Goals of the exercise: Reflection of one’s own social position, confrontation with one’s own (lack of) power and privilege, thematizing societal power and socially constructed difference lines, developing a responsible and constructive approach to your own power and your own privileges
Age of the participants: 13+
Number of participants: 12-20
Duration of the exercise: 60 Minutes
Materials: one copy of the worksheet “Power-Flower” per person, colored pencils, flip-chart
1. Prepare the “Power Flower” worksheet for every participant
The worksheet Power Flower (PDF) displays various lines along which the society is divided. The inner petals represent the more privileged groups, while the outer petals represent the non-privileged ones.
2. Prepare a poster with questions for debriefing
On the poster, write these questions:
- Where was the assignment to the petals difficult, where not? Why?
- What is the relationship between inner (privileged) and outer (non-privileged) petals on my Power Flower?
- How does it feel to be in the inner / outer group?
Step by step
- Explain the structure and the three steps of the exercise (individual, group and debriefing) to the participants.
Part 1 – individual work (5-10 minutes)
- Distribute a copy of the “Power Flower” to all participants. Explain that they can, but do not have to show it to others.
- The participants should mark the inner or outer petal for each category, depending on what they identify more with. If they cannot associate with any of the two petals, they can add a third one. Basically, the decision is left to the participants’ self-assessment.
- The participant should keep this flower through the entire duration of the game, but they do not have to share it publicly.
- The dividing lines mentioned in Power Flower are socially constructed, nevertheless they have real impact on human lives. In social discourse, these categories are often only perceived as opposing expressions, while in reality there is a continuum between the two extremes.
- The Power Flower deliberately depicts the categories in this strict way so the participants can recognize that applying such black-and-white thinking to the diverse reality is not appropriate.
- They often realize that they do not fit into this strict binary themselves. On the other hand, it should be stressed that the distribution of power and privileges runs along these strict distinctions, which results in the power imbalance with all the power concentrated on one side of the divide.
Part 2 – small groups (20 minutes)
- When all participants have finished marking their worksheet, they create small groups (4-6 people) to discuss the Power Flower. The questions on the flip chart can be used for guidance.
- Participants often have resistance to such a rigid, binary system and its division into privileged and non-privileged groups. It has proven useful to give room to such resistance in the evaluation, because this criticism of the Power Flower can be used constructively for the whole group.
All participants (30 minutes).
The game is evaluated together by all participants. It should be made clear that the scheme of Power Flower refers to constructed categories and their simplification doesn’t adequately represent the complex reality. Nevertheless, the simplification has effect on the society and refers to certain distribution of privileges and access to resources.
We are often forced to take a position ourselves in this binary system. It should be recognized that all individuals change their positions, shifting from non-privileged to privileged position and vice versa. It’s important that we are aware of our position and recognize when we are dealing with structures of oppression (as victims or beneficiaries). This awareness makes it possible to develop empathy for others and to act responsibly. The goal isn’t to provoke guilt over ‘innate’ privileges, but to encourage a conscious use of own capabilities and opportunities as well as to call for a positive reinterpretation of power and justice.
- How did you feel about the exercise?
- Which assignment was/ was not difficult? Why?
- In which affiliations / petals were you particularly insecure? Why?
- How was the discussion in the small groups?
- How does it feel to be in the inner or outer group?
- Does your feeling agree with the division of the Power-Flower into ‘privileged’ and, non-privileged ‘?
- Do you feel privileged/non-privileged as shown in the Power Flower?
- Do the affiliations in society all have the same weight? (Different social meaning of affiliations)
At this point, you should point out that the meaning of one division line is assigned both subjectively and socially, and it depends on how far this category prevails within the whole society. Some forms of discrimination have a long, violent history of oppression, which makes these divides much more entrenched than others (e.g. racism/colonialism: the historical roots of today’s North-South relationships are descended from the system of slavery and material exploitation of previous centuries).
- Is the affiliation to the categories in the petals your own voluntary decision or was this affiliation assigned from ‘outside’?
- What consequences does this have?
- Is the affiliation to the petals changeable?
- Can some privileged/non-privileged affiliations lead to others?
- How and when can we be powerful even in marginalized positions?
- In what position are you regarding power or powerlessness and what can we do with this analysis?
- How can you use your power positively? How can you use it to change the power inequality?
It is important to point out that power is not just something negative or malign, but also results in opportunities or resources. Here it’s possible to mention the positive connotation of the concept of power in other languages (French “pouvoir” meaning both “power” and “to be able”). Power can be used constructively.
Authorship/adaptation or source: mangoes & bullets