Trainer's Tip: Diversity Exercise

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Eddie Newall explains an exercise to help delegates think about cultural differences and similarities.

This activity aims to demonstrate how we view and are affected by similar and different personal and cultural characteristics; it demonstrates how we feel most comfortable when we perceive other people as very like ourselves, and uncomfortable when we perceive other people as very unlike ourselves. I have modified it to make it suitable for youth groups.

The free holiday:
Ask each trainee to complete a profile of their main personal characteristics: examples include gender, ethnic background, age group, language spoken, marital status, leisure activities I like, leisure activities I dislike, music I like, music I dislike, a TV programme I like to watch, a TV programme I don’t like to watch, a holiday I would like, a holiday I would dislike, a career I would like, a career I would dislike.

Any personal and cultural characteristics can be used provided they are ones that the trainees will not feel are intrusive or be embarrassed to discuss. The characteristics need to be presented on a handout with two columns, one column headed “This Is Me”, and one column headed “This Is My Room Mate”. The trainees should be asked to fill in the “This Is Me “column at this stage.

Working in pairs, they swap their lists of characteristics and take in turns to say: You have been offered a free holiday but there are no single rooms; you have to share a room with one other person who you have never met. This is what this person is like: describe them using the information in the “This Is Me” column.

Group feedback: get feedback on how they would feel sharing a room with this stranger who has identical characteristics to their own. Would they go on holiday or would they turn it down?

Working in pairs with each other’s list, they fill in the “This Is My Room Mate” column, making each characteristic as different and opposite as possible. Then take in turns to say: You have been offered a free holiday but there are no single rooms; you have to share a room with one other person who you have never met. This is what this person is like: describe them using the information in the “This Is My Room Mate” column.

Group feedback: get feedback on how they would feel sharing a room with this stranger who has very different characteristics to their own. Would they go on holiday or would they turn it down? Which characteristics would they feel comfortable or uncomfortable about, and why? How would their room mate feel about sharing if they had a description of them? What does this tell them about themselves and how they view other people? How can they use what they have learned to get along with other people?

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