This technique can be found in a slightly different version in the collection “Strong, but how?! A selection of techniques for working with boys about violence prevention“, published by the Austrian ministry for education in 2011. Please refer to pages 75–76.
The techniques describe various forms of violence and focus on working with young men on all forms of violence, not just physical. Depending on the focus of the workshop, the workshop leader can choose to work on physical, structural, or psychological violence.
The technique can be used as an opening or deepening activity.
The size of the group can range from 3 to 20 people. However, the best way to use the technique is in 2 to 4 smaller groups.
The technique takes place in three steps: Introduction, work in small groups, final discussion.
The trainer can introduce the activity in the following way:
“You all might know situations in which it is unclear whether certain actions are okay or not okay. Sometimes, we have different expectations towards other people, and we do not know what the other person expects or wants. Therefore, it is necessary to communicate about one’s expectations and wishes and find out what discriminates against others and what we find hurtful to us. To do so, we will create small groups. Each group will receive a blank piece of paper. On the upper half, you write the word “okay“, and on the lower half you write the words “not okay“. The group will also receive strips of papers with short sentences describing various situations. Please read them together, and discuss and decide which of them are okay and which are not okay. Please write them on the paper accordingly. It can also happen that you cannot unanimously decide whether the situation is okay or not okay. If you decide that you do not know, you can also place the sentence in the middle of the paper or closer to one of the two poles. Please be aware that nuances are common and welcome for some of the described situations. When you have finished, we will discuss the situations together.“
The participants will be divided into small groups of 3 to 5. Each group receives the sentences, discusses and positions them. When all sentences are placed on the paper, the group will glue them onto the paper. Afterwards, all groups meet in the large circle, and each sentence will be read out aloud, and its content and positioning on the scale okay–not okay discussed together. After completing the exercise, it should be reflected upon.
One key aspect of this exercise is also to be aware of the legal situation in the county you do this exercise in — if a sentence describes an illegal action, participants must be informed about this and its consequences.
The following questions can be used as a guideline for the large group discussion:
Which situations were difficult to judge?
How was the agreement process in your group? Easy, difficult? Why?
What kind of conversations did you have?
Which gender identities did you read out in the sentences?
Has this influenced your decision on the positioning on the scale? If yes, why, and what could be the reasons?
Please note that most of the names used in the sentences are gender-neutral. One aim of the exercise is also to find out which gender identities the participants have assigned to the given names and how this influenced the positioning on the scale. This is an important aspect to discuss — the power imbalance between the genders in our society and the reasons behind a possible different assessment of a seemingly same situation.