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’, where they gain a deeper understanding of the unfair distribution of resources around the world and of what is meant by the term ‘Social Justice’ and how it is reflected in society. Next, participants consider the concepts of equality, equity and liberation in relation to social justice and take part in choosing how to 'fairly' divide resources. 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. Finally, 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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  • 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

Draw the Line

Students are split into small groups, typically of five to six, and allocated randomly to one of four families.  Each family competes in a series of challenges to earn points which are then exchanged to provide the best possible standard of living for their family.  The points earn different levels of access to housing, water, education and food. After the challenges are completed and the points exchanged it is revealed that the game was rigged. For some families, it was much, much easier to gain access to the highest level of resources, whilst for others, it was impossible to get anything better than the lowest level of resources.  This is designed to trigger an emotional reaction to unfairness. Students are then asked to ‘Draw the Line’ what they consider should be the minimum level of access to these resources are for all human beings. The activity is further debriefed to take it from the hypothetical ‘game’ version to the reality of the current unequal distribution of resources, opportunities and rights with communities, countries and around the world.

A Fair Divide

Students test what fairness is by choosing the fairest way to split $1000 between two people. Students are given a number of scenarios with limited information about two people, one red and one green, and then debate whether they would give all the money to red, most of the money to red, split it evenly between red and green, most of the money to green, or all of the money to green. This is used to introduce equality, equity and liberation as different responses to inequality.

Charity or Justice

Students are introduced to the ‘Problem Tree’ as a useful tool to help them better understand and respond to injustice. The trunk of the tree is the social issue or problem, the roots of the tree are the causes, and the branches are the symptoms of the problem. Students then distinguish between the solutions that are more charity-focused, typically treating short term effects and those which are more justice-focused, typically treating the long-term causes.

Social Advocacy

Using the metaphor of a seesaw, which can be tipped one way or another, students are introduced to the different roles that they can play in bringing about positive social change. Students identity an injustice that is important to them and work with like-minded students to plan out ways in which they can respond to that injustice.  This can produce great artefacts that can be left behind with the school as a starting point for Videos for Change or a social action project.

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