[COMM-ORG] query: power dynamic simulation

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Thu Aug 26 19:16:58 CDT 2010

  [ed: thanks to Chris for the resources.]

From: Chris Cavanagh <story at web.ca>

More power exercises can be found on the IDS (Sussex) website PowerCube: 

This works represents many years of excellent thinking about social 
justice, education and international development. John Gaventa, whom 
some of you may know from his work as director of Highlander (after 
Myles retired) and/or his excellent work Power and 
Powerlessness:Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley has been 
working at IDS since the late 90s.

I've adapted this human rights exercise, Take a Step Forward, in many 
ways. It's a common type of exercise in the anti-racism work i've done 
over the years. And it can be adapted in may many ways. Good for 
starting discussion on racism, class, gender, etc...

Finally, there's The Great Game of Power from Augusto Boal's Theatre of 
the Oppressed work. I've done up an activity description that can be 
downloaded here: https://files.me.com/story/9oxjj1 - not exactly a 
lin-up exercise but one that is fantastic for drawing out people's 
experiences (and definitions) of power and thus a great discussion starter.

I love the Ten Chairs and have adapted it in many ways over the years as 
well (for use in some trade union work where physical ability was an 
issue, we adapted it as Wealth Squares so that . I first learned it from 
Just Economics (a group of popular educators in California) in the early 
90s and then, as i'm sure many of you know, saw UFE's development of it. 
Here's an activity description from one of our popular economics courses:

Activity 2: Wealth Squares (30 min)
1. The purpose of this exercise is to examine the distribution of wealth 
in Canada.
2. Set up ten squares (use sheets if necessary) in a line on the floor. 
Ask each person to stand on a square. Explain that each person 
represents 10% of the population. Each square represents 10% of the 
total wealth in Canada. Wealth is not just money but includes all of 
what someone owns (their assets). This includes property, stocks, etc. 
Income is how much someone makes in a year. Wealth is accumulated and is 
a good indicator of power in society.
3. Select one individual who represents the wealthiest individual. Ask 
this person to take over 5 squares and move everyone else into the 
remaining five squares.
4. With 9 people squished into the five remaining squares, ask the 
second wealthiest (select another person) to take the next two squares. 
Everyone else moves to the remaining three squares.
5. With 8 people in the three squares, ask the third wealthiest person 
to take over one square, and the five remaining people to try to squish 
into one square. Note that there is no room and some of the five 
remaining people will have to stand outside the square because they have 
less than nothing.
6. Start with people still in their squares (if they feel comfortable) 
and ask:
a. How do the people at the bottom end feel?
b. How does the person at the top end feel?
c. What does each end of the line say about the other?
d. What do these people at and near the bottom have in common with each 
e. What do we know (generally) about which people are on which square?
f. What do the white men in the bottom third have in common with the 
white men further up the line? What’s different?
g. What do people of colour or women in the bottom third have in common 
with people of colour or women further up the line (note for the group 
that there are not % wise many people of colour in upper economic 
spheres). What’s different?

7. Possibly ask the following:
a. What do the individuals in the bottom three squares want?
b. Why do a lot of people tend to think they can get what they want 
through individual solutions?
c. What is the benefit of working collectively?



More information about the Colist mailing list