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Cooperative Squares*


This activity is designed to encourage cooperative ways of working. We were involved in a development education training course a couple of decades ago where this activity was used (although called something else); but one of us has vague memories of something similar when they were involved with the Scouts in the 1960s!



60 – 70 minutes.



Print the COOPERATIVE SQUARE shapes and carefully cut them out. If you use this activity regularly it might be worth making the shapes from a more durable material than thin card. You will need to make sets for groups of 5 participants so that each group has a complete set between them.
Envelopes. (one per person)
Observer Briefing Sheet.



1. Having pre-cut the 5 squares into shapes, mix the pieces up and distribute between the 5 envelopes (not all envelopes need to contain 3 pieces, you could vary it). Mark them as Set 1, Set 2, etc.

2. Form into smaller groups of 5 plus, depending on numbers, one or more observers.

3. Give each group a Set of 5 envelopes for distribution to individuals.

4. The Facilitator explains as follows:

The task is for each group to form 5 squares of equal size, one per member
There should be no speaking nor assisting each other
Members may not take pieces but may give pieces away
The task is completed when each group member has made a complete square
(20 minutes)

5. Before the groups start, the Facilitator gives a Briefing Sheet to each Observer:

Note group members’ behaviours (hands/eyes/gestures/movements)
Record any comments regarding displays of emotion (anger/frustration)
How long before any cooperation commences
How is cooperation initiated (one or more people/gestures)
Does anyone hide their shapes
Does anyone complete then just sit back
Does anyone prevent others from completing (by finishing their square but not acknowledging that the pieces could be differently distributed so that everyone in the group can complete – it is possible)

6. After 20 minutes, the Facilitator invites the Observers to offer positive feedback to their groups. (10 minutes)


DISCUSSION (20minutes)

1. The plenary discussion takes place after stage 6. Try to get participants to comment on group behaviours (positive and negative).

2. Ask what role non-verbal communication played.

3. Invite comments from Observers.

4. Ask if they think there is further information needed, maybe from other sources, before they could recommend moving on to ACTION PLANNING.


EVALUATION (10 minutes)

1. Ask how the participants felt doing COOPERATIVE SQUARES? (for example, did they feel selfish completing quickly)

2. “Is COOPERATIVE SQUARES effective and relevant for the use to which it is put?”



How would the group use this activity in the future and would they make changes? Capture, record, circulate.

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