Further Activities

Activity 5: Building Group Cohesion - The River of Life

A river is a meaningful symbol in many cultures and people can associate a river with themes of life and journey. The purpose of the exercise is to build trust and cohesion in a group.

  • Step 1: Tell the group you want them to draw their ‘River of Life’. Ask them to start at the beginning of their life and include key dates, events and experiences in their life. They can use different colours to express different moods/experiences in their lives.
  • Step 2: Ask people to form small groups  (3-4) to share their drawings. Because of the sensitive nature of the exercise it is may not be advisable to share in large group.
  • Step 3: You can encourage participants to put the drawings on a wall and informal sharing can take place.
  • Step 4: Group discussion on the experience of drawing the river of life and how this can support participants to work as a group.
  • 15 minutes for drawing
  • Paper, crayons, ‘BlueTack’

Source – Adapted from Hope, A. & Timmel, S. (1984) Training for Transformation: A Handbook for Community Workers (Book 11) Gweru: Mambo Press.

Activity 6: Personal, Cultural, Structural (PCS) Model

Source: Thompson, N. (2012) Anti-Discriminatory Practice: Equality, Diversity and Social Justice, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

The aim of  Thomson’s  PCS model is support social analysis at different levels. This allows a group to understand both the  personal/interpersonal forces and external factors that influence group behaviour. In the context of working with extremism, it allows for the exploration of issues (e.g. racism, discrimination, homophobia) to support group learning.

  • Step 1: In small groups ask participants to analyse an issue that impacts on them, others and their community – these include: racism, discrimination, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, sexism, misogyny, classism, faith based hate.
  • Step 2: Encourage the groups to analyse the identified issue – at the levels of personal, cultural and structural levels
  • Step 3: Explore ways that young people can work to change these issues at personal, cultural and structural levels
  • Step 4: Invite a wider discussion on how these issues  are reflected in the group, and how members can explore these issues in a respectful and safe manner.
  • 1 hour
  • Paper, markers

Activity 7: Cultural Mapping

Source: Johnson, P.G., Scholes, P.K. & Whittington, P.R. (2007), Exploring Corporate Strategy 8th ed., Financial Times:Prentice Hall.

When working with groups it is important to remember a group does not  exist  in isolation. Practitioners and groups are influenced by the wider culture of the organisation.

Organisational culture is both visible and hidden, as such it is not always easy to fully comprehend.

However, it has an impact on for example how organisations engage with diversity and difference,  does the school/youth project manifest a welcoming space through symbols that represent different faith and cultural traditions.

The Johnson & Scholes ‘Cultural Web’ is a framework for the analysis of organisational culture. As it is a web the various elements are  connected.

You can work through each element or concentrate on a few elements of the web.

The purpose is gain an insight into your own organisation’s culture and the challenges and opportunities it presents for the practice of unpacking extremism.

Resource: Group works

Group Works is an excellent resource for both practitioners and group members. The cards can be used  by practitioners to develop theory for practice. They can also be used by young people in  creative ways to understand how groups work, importance of communication, safety etc. The cards are free to download from


Activity 8: Story Circle #2

  • Reflecting on our earlier topics about ‘unpacking extremism’, belonging, identity and difference, and digging back into your memory, can you think of a pedagogical exercise or a moment in your professional experience that was transformative, in however big or small a way. Tell the story of this. Please try to describe it as concretely as possible, setting the scene and context. You can choose what you’d like to disclose, bearing in mind confidentiality. It can be as ‘minor’ or ‘major’ as you like. It might mean transformative for you in terms of your insight, for a young person, for relationships with colleagues. There is no need to prepare anything formal. Trust what “wants to be spoken”. 
  • One person will offer to begin and then call on the next person. If you do not want to speak at that time, you can pass and before the next round begins you can offer your reflection. Please limit to 3 minutes in the first round.
  • Listen to each person without interruption or framing your contribution in response to someone else’s contribution until each person has spoken.
    In the next round, you will be invited to reflect further, and it will follow the same format of listening to each person without interruption or framing your contribution in response to someone else’s contribution.
  1. Why did you choose to share this moment?
  2. Why was it significant for you?
  3. What did you learn from it?

The break-out groups will then open up to discussion, sensitive to the fact that some people may not wish to further elaborate on their examples. 

Activity 9: What Words Do

  • What does hate speech look like?
  • What does it sound like?
  • Where might we encounter it?
  • How do we respond educationally?
  • Give Concrete Examples.

(Topics that may emerge include: Anti-immigration, white privilege, national identity, racism, extremism of all forms, and alt-right).

Reflect on some aspect of your identity that might potentially make you a target of abuse

Imagine a world in which ‘free speech’ permitted public displays of abuse, targeted at you in particular. What would that look like, feel like, sound like? Describe in detail, concretely and imagine it.

Should everything be permitted as a right to free speech? Think of arguments for and against free speech. What about in the classroom or in youth work? Is there a difference?

Activity 10: Porch-sitting

Sometimes sitting side by side can open up conversations in different ways. Key here is to keep this quite open and invite people to engage in a way that feels right for them.

  • In silence, think of an object, a story, an image, or an experience that in some way symbolises, or connects with, the concept of conflict (or peace, extremism, hate, joy, freedom, equality..). (3 minutes).
  • Don’t overthink it.. Work intuitively..
  • Sitting side by side (porch-sitting), speak to the person beside you for 2 uninterrupted minutes about whatever has come to mind. Change places. (4 minutes).
  • You may then like to open into different kinds of stories that relate more personally to the lives of the participants, but keep the concepts quite abstract and broad to allow for different kinds of engagement.

Play with different kinds of seating, movement of furniture, directions of furniture, and ways of occupying space. See what experiences these shifts open up.

Activity 11: Visual Thinking Strategy

The facilitator remains neutral but interested, open, and attentive, simply paraphrases, is physically expressive in pointing,  and mirrors back, making connections. “What I hear you saying is..”, “Who haven’t we heard from..?”, “It seems that..”.. Can we answer that by looking? (Steer clear of pure speculation and fantasy).

You may choose an image or perhaps invite the young people or your colleagues to choose an image.

  • Step 1: All look at image in silence for 2-3 minutes
  • Step 2: What’s going on in this picture?
  • Step 3: What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Step 4: What more can we find?

For more images and resources see: https://www.permissiontowonder.com/imagebank  and https://vtshome.org/research/

You can also source materials and images from many museums and galleries for educational use and for inspiring ideas.

Activity 12: Ethnographic Infra-ordinary

This exercise builds on the earlier listening exercises in Unit 1. The aim is to encourage people to move beyond unreflective stereotypes and cliches in everyday life, starting with everyday observations. The term ‘infra-ordinary’ describes what has become invisible because of everyday habitual use. It is not the extra-ordinary.

 It was coined by Georges Perec as a way of paying attention to the minute gestures, movements, habits, and moments. This exercise’s aim is to bring to visibility and awareness this ’infra-ordinary’ domain. 

  • Step 1 Sit somewhere familiar outside or inside. 
  • Step 2: Spend a few minutes observing and experiencing your surroundings very carefully with an open attitude.
  • Step 3: Begin to write a concrete description of this experience in the present tense “There is a ..”. Don’t introduce value judgements (good/bad). The description will help to share your perspective. Perhaps focus on one object and see what happens to it.

See here for more ideas:  http://www.studiochronotope.com/uncovering-the-infraordinary.html

With thanks to Jessica Foley