This activity involves negotiation about the rights and responsibilities of citizens, the government, NGOs and the media in a democracy.
To develop an understanding of the link between rights and responsibilities.
To develop discussion and co-operation skills
To promote civic responsibility
Introduce the exercise by explaining that the purpose of the activity is to draw a “map” of the relationships between four “actors” within (an ideal) democratic society.Divide the participants into four equal-sized groups to represent four “actors” in a democracy: the government, the NGO sector, the media and citizens.
Each group receives a sheet of A4 paper and a pencil to use for making notes and ask them to spend ten minutes brainstorming the role that their “actor” plays in a democratic society, that is, what the main functions that it performs are. At the end of the time, they should agree on the five most important functions.
Next they are going to prepare their “record sheets”. Hand each group a large sheet of paper (A3 or flip chart paper) and a red marker pen, and ask them to write down the “actor” they represent at the top and underneath, their five most important functions.
Bring the groups together to present their “record sheets”. Let the groups share their reactions. Ask them if they agree about the main functions of these four “actors”. If they wish to, the groups may amend their lists in the light of the feedback
Now separate the four groups again and hand out the green pens. Give them fifteen minutes to brainstorm what they require from each other, in order to carry out their own functions. When the time is almost up, ask the groups to prioritise the two most important demands they make of each of the other “actors” and to list these under separate headings using the green marker pen.
Hand out the copies of the “Rules of play”, go through them and make sure everyone understands what they have to do. Then ask the groups to bring their “record sheets” into the middle of the room and to lay them in a square about 1m apart (see diagram). Ask members of each group to position themselves near their “corner”.Hand each group their 6 strands of wool, a roll of tape and a blue pen.
The rounds of negotiation now begin. You should allow 10 minutes for each round. Remind people that the aim is to map out relationships between the different “actors” and that when a demand is accepted one piece of wool should be taped between the two papers to signify acceptance of responsibility.
Debriefing. Move on to the debriefing and evaluation while participants are still sitting around the map.Ask the participants to look at the map they have created and to reflect on the activity:Was it hard to think of the functions that the government, NGOs, media and citizens perform in a democracy?Were there any disagreements within the groups about which claims should be accepted or rejected? Which of the claims made on other groups did they not accept as responsibilities? Why was this? Do you think that such cases would cause any problems in reality?Were there responsibilities that each group accepted but which they had not recognized before? How do they feel about this now?Did the activity show people anything new about democratic society that they did not know before? Were there any surprises?
The activity may be made more or less complicated by using different numbers of “actors” within society: for example, you may want to add “businesses”, “minorities”, or “disadvantaged groups”. However, this will make the negotiation process a lot more complicated, and you may not want all of the groups to exchange demands with each of the others. You could also use different categories with more direct relevance to young people’s reality – for example, replace “citizens” by “young people” and “the government” by “school”.
The activity could be simplified by removing one or more of the groups: for example, by working with only “citizens” and “the government”. This may be preferable if you have a small group.
You may want to try the activity without the use of the “record sheets”: during the negotiation process, someone from the first group should hold one end of the piece of wool, and offer the other end to someone in the second group. If people keep hold of their ends, the whole “society” should be physically linked up by the end of the process!Using four different colours of yarn (one colour associated with each “actor”) makes the map look more attractive and it is easier to trace the links, for example, all the citizens’ demands might be yellow and all those of the media, black.In step 5 of the instructions, after the groups have drawn up their list of functions, don’t spend too long discussing the issues as a whole group. You should use this more as a prompt for the next small group work they will be doing.
Groups may want to make a note of the other groups’ functions.If groups struggle to come up with functions, try asking them to think about the kind of thing their “actor” does, and what would be missing if it did not exist! You may want to provide some examples to help groups to get started:Governments draft legislation, decide on general policy, and ensure that the country meets its budget.NGOs lobby for minority interests, take up issues which the government (or opposition) fails to address, and campaign for changes in legislation.The media reports on government policy, investigates issues, and provides analysis and commentary.The “functions” of citizens include everything that is important in a democratic society: ideas may range from standing for parliament, engaging in human rights activism, setting up organisations to protect particular groups, questioning and becoming involved in political life, and so on.When they draw up their lists of demands, tell them not to be unrealistic in their demands of the other “actors”!
These responsibilities will need to be acceptable, so they should not make unfair or unreasonable claims.The negotiations should not be presented as a “competition”, nor should they occupy too much time. Emphasise to the groups that they should see themselves as co-operating with each other: the purpose is to establish a society in which all “actors” work together for everyone’s satisfaction. Therefore, the transactions should be relatively quick: tell groups to accept claims if they seem to be reasonable, and otherwise to reject them, with any controversial ones to be discussed at a later stage.
If the groups need help with thinking about demands and responsibilities, then you could use as an example the media and citizens: journalists need tip offs about where events are happening and citizens have a responsibility to alert the media and provide witness statements.
The group could continue to add to the map, by including different groups within society (see under the heading “Variations”). They may want to transfer the map to another sheet of paper for greater clarity. Think about which connections in your own society are not well developed, and what could be done to overcome this.