodies and their influence on your story.

Step 3:

  • Find a third position – one that embodies how you usually react when you come face to face with your obstacles. When in position C, breathe three times as before.
  • While in this position notice what kinds of things you usually say to yourself here.
  • Think about what this reaction costs you and how it might benefit you.
  • Step out of the ‘statue’ and look back on it.

Note: Once they have decided on position C (Step 3), let them stay in the position and listen to what they may be saying to themselves about being here. 

Step 4:

  • Take up position B. Feel the discomfort and notice where your body feels stretched or uncomfortable. Move from B through C to A. Repeat the sequence B – C – A. Repeat with awareness and experiment.
  • Note: This is the “Yes and…” moment: accepting our default responses as part of our story. You will now change the order of the positions. It no longer goes A – B – C, or even C – B – A. The “Yes and…” sequence is B – C – A. Let each participant find the impetus and the solution for the next step within the flow between B and C. Let them move and experiment a few times e.g. play with speed and weight, move like a clown, a child a length of silk – get suggestions from the participants.

Step 5:

  • Finally, take up position B one last time. This time move through B, C and A, but do not stop at A, Move through A, allowing the body find the next logical place for it to settle into a final position D. What would you find beyond the fulfillment of your original intention? Find the answer in your body, not your mind.

R – Reflect

Allow people to make sense of the experience verbally in writing or conversation. Also help them distil moments of significance.

Reflect in pairs/groups (depending on time)

Share your experience with a friend. What did you learn about how you might get what you want? What did your body teach you about the journey to the fulfillment of your intention?

Slides

Using the slides in the presentation make sense of the experience by comparing improvisational mindfulness to contemporary mindfulness.

Slides: Improvisational Mindfulness.ppt

I – Integration

Participants imagine how they might use what they have discovered in their outside lives.

Picture cards

Give each participant a picture card from the Playing Mantis Picture card set. Participants are asked to explain to each other in pairs and then to the group how this card describes exactly the action steps they need to take to experiment with improvisational mindfulness in their own practice.

Close.

Join us this Friday 31 May for an online experience of the same process

Free online course

To learn more about Strategic Narrative Embodiment TM, why not send me an email and I will sign you up for the free online component of the training course: Strategic Narrative Embodiment – Transformative facilitation for organisations. It is a university accredited short course.

Read all the details here.

 

Pig catching on 31 May: Improvisational Mindfulness for Leaders

Flying pig

You are invited to catch flying pigs with us

In-person pig catching in Johannesburg

Topic:  How do I stay connected to presence and people when I need to make decisions and take action from moment to moment?
Date: Friday 31 May
Time:  7:30 am – 10:00 am
Place:  Floor 21, University Corner, above Wits Art Museum, Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen, Braamfontein (parking can be booked 8 days in advance)
Facilitators:  Petro Janse van Vuuren,
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 29 Mayto petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za (unless you want parking, then let me know as soon as possible- it needs to be booked the week before)

Donation: (Optional) R280 to paypal.me/PlayingMantis

Live online pig catching in a Zoom room

Topic: How do I stay connected to presence and people when I need to make decisions and take action from moment to moment?
Date: Friday 31 May
Time:  2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Place:  In Zoom room with ID: 2828282259
Facilitators: Petro Janse van Vuuren
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 27 Feb to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za

Donation: (Optional) R280 to paypal.me/PlayingMantis

More about the topic

In spite of the growing popularity of mindfulness based programmes (MBP’s) in leadership and organisation development contexts, studies have highlighted various shortcomings. Many of these relate to the seeming incompatibility between the ethical and spiritual roots of Buddhist contemplative practise and the strategic aims of the organisation and existing culture where it is to be implemented. Most notable is the inability of contemporary mindfulness practise to account for the inherent strategic, action oriented or embodied, nature of leadership. In response, many MBP’s incorporate practices draw from other fields and sources, such as Applied Improvisation (AI), allowing programmes to address the particular needs and requirements of the organisational context. AI proves to be particularly suited to the leadership context leveraging its interpersonal dimension and action oriented nature. The study argues that this action orientation, or embodied nature, of applied improvisation is inherently mindful because of its immersion in presence awareness and openness drawing on the sense of resonance between participants for the interpersonal dimension.

Come feel what such resonance is like, how to achieve it and how to use it as springboard for strategic, mindful action.

Side note: I will be presenting on this topic at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium in London this week. Are you coming by any change?

What does it mean to catch flying pigs? Look at this : https://prezi.com/jxgstjc_ckmx/about-pig-catching/

Improvisational mindfulness – an action oriented mindfulness for leaders

How do I stay connected to presence and people when I need to make decisions and take action from moment to moment?

This week is the South African elections, I am getting ready to go to London for a week and we are in the third short work week because of holidays and work has stacked up. At the same time, I need to fill the emotional tanks of my nearest and dearest ahead of the trip.

How do I remain calm and connected when there is all this craziness going on?

I review my notes for my presentation on Improvisational mindfulness for leaders I will be presenting at the Global Improvisation Initiative Symposium next week:

I read: “At the very core of both the interactive quality of improvisational practise and the idea of mindful action is the ‘yes and principle’. This principle captures the essence of AI and of mindfulness++. The ‘yes’ refers to the complete acceptance of whatever is present in the moment and whatever another person might offer. It mirrors the detachment and non-judgement of mindfulness practise as well as the sense of compassion with self and others. The ‘yes is only possible when one has entered into a non-distracted space of stillness and intunement through the body and its senses as well as the other bodies and subjects in the room. “

I snigger, how can I find this ‘non-distracted moment’? From where I am now the journey to such a place seems a thousand miles long.  Then I remember an exrcise I once did where the facilitator asked us to close our eyes and repeat the word ‘no’ three times, staying aware of our physical and feeling responses to the word. She then asks us to switch to the word ‘yes’ and again note our responses.  I close my eyes and repeat the exercise and … there I am not distracted and aware of everything and everyone in my immediate presence.  But the moment is tenuous and fleeting… if I blink or breathe I fear it might evaporate.

I read on “One can identify in this ‘yes’ state the altered state of consciousness that is characteristic of mindful leadership practice. In the ‘yes’ we have therefore encapsulated all the characteristics of contemporary mindfulness. It is then in the ‘and’ that the embodied action part characteristic of improvisational mindfulness practise is captured. The ‘and’ refers to the action one might take in response to what has been offered and what one has already ‘yessed’ to. These actions as a direct flow from, and in direct response to, the other actors (or colleagues, or loved ones etc) become mindful in its being invested by everything that is encapsulated in the ‘yes’.

With the ‘yes’ still permeating my consciousness, I surrender my fear of this week and get ready to act.

Craziness, here I come!

Below is my abstract for the presentation.

If you want to know more, join me for an improvisational mindfulness session live online or in the flesh in Johannesburg on 31 May. Click here for details.

Or learn how to facilitate Applied Improvisation processes and sign up for the free online modules of the SNE course: Transformative facilitation for Orgnisations.

GII symposium poster

Improvisational mindfulness for leaders abstract:

The improvisational mindfulness session incorporates a methodology from the fields of applied drama and applied improvisation, strategic narrative embodiment (SNE). It demonstrates its value by focussing on two characteristics of leadership that cannot be addressed by conventional mindfulness practise alone: the inter-relational character of leadership and its inherent strategic, action oriented nature. The study highlights the necessity of a mindfulness practise that draws attention to these aspects of mindful leadership while retaining the value of traditional contemplative practise and presents applied improvisation, specifically in the form of the SNE model, as potential ally for addressing these needs.

Tired of coaching courses that cost an arm and a leg?

Photo of young man enjoying learning online

Re-frame how you coach and facilitate forever with Strategic Narrative Embodiment – Trans formative facilitation for organisations

Now available online and the first component is free!

Powered by Drama for Life, Wits University School of Arts.

Everything is changing so fast, but people struggle to adapt. This course will re-frame your reality and change how you help people shift. With models and tools from narrative strategy and applied improvisation, you can throw away old scripts and hone the skills that unlock your genius and the genius of your clients.

The steps are easy:

  1. Try the free online modules first,
  2. If it works for you, sign up for the live training sessions, online or in person.
  3. Practise and hone the tools in class and in your work
  4. Get certified

Then:

  1. Change the world for good!

More details about the course here

The SNE course is a home grown, truly South African product – designed for our context Made with our people and for our future.
The course is accredited with the University of the Witwatersrand as a short course and you will receive your Wits certificate of competence

Sneak peek:

Send me an email right now to sign up.

Pig catching on 1 March: How to connect across gender, race and generation gaps

Flying pig

You are invited to catch flying pigs with us

In-person pig catching in Johannesburg

Topic: How to connect across gender, race and generation gaps
Date: Friday 1 March
Time:  7:30 am – 10:00 am
Place:  Floor 21, University Corner, above Wits Art Museum, Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen, Braamfontein (parking can be booked 8 days in advance)
Facilitators: Tshego Khutsoane, Petro Janse van Vuuren, Les Nkosi, Palesa Xulu
Cost: R280
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 27 Feb to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za (unless you want parking, then let me know as soon as possible)

Live online pig catching in a Zoom room

Topic: How to connect across gender, race and generation gaps
Date: Friday 1 March
Time:  2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Place:  In Zoom room with ID: 2828282259
Facilitators: Petro Janse van Vuuren
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by Wed 27 Feb to petro.jansevanvuuren@wits.ac.za

More about the topic

I am tired of people not hearing each other, not sitting down to listen and connect on the level that can bring healing to rifts and wounds. So, Les, Tshego, and I sat down and decided to experiment with stories that might cross these rifts. We are still experimenting, and we are having fun doing it. Come join us and let’s find our way to each other through our stories.

What does it mean to catch flying pigs? Look at this : https://prezi.com/jxgstjc_ckmx/about-pig-catching/

‘Trash, Boer and Brat’ and ‘Through the Eye of a Doughnut’

Two Story shows at the Stellenbosch Woordfees 6-7 March.

Trash, Boer and Brat

The work invites you into stories we tell about how we were moved by fellow South Africans. It plays with dominant and habitual narratives, disrupts boundaries, challenges stereotypes and hopes to move you. It may upset your sense of political correctness and we apologise if it doesn’t.

Where: Pulp Cinema, Neelsie, Stellenbosch
When: Wed 6 March, 13h00-12h00 and Thu 7 March at 11h00-12h00
Tickets: R60
Tickets at computicket, the door, and the Woordfees office: +27 (0) 87 238 2078 or adminfees@sun.ac.za

Director-facilitator:           Tshego Khutsoane
Performer-facilitators:      Petro Janse van Vuuren, Les Nkosi and Palesa Xulu

Through the eye of a doughnut

Stories shatter stereotypes, open us up and move us towards one another. Let me tell you about the year I was the only white student  in Goldfields residence, or the first time I took a local taxi in Johannesburg, or the day I was unmasked as a bigot by a worker from Idas Valley…oh…and about the doughnut.

Where: Pulp Cinema, Neelsie, Stellenbosch
When: Wed 6 March, 15h00-16h00 and Thu 7 March at 13h00-14h00
Tickets: R60
Tickets at computicket, the door, and the Woordfees office: +27 (0) 87 238 2078 or adminfees@sun.ac.za    :

Director:         Tshego Khutsoane
Story teller:    Petro Janse van Vuuren

Whose bed can you hide under?

I was travelling home from a dinner with some friends. Zola*, my taxi driver, strikes up a conversation. Like many drivers he goes for politics. He chooses the classic opening line: “Eish, the country is going down the drain…”
“Really?” I say. This driver looks unusually concerned.
“Yes, there is racism everywhere. And they say the foreigners are taking our jobs.”
“That is not how it works,” I counter. “It is not like there are only so many jobs and only a few people can have them. In a healthy country there are enough jobs for everyone. If the country grows, the amount of jobs will grow and there will be enough for us all.”
He thinks for a while and says: “I did not think I would meet someone like you tonight.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you not afraid to be here with the black government and the politics?”
His question reminds me of another taxi driver on another day – one who looked and talked more like me. His name was Arno. Like other drivers, he also talked politics and it was me who asked him the question: “What do you say about some politicians wanting to drive us into the ocean?”
He answered with a defiant smile: “Hulle moet maar probeer [Let them try].”
This is not my response to Zola. Instead I answer truthfully: “Yes, I am, sometimes, but…” We have stopped in front of my house by now and I wish to end the conversation on a lighter note, “… don’t worry. My friend Bheki* said I can hide under his bed when they come for me.”
Zola does not yet unlock the car doors and I see the conversation is not over. I wait patiently to hear what is on his mind.
As he unlocks the door he says: “You can come hide under my bed too.”

*All names changed

Thus and other stories at the Stellenbosch Woordfees

Seriously, though,

·         how are the tensions among races, genders and generations in your organisation?

·         will your people hide each other under their beds in a pinch?

·         want support to work through difficult conversations?

·         need help understanding one another?

We are here to support you.

1.    Book us to perform our interactive theatre piece “Trash, Boer and Brat” at your event.

2.    Book a workshop and let us help you work through sticky matters so you can get on with your job.

3.    Come train in the tools and techniques to do it yourself.

 

 

 

What happened to the SNE Essentials course for coaches and facilitators?

It has undergone a metamorphosis.

Instead of being a regular face to face course sign up for and pitch in person at some venue you spend hours looking for. This course is being turned into an online experience consisting of four components, the first of which is free of charge. Here are the components:

  • Component 1: Introduction to Strategic Narrative Embodiment – self paced online component that is free of charge – 6 Modules, 3 weeks.
  • Component 2:  STORI Strategy –  1 self paced online module plus three 90 min live online sessions where you learn and practice the the STORI design model for change – R 3 000 ($300 for non-Africans)
  • Component 3:  Applied Improvisation –  1 self paced online module plus three 90 min live online sessions where you learn and practice applied improvisation exercises for learning to be innovative and agile – R 3 000 ($300 for non-Africans)
  • Component 4: 1 final 90 min online session plus assignment and assessment for certification, also R 3 000.($300 for non-Africans)

The free self paced component will go live in April and the fee baring line online components will happen in September and October. You will have a choice of Wednesdays 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm or the repeat on Saturdays 9:30 am to 11:00 am. a minimum of 6 people must sign up for any of these times for it to be a viable group.

The first 12 people to complete the self paced module will receive R 1 500 ($150) discount on the rest of the course = R 7 500 instead of the full R 9 000 PLUS an extra R 500 ($50) as a bonus.

Send me an interest email now, and you will be the firs to get notified when it goes live!

You will receive a Wits University certificate of competence on completion of the course.

Exercise: Land disputes

Objectives:

  • To practice non verbal negotiation skills.
  • To interrogate the relationship between words and body language
  • To elicit conversation about the principles of negotiation, collaboration and team work.
  • To brainstorm and practice solutions to group conflicts
  • To explore the underlying motivations of conflict

Overview:

Two teams on opposite sides negotiate their claim on land using gibberish.

Time: 10-20 min

Group size: 6-30

Flow:

The facilitator divides the participants arbitrarily into 2 groups. Each group lines up on opposite sides of an open space. The facilitator explains that the space represents a strip of land that lies between the occupied land of two communities. On the land grow beautiful big trees. One community wants the land so they can preserve the trees, the other wants it so they can cut them down and use them.

The groups decide which community they represent and why they either want to preserve or use the trees. They can preserve it for instance because the trees mark sacred graves, or are sacred themselves or because the community wants to conserve the environment for future generations etc. The other group may want to use the trees for shelter against fierce winds, or for fuel against cold winterss or to sell for a profit. The groups negotiate their reasons amongst themselves in gibberish as a practise round.

Next the facilitator asks them to pick a negotiator that will meet the negotiator of the other group in the middle of the open space. Selected negotiators are instructed to meet each other and begin the negotiations in gibberish. The rest of the community is asked to support their negotiators in gesture and sound where presumed fitting. Negotiations cease when either side gives up, or when the facilitator feels it has done what it can for now. Or, when it becomes too fiolent.

Once the first round has been debriefed, participants may go a second and third round until the game has achieved what it can for the moment.

Debriefing questions:

  • What was this like for the negotiators?
  • What was it like for the group members?
  • What was intersting? Perplexing? Hopeful?
  • Where did it go wrong? What might be the reasons?
  • What worked? Why do you think this happened?
  • What would you do differently? More of? Less of?
  • Would you like to try again?
  • Did you experience or observe any stereotypical genderist/agist/racist feelings or behaviour during any part of the game play? What do you think caused this? (Our experience is that the absence of language levels the playing field to a large degree and that stereotypical behaviour decrease the more participants genuinely seek agreement.)

Variation:

  1. For an extra kick you may introduce an element of tension by inventing a reason why there is a time urgency to conclude negotiations: E.g. winter storms are brewing and the tree users must  build their shelters before it strikes, but the other group believes the crisis is exactly what is needed to find other solutions since no threat should interfere with the principles of conservation/ sacred tradition etc.
  2. Ask participants to pair up with some from the opposite team. LEt them discuss what in the game play made them feel closer to, or further from, agreement. After some moments of discussion, ;et the, return to their teams and discuss what they had learned. Play another round where they impliment their discoveries.

Online adaptation

In the absence of spatial orientation in the online room, we suggest that you change the scenario to fit the context. E.g. Participants are all part of a production company who has landed their first major TV series. The stakes are high. They need to make a reality show with a certain family. One part of the team believes they should work with the family as natural as possible and not interfere with how they appear on screen. The other side believes that some performance training is needed, and that hair and make-up alterations are essential to present the family in a certain way for entertainment purposes. The team must come to an agreement before they pitch their concept to the client. Introduce tension by suggesting that they client is waiting in the next room for their concept presentation.

This adaptation works because the gestures can center around the face and hair which is most visible in the screen. It is limiting because it does not really relate to the survival of a community or the environment to the same extent as does the land conversation, but it is still very effective.