By Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, 2009.

For a group to be functional, and for participants in a group to feel accountable to the group, it is vitally important to have some sort of agreement on what members of the group expect from one another. Unlike the types of rules that one finds in a typical classroom or workplace situation, this activity helps participants come up with a vision for how their group will behave towards each other and their space that comes from within, rather than being imposed by a power outside and over the group.

Goals

  • Participants collaborate on the development of norms for what they want to see in the group.
  • Participants begin to forge an identity as a group.

Equipment/Resources

  • A long (human sized) piece of paper.

Activity

  1. Introduce the goals of this activity (above). Contrast the idea of the group coming up with its own “norms” for behaviour against the imposition of “rules” or “laws” (by teachers, family, government…).
  2. Discuss the role of group norms in this group. For example, if the group is engaged in media production, group norms might be important to ensure that the group is able to function well on a creative collaboration.
  3. Roll out the paper and distribute markers. Ask for a volunteer to lie down on the paper and have their outline traced.
  4. This human outline is “The Being”. It represents this group as a body made up of people, this space, and our work together. The things that we write/draw inside the being are things that we want to see in the group. The things that we write outside the group are things that we do not want in this space.
  5. Call for suggestions of things to add to the being. Check with the entire group for agreement/disagreement, clarification, and modification of suggestions before giving the go-ahead for the suggestion to be put down in ink inside or outside of the being.
  6. Mix it up, have some serious and some humourous norms. Try and fill the page.
  7. Some examples of the types of things that appear inside the being:
    • Attendance
    • Listening
    • Respect
    • Open mind
    • Risk-taking
    • Passion
    • Honesty
  8. Some things that could appear outside of the being:
    • Prejudice
    • Theft
    • Talking over people
    • Dominating the space
  9. When the being is complete, affirm the agreement of all members to stand by this set of norms. Some groups choose to sign their names to the page to make this affirmation.
  10. Discuss what the consequences of violation of the group norms are, and how the group wants to address problems with group dynamics that could realistically be expected to come up.
  11. Give the being a name. Post it publicly in the workshop space and refer to it as necessary throughout the group’s work together.

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