Summary

The experience begins with participants examining a story that illustrates how the ‘veil of ignorance’ can be a helpful thought experiment when evaluating fairness in society. They then engage in ‘Draw the Line’, a simulation where they are alien special agents who have received intel about a newly discovered planet, ‘Earth’, and a new species, ‘Humans’. Participants work in small teams to investigate how the humans have distributed resources and whether people on Earth live in a just society. Each team shares their findings and participants recognize that many of the world’s population currently have access to less than what they consider to be fair. Through a movement-based think-pair-share, they identify some of the causes and consequences of the current lack of social justice and the link between power and access. Using a ‘Problem Tree’, participants enhance their understanding of a social issue and understand the difference between charity and justice. They appreciate that justice creates long-term change as it focuses on addressing the root causes of issues and reduces the need for charity in the future. Participants explore a framework to help strengthen their understanding of how they can be social advocates. Through a team exercise, they select a social issue of their choice and identify actions they can take to help create positive change and move society towards justice.

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Outcomes

  • Participants recognize the lack of fair access to resources, opportunities and rights in society, both locally and globally.
  • Participants understand some of the causes and consequences of these inequalities.
  • Participants identify opportunities to take both charity and justice related actions that can be used to bring about a more just society.

Activity Details

Split and Choose

The facilitator shares a story from their childhood about the unfair splitting of dessert that often happened when someone got to split the dessert and choose which piece they wanted for themselves. They share that to reduce the fighting between siblings, they had to follow the ‘You split, I choose’ rule. After the story, participants explore the impact of the rule and recognize how it helped create a fairer outcome for the siblings. They are introduced to John Rawls’ ‘Veil of Ignorance’ and understand how it can be a helpful thought experiment when evaluating fairness in society.

Draw the Line

Participants engage in a simulation where they are alien special agents who have received intel about a newly discovered planet, ‘Earth’, and a new species, ‘Humans’. They are tasked with investigating how the humans have distributed resources and whether humans live in a just society. In small groups, participants use photographic data from Dollar Street to explore different themes (e.g., dental hygiene, access to water, shelter etc.) and what access to their theme looks like for humans based on different income levels. Each small group draws the line at the level of access they believe should be the minimum for all humans. Using building blocks that represent the human population, participants estimate how many people they think are at each income level. Each group reports on where they drew the line for their resource and their reasons why. The facilitator reveals the approximate number of people in each income level and how the income levels are represented across different regions of Earth, providing a visual representation of varying levels of access across and within regions. Participants reflect on what they discovered about the distribution of resources on Earth and whether it is reflective of a just society or not. Through the debrief, participants understand that the distribution of resources is unfair and recognize that many of the world’s population currently have access to less than what they considered to be fair. The SDGs are used to help participants recognize that progress is being made but many people still lack fair access and life on Earth is not reflective of a just society. Through a movement-based think-pair-share activity, participants identify some of the causes of the current lack of social justice and the link between power and access. Participants explore the role that equality, equity and liberation can play in creating a just society for all and why a combination of approaches is needed

Charity or Justice

Participants explore the difference between charity and justice and why both are needed to create a fair society. Participants deepen their understanding of a social issue e.g. homelessness through an examination of some of the causes and symptoms. The experience helps participants understand that charity, although needed at certain times, focuses on short-term relief rather than long-term change and has contributed to the growing disparity between rich and poor. They understand that justice tends to create long-term lasting change as it focuses on addressing the root causes of issues.

Social Advocacy

Participants are introduced to the seesaw as a metaphor for how our actions can tip society towards injustice or justice. Through the seesaw, participants can move from possible feelings of discontent with how to address injustices to an understanding that their actions have an impact and that they can help create positive changes at various levels of society. Participants explore a framework to help them understand the purpose of social advocacy and the different ways they can be involved. Through a video, they see an example of young people advocating for change. Working in small groups, they select a social issue and identify actions they can take to help address the root causes of the issue and help tip the seesaw towards justice. Participants acknowledge the challenges we face when advocating for change and recognize the importance of evaluating whether their actions, including inaction, are tipping the seesaw towards justice or injustice.

I Resolve To

Participants reflect on what they have learnt and make a commitment for future action. Individually, they complete an appreciative inquiry reflection using a traffic light concept whereby they record an action they will continue doing (orange), an action they need to stop (red) and an action they will begin to do (green) so that in time it becomes a new green. Each participant is given an “I Resolve To…” card, to record their commitment. Participants are encouraged to share their I Resolve To with another person and to hold each other accountable. They take the cards away with them and are encouraged to keep them somewhere they can see daily so that it acts as a further incentive for them to take action.

Classroom Requirements

  • Venue: large open space with room for approx. 60 participants to move around and work in both small and large groups (ideally a gym, library, drama room etc.)
  • AV: data projector and large screen, microphone (cordless is ideal), speakers to play videos and music
  • Chair for each participant
  • Pen/pencil per participant
  • Minimum of two staff members for active observation
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Some images from our Just Society workshops