By means of role cards and spatial constellations students experience who has fewer and who has more opportunities in society.
- to experience what it is like to be in the shoes of someone else and to promote empathy
- to raise awareness about the inequality of opportunities in society and everyday activities
- to highlight possible personal consequences of belonging to certain social minorities or cultural groups
- to reduce prejudices and stereotypes
- Review the list of „situations and events“ and adapt them to the group that you are working with.
- Prepare the role cards (see Annex ), one per participant. Copy the (adapted) sheet, and cut out the strips.
Step by step description
1. Create a calm atmosphere, ask the participants for silence.
2. Hand out the role cards, one to each participant. Tell them not to discuss it with anyone else. Make sure that whatever group size you have, there is someone with the white, male and heterosexual card.
3. Now ask the students to begin to get into their roles. To help, read out some of the following questions, pausing after each one, to give people time to reflect and build up a picture of themselves and their lives:
- What was your childhood like? What sort of house did you live in? What kind of games did you play? What sort of work did your parents do?
- What is your everyday life like now? What do you do in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening?
- What sort of lifestyle do you have? Where do you live? How much money do you earn each month? What do you do in your leisure time? What you do in your holidays?
- What excites you and what are you afraid of?
4. Now ask people to remain absolutely silent as they line up beside each other (like on a starting line). Start on an agreed point.
5. Tell the participants that you are going to read out a list of situations or events. Every time they are fully convinced they can answer "yes" to the statement, they should take two steps forward. They should make one step if the feel it may potentially be possible and they should stay where they are and not move if they feel it is impossible.
6. Read out loud the situations one by one. Pause for a while between each statement to allow people time to step forward and to look around to take note of their positions relative to each other.
- Can you use public transport?
- Can you play football easily?
- Do you feel safe going home alone at night?
- Have you ever encountered any serious financial difficulty?
- Do you have decent housing with devices like television, refrigerator etc.?
- Do you feel welcome at your local youth club?
- When you enter a club full of white men: will you stay?
- If you are competing with people of similar qualifications for the same job, do you feel you have an equal chance of getting it?
- Do you see people similar to yourself represented on TV?
- Can you easily adopt a child?
- Do you feel that people listen to you?
- Would you get a job as a nanny easily?
- Do you think you would receive fair treatment from the police?
- Do you feel you can study and follow the profession of your choice?
- Do you think your language, religion and culture are respected?
- Do you feel comfortable moving into a shared house?
7. At the end invite everyone to take note of their final positions. Then give them time to come out of role before debriefing in plenary.
Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing
Discuss with the students how they felt in their characters and how they feel now in their finishing position. Start to ask students with underprivileged roles: Were they surprised where they finished? Which emotions did they feel during the „race“? How does it feel to be at the „front“ or „back“ of the field?
Afterwards let the students take a seat in a circle. Talk about the issues raised and what they learnt.
- How did the students feel stepping forward – or not?
- For those who stepped forward often, at what point did they begin to notice that others were not moving as fast as they were?
- How easy or difficult was it to take over the different roles? How did they imagine what the person they were playing was like?
- How did the students know about the character whose role they had to play? Was it through personal experience or through other sources of information (news, books, and jokes)? Are they sure the information and the images they have of the characters are reliable?
- Did anyone feel that there were moments when their basic human rights were being ignored?
- Can people guess each other's roles? (Let people reveal their roles during this part of the discussion.)
- Does the exercise mirror society in some way? How?
- Which human rights are at stake for each of the roles? Could anyone say that their human rights were not being respected or that they did not have access to them?
- What first steps could be taken to address the inequalities in society?
Reference / original source of the method
The activity is an adapted version of the method "Take a step forward", originally published in: “Compass – A Manual on Human Rights Education with Young People” (Council of Europe, 2002)
Gertraud Steininger facilitated this activity during her workshop "The Methodical Roundabout of Intercultural Dialogue" at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2008 in Salzburg.
The role cards in the annex are an adapted version and were originally published in: "Take a step forward" (COMPASS. A Manual on Human Rights Education with Young People. Council of Europe, 2002).
Further tips and resources
There is also a version designed for younger students between 8 and 12 years, orginally published in: COMPASITO. Manual on human rights education for children. Council of Europe, 2007.
Annex: Role Cards