The Social Barometer exercise involves posing questions and asking participants to respondby moving to a particular point along an imaginary line that represents a spectrum
of potentialanswers. It can serve as an opening activity at the beginning of a one-time dialogue session.You may also find it useful at many other times in a longer dialogue program. The exercisecan be conducted very quickly or expanded to become a much more substantive activity.
5 minutes to an hour -- The length of the exercise depends on the size of the group,the number of questions you pose, and whether or not you include supplementary activities.
The exercise works well with small or large groups, as long as the room is largeenough for participants to move around easily.
None, although you may find a rope, string, or colored paper helpful.
You can use the social barometer exercise at the beginning of a session to arrange alarge group of participants into subgroups that include people with varied perspectives.
You can also use the exercise to determine which issues or questions are mostcontroversial or most interesting among the participants. The exercise can be used atthe beginning of a session to select questions to explore that day or at the end of asession to help you choose a direction for the next meeting.
The exercise sparks participants' thinking about the issues at hand and curiosity aboutone another. A 5-minute social barometer exercise will enable each participant to learnabout the diversity of views in the room and to see how his or her perspectivecompares to others. In other contexts, the activity can provide a structure for in-depthreflection and interaction, rather than simply serving as prelude to conversation.
If participants have been reluctant to explore differences, this exercise can help themto bring their differences to the surface and to begin discussing them. The exercise canalso enable participants to learn quickly about aspects of each others' backgrounds or about feelings, ideas, or assumptions that they might otherwise find difficult to discuss.
Because the exercise involves physical movement, it can energize the participants andhelp to relieve tension. This may be helpful at the beginning of a session or in themiddle of a long program.
Like other activities that involve physical movement, this exercise may enableparticipants to process and integrate their ideas and feelings more deeply thanactivities that involve only speaking and listening.
A modified version of the activity can be used to quickly gauge participants’ energylevel, evaluate an activity, or find out how ready participants feel for a new activity. Seethe section of this document labeled “Variations for Other Purposes.”
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