I recently volunteered to run the Inclusivity activity, which is one of the ‘Living Threads‘ challenges, at our local Trefoil Guild meeting. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has a diverse membership around the world, and this year for World Thinking Day on 22 February WAGGGS has designed a challenge called ‘Living Threads’ exploring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
At our January Trefoil Guild meeting we had done the ‘Getting ready to play Living Threads’ activity, at our February meeting (2 weeks early for Thinking Day) we did the remaining 4 activities – one activity for each theme and a reflective / creative activity.
The WAGGGS activity pack gave a number of options for each theme, our leader had chosen the options and 3 of us volunteered at the January meeting to run them, so were given the instructions and equipment in advance of the February meeting. The Diversity activity (which revealed some differences but many similiarities in our group) and Equity activity (which used teamwork) were done first and went fine.
The Inclusivity activity (based on a game from Our Chalet) was trickier than the others and I had to read the instructions in the pack several times to work out exactly what we needed to do and what instructions needed to be given, especially as the activity appeared to have been designed for several groups to observe each other. I ended up redrafting the handout for the group slightly to make the instructions clearer and simplifying it for one group only.
The group were asked to hold a discussion with some agreed rules which those not in the group had to try and work out from observing what the group was doing and saying.
My minor redraft gave the group a choice of two topic options and sets of rules, with clear instructions to choose one option. I could have made it simpler by giving them one topic and one set of rules, but I wanted them to have a discussion and make their own choice, otherwise it felt too prescriptive. Their instruction sheets were on one side of A4.
Although the WAGGGS instructions said a group of 4-5 people, because there were only 8 of us at the meeting, we decided that 2 of us would make the tea while the other 6 would discuss which topic to choose. Then, when we brought in their tea they had to start their discussion and use gestures, hands and body language rules which the two of us had to try to identify then copy so we could join their conversation.
In Switzerland there are 4 official languages, so it can be hard for people to understand each other. Gestures, hand and body language are important.
In this game, in your group, please have a conversation following certain rules.
The others will observe your conversation, to try and work out what your rules are, and integrate themselves into your group.
Topic option 1
These are the cultural rules of your community:
- End every sentence so it sounds like a question
- Never make eye contact when you speak to someone
- Make lots of hand gestures when you talk
- Wink every time you say ‘yes’
- Touch the floor when your name is mentioned
Topic to discuss:
Ask each other about what you have been doing today.
Topic option 2
These are the cultural rules of your community:
- Start every sentence with ‘I see’
- Sit with your hands clasped
- Touch your ear when the word ‘and’ is said
- Point at someone when you talk to them
- Shake your head if someone speaks for too long
Topic to discuss:
Ask each other about your favourite meals and places to eat them
What you need to do
- Discuss these rules in the group for a couple of minutes and decide which topic option and rules you will use.
- Sit so the others can see you and hold your discussion.
- The others will observe what you are doing and will try and work out what your group rules are. They might try to follow what they think are your group rules to join your conversation.
- Stop the discussion when instructed, for the whole group discussion.
The group chose topic option 1.
Some were better at applying the rules than others, some made them very obvious, there was a lot of laughing at hidden jokes or each other’s discomfort. In hindsight, they had too many rules to try and remember (most of them were looking down at the sheet with the rules to remind themselves, which spoiled the flow of conversation). Perhaps only giving them 3 rules in each topic option would have been better. We managed to identify hand gestures and touching the floor, it was less easy to identify ‘I see’, the winking or lack of eye contact unless it was exaggerated. Different members of the group did different combinations of the rules or only one rule, so they weren’t consistently applied, which made it even harder to identify all the rules they were using. This reflects real cultural practice with rules never perfectly applied.
We followed this with a discussion about what rules we had managed to identify and how it made us feel to not be included.
Stop after a while and hold a whole group discussion:
- Ask what rules were identified
- How did people feel when they joined the group – did they think they had got all the rules?
- How can we act when we come into contact with a new culture?
- How can we help people who don’t fit in?
As we plaited our friendship bracelets from the threads we had selected at the end of each activity we continued the discussion about the three themes, though it soon moved onto other topics.
We each received a cloth badge for completing the activity, so I digitised mine by tweeting about it.
for International World Thinking day 22 Feb our Trefoil Guild did Living Threads Diversity, Equity & Inclusion challenge. I adapted the Inclusion activity to suit our group. #WTD2020 #inclusion We made friendship bracelets with our 3 threads & got a badge https://t.co/zfwmAb0HTI pic.twitter.com/4jFNiQot0Q
— Anna Page (@AnnaCPage) February 10, 2020
I learned the following as a Learning Designer from running this activity:
- however clear you think the guidance might be, someone won’t read it properly or understand it fully, so presenting it in both written and verbal form and answering questions helps to clear up any misunderstandings
- reusing existing activities always needs to involve reviewing, revising then running to suit the context
- people in some cultures have to be really enthusiastic about and convinced by the activity to be willing to step beyond their comfort zone when participating (for some, doing gestures or body language they didn’t normally do in conversation was deeply uncomfortable)
The topic of inclusion is hard to discuss in a group which isn’t visibly very diverse or is uncomfortable discussing deeper thoughts or contraversal views. It is easy to make an assumption that everyone feels the same about something, especially as some people hide what they feel if they think it will upset others, because that could quickly lead to being excluded from the group.
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