Innovation in Complex Social

Systems

Dealing with Rank and Power in Social Systems Power Poker Materials: 1-2 Decks of playing cards Timing: 25 minutes # of Participants: minimum 4 Reos uses this exercise in projects where there is a power structure in the room that needs to be made visible, for example in groups that included senior political figures, community organizations, and funding organisations This simple game creates a shared vocabulary around rank and power and makes visible the "elephant in the room" to the group collective conscious. A useful way to do this is to address the power issue explicitly, making it visible to all. If participants are prepared for and aware of the dynamics that can arise around power, they will be better able to see the effects of their own presence in the room. In Reos, we have at times played a light-hearted game (informally called "Power Poker" in our system) in which each participant puts a playing card on his or her head without looking at it. The group members then move through the room and treat each other according to the rank on these cards (Ace being the highest rank and 2 being the lowest). Afterwards, when people look at their cards, they talk about what they experienced and how the group wants to deal with power differences. This game brings power to the group’s consciousness early on. Process: 1) Give some talking points on power, and why it can be useful to make it visible. 2) Give each participant one card, face down on the table. 3) Instruct the participants, without looking at the cards to stick their card to their forehead, facing outward, so that the card is visible to others, but not to themselves. 4) When everyone is ready, instruct them to walk around and treat each other according to the rank indicated by their card.
REOS TOOLKIT MODULE NO. 20: POWER POKER April 2013

Innovation in Complex Social
Systems

5) After 15 minutes, participants may sit down and look at their cards. 6) Debrief The method was introduced to Reos during the LINC project in South Africa by Adele Wildschutt from Synergos.

REOS TOOLKIT MODULE NO. 20: POWER POKER

April 2013