THE CHAIR CHALLENGE
This is a popular ACTIVITY that explores multiple themes: conflict, power, disruption, and collaboration. Depending on the group, it may be necessary to be sensitive to issues of culture, gender, or physical ability (but may provide naturally selected Observers).
Chairs, at least one for every participant plus a few extra.
3 x A5 cards each with one of these instructions:
- Put all the chairs in a circle (you will have 15 minutes)
- Put all the chairs near the door (you will have 15 minutes)
- Put all the chairs near the window (you will have 15 minutes)
- Ask the participants to simply re-arrange the chairs in a random manner in the training room.
- Arrange the participants into 3 equal sized groups. Ask if any participants are qualified in First Aid! Invite 1 person in each group to be an Observer; take them aside and explain that their tasks are to record what they see and be prepared to give feedback at the end.
- The Facilitator explains that the task will commence when they say “START” and will cease when they say “STOP”. The Facilitator advises that the tasks must be completed in silence.
- Ask one group to leave the room for a few minutes, giving them their card as they leave; take another group to a corner of the room and give them their instruction card; and ask the third group to sit on any of the chairs, and then give them their card.
- The Facilitator tells the groups in the room that they may “START”; they invite the outside group back into the room, explaining that they too may “START”.
- All participants are instructed not to share their instructions with anyone else and they are reminded that they must follow their task in silence.
- Although the groups have been given 15 minutes, the Facilitator should use their judgement about stopping the task earlier or allowing it to run longer (but probably for no more than 25 minutes).
- The Facilitator says “STOP”.
DISCUSSION (about 20minutes)
- Ask the group about how easy or difficult it was to follow the instructions. (achieving the task, keeping silent)
- Ask how they would describe the way they worked as teams.
- Did anyone consider, or do, anything disruptive (for example, organise a sit down protest, try to take away the chairs, organise between the groups)
- Invite comments from the Observers.
- Ask the group what they would have done if they had been allowed to talk.
- Ask the group if they have any solutions that would achieve each group’s objective (for example, placing all chairs in a large circle between the window and the door, or splitting the tasks by first making a circle, then placing them near the door, then near the window)
- Did anyone consider breaking the rules (for example, by putting a third in a circle, a third near the door, and a third near the window)
- Did anyone consider a disruptive tactic (for example, writing DOOR and WINDOW on flipchart paper and placing them within a circle of chairs). Discuss “disruption” as a tactic.
- Ask the group how relevant they consider this ACTIVITY as a means of exploring power dynamics. Invite examples.
EVALUATION (10 minutes)
- Ask how the participants felt doing THE CHAIR CHALLENGE? (for example, some may have felt personally uncomfortable)
- “Is THE CHAIR CHALLENGE 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.