Group Activity: Reflect on Unjust Power and Privilege, Take Action for Social Change

The purpose of this activity is to collectively reflect on power and privilege in order to take action.  Follow the steps below.


Resources Needed

  • Assign pre-work to participants: White Privilege and the Road to Building a United South Africa
  • On the day, pre-allocate the following to each group of 4-5 participants:
  • Pre-fill 1 x poster page for step three (quadrant).
  • Pre-fill 1 x poster pages for step six (action plan).
  • Pens, four dot stickers per person.
  • Four sticky notes per person.
  • One marker
  • Markers, chalk, a stick or kokis.
  • Sticky notes, notes of paper.
  • Pens, pencils.
  • Dot stickers (or different color objects to mark an individual vote).
  • Sticky note pad, the playground sand, chalkboard, white board or smartboard.
  • Tech for video (if available)

Trust is the cornerstone of this work. Evaluate the current level of trust in the group.

  • Ground yourselves by recognizing the context of injustice, as well as the people whose land you might be occupying.
  • Select 1-2 activities from this list to get the group warmed up.

Establish ground rules. Write them in a space that is visible to all. Remember: this space is for learning, healing, reflecting and taking action. 

By the end of this step, each group member will have generated four sticky notes reflecting their individual privileges and oppressions.

Before beginning, watch this video. Spend five minutes as a group reflecting on the following questions:

  • How would you describe your reactions to the article and video?
  • What surprised you? What did not surprise you?
  • What connections can you make with your own context?

Now, as individuals group members, reflect on your own privilege by using a sticky note to answer each question:

  • I can______ without_____.
  • I am unlikely to experience______ because_____.
  • I have never had to think about_____ when_______.
  • I experience oppression based on my ________ (identity).

By the end of this step, each member will have organized their sticky notes into one of the four categories of analysis: Internal, interpersonal, institutional and structural.

You will stick your sticky notes onto the poster page which looks like the following:

If the poster page does not look like the above, simply draw quadrants on paper or improvise to have four quadrants.

Each member should place their sticky note in the category. If one does not fit immediately, put it aside and return to it once all others are organized. Review the definitions below:

Categories of Analysis

  • Internal – What we think, we do. For example: bias, formal & informal education, experiences, cultural references
  • Interpersonal – What we think shapes interactions and relationships with others. For example: teacher or managerial treatment.
  • Institutional – Interactions govern institutional rules, policies and procedures that determine access to resources, “acceptability,” and choice. For example: compliance, dress code, pay, “professional language,” managerial oversight, discipline.
  • Structural – Institutional rules overlap to form structures. For example: An employee experiences bias at work and at the store while buying groceries.

Once the group has pasted down all their sticky notes, review them quietly and make changes to the quadrants of necessary. With all the sticky notes in their respective category it is now time to group them into themes.

Choose a quadrant and focus only on the sticky notes within it. Read each comment and identify the main theme. Read the next sticky note and repeat. If the themes overlap or are similar, group them together. By circling them with a marker and writing the theme. Once all the sticky notes are grouped, reflect on the theme of that group. What word captures the commonality between all the comments?

For example:

Comment 1: I love my cat.

Comment 2: I love taking my dog to the park.

Comment 3: My car is due for a service.

Comment one and comment two fit into the theme: pets. Comment three would possibly have its own theme: car.

As a group, reflect on your findings.

  • How are you feeling?
  • What stands out?
  • What connections can you see between the themes?
  • What did not surprise you? Why?

Stick your full page to the wall. At this point, all the other groups have also stuck their poster pages on the wall close to one another. You will now review  all the themes and use your stickers to vote for one theme per quadrant.

Each person has four stickers. It helps to allocate a color per quadrant. Each sticker represents your vote. You are to vote for one theme per quadrant by sticking your sticker by that theme.

Review all the wall pages. Choose a theme per quadrant (not page) you would like to take action on and allocate it a sticker. You can put all your stickers on one poster page if you like the themes on that page, or spread them across multiple pages. However, there must be one sticker per theme per quadrant. These stickers represent your vote.

The facilitator will now divide the entire group into four groups. Each group will be allocated a poster page according to the quadrant. The facilitator will tally the votes and read out the theme per quadrant. The group will write that theme at the top of the page. Then, as a group, use the marker to fill the rest of the poster page.

Depending on your quadrant allocation, follow the steps below:

  1. Define your theme
    • Define your theme in 1-2 sentences.
  2. Describe its impact
    • In 1-2 sentences, describe its impact on people.
  3. Choose a solution goal
    • Brainstorm 1-3 action goals you can take to mitigate this theme. Choose one for step 4.

Apply the Name, Describe, Accountability, Timeframe tool to flesh out the goal.

      1. Name – Name the specific goal
      2. Describe – Describe how you would measure or perceive its achievement.
      3. Accountable – Reflect on who would be accountable for taking the process of achieving the goal forward.
      4. Time frame – Choose specific dates that certain actions will take place.
      5. Accountability – Indicate who is accountable.

Once all groups have completed their relevant sheets report back to the whole group. Reflect together on what the next steps are.

Transition into reflecting on the experience. As a whole group, interrogate the experience from the lenses of people, process, and power.

Helpful questions can include:

  • How did you experience this process and why?
  • What did you learn about yourself and others through this process?
  • How are you feeling and why?
  • Where are the connections between people’s experiences?
  • How are the lessons gained today applicable to other areas of your context?


Please let us know how you experienced this activity by filling out this short survey.

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