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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Outside Looking In - 6 Exercises for Finding Common Ground in Diverse Groups

A fundraising colleague, Dave Tinker, CFRE was asked to lead an educational session for refugee teens primarily from Nepal, Bhutan, and the Middle East to introduce them to fundraising as a profession.

He asked the #AFPeeps, an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) volunteer Social Media group for recommendations for activities he could do with the refugee teens. I was excited about his project because it reminded me how often I work with groups that I am not, nor will ever truly be a part of. Alice Ferris, ACFRE and I have and continue to work with numerous culturally diverse groups; Native American, Latino, Rural, African American, Afghans, Iranians, and others. We find some of our greatest satisfaction working with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

I created the following list of suggestions for activities that I think can work for any group, but will be especially effective if working with a diverse group. I think they can build trust and relationships among participants while delivering insight about your audience that you can draw upon while presenting for both humor and education. 

ACTIVITY SUGGESTIONS:

1. "I Am, But I Am Not" (Defy stereotype exercise) Participants work in small groups to share what "other" people's stereotypes are of them, their culture or their country. They then share how they do not fit within those stereotypes. They report out to the group. This can be a verbal/written or drawn exercise.

2. "This is America?" (Cognitive dissonance exercise) Ask them to draw 2 things. What they thought America, Americans or other American students were going to be like and then to draw what they've learned "we" are really like. Goal: getting them to share their surprises and open up about their "American" experience.

3. "Good Heart, Bad Idea" (Critical thinking exercise) Ask them to draw or perform short skit about how they see people from other countries try to help through philanthropy in their home country but in ways that are misguided, clumsy or uninformed. Then ask them to provide solutions or advice for people who still want to help. This one will have to be delicately presented or they might be reluctant to share perceived criticisms.

4. "Sesame Street - One of these things is not like the other" (Breaking down barriers) Ask them to group themselves by different criteria; physical, demographic, geographic, cultural, religious, etc. They report out after each grouping about why/how they grouped themselves. The goal is to identify sub cultures that they share with "some" others but to finish the exercise where everyone is in the same group to identify that ultimately we all share some common culture regardless of resources, education or circumstances.

5. "The ONE Thing" (Self-awareness exercise) They work in small groups and explain to each other "The One Thing" they wish people understood about them, their country or their cultures that most people have a hard time comprehending. They report out why this is important to deeper understanding, trust and progress.

6. "Why Should I Care?" (Justify support exercise) Break them up in groups of 4-5. Try to mix them so they are with people they don't know. Provide a list of causes they can choose from. Make it about causes, not organizations. arts, education, health, social justice, animal protection, hunger abatement, clean water, etc. Do a random drawing after the groups are established to determine which group gets to pick their cause first from the list you create as a flip chart exercise. This will generate initial excitement and disappointment. Every person gets $100 in play money and 1 week of "virtual" volunteer time to give to a cause. They can give both to one cause or cash to one, time to other. Report out the winning cause and "You" make an actual $100 donation to a local cause in your group's name.

Regardless of the exercise you choose. At the end I encourage "You" to make a contribution to a cause that your group chooses and have them participate by signing a card that will accompany that gift. 

Be sure to provide a signup sheet and send contact information about how the participants can become more involved with causes they want to support either financially or through volunteer work.

Good luck! And have fun learning while you teach!



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