- Learn ways to create teams.
- Enable diverse people to become one unit through small group activities.
- Give people a common focus by asking them to work together on tangible tasks.

Ways to Create Teams

- Form teams of diverse kinds of people. Have people line up in rows according to some criterion (such as race, religion, family role, or area of interest) and count off, so teams have comparable numbers of each type of participant.
- Organizers can design teams with a variety of backgrounds and personality styles.
- If the group is extremely diverse, consider forming teams based on common language or common area of interest.
- Assign a meeting space for each team and give them an icebreaker exercises that will help them start getting to know each other more deeply.


Preparation: Assemble scrap paper and various other lightweight materials and divide into equal portions, one for each team. Give each team a quantity of string.

Explanation. Each team has the task of constructing a tower from this pile of paper, string and supplies. You can only use these supplies, and you cannot attach the tower to a ceiling, wall or other object. Towers will be evaluated in three ways: height, stability and elegance. Each team can choose which of these criteria you want to [[#|excel]] in. Also, try to find ways to involve each team member in this activity. For instance, some team members may fold paper while others experiment with ways to stack them. One member may be a timekeeper, letting you know when 5 minutes remain, 2 minutes remain, etc. Another member might be a spy to check out what the other teams are doing and report back to you. You have 15 minutes. Begin.

Activity. Allow 15 minutes for the teams to construct their towers. Go around with a measuring stick and record the height of each tower. Blow on each tower to rate its stability. Invent some criteria to rate their beauty.

Discussion: Invite a representative of each team to report on how the team worked together: how successful they were in getting each team member involved, how well they utilized the skills of the various team members. Invite comments on whether the result of the group effort surpassed what any of the individuals could have done alone.

What Makes a Team Effective?

Supplies: A large sheet of paper entitled “Elements of Effective Teamwork”

Brainstorming: After teams finish an initial task, ask for feedback about what makes an effective team and what makes teamwork satisfying. Write answers on large sheet of paper.

Elements of effective teamwork:
- Clearly understood tasks
- Everyone agrees on their role in fulfilling the tasks.
- Members communicate openly and frankly.
- Members listen to each other in order to understand and trust each other.
- Members challenge each other when things aren’t going well, and discover ways to solve problems and resolve conflicts.
- Members feel responsible and are committed to carrying out the team’s tasks.
- Members periodically evaluate their effectiveness as a team.
- Members make an emotional investment in the success of the team.

Create a Team Vision and Goals

Supplies: A large piece of paper and set of colored markers for each team; tape or fasteners to display posters on the walls of the meeting room.

Explanation: Before we can work together well, it is good to start developing a common vision of our goals. Of course, we are here to [[#|learning]] something about ourselves and others and to do something meaningful to serve the people here. Our larger goal is to help create a culture of heart and peace. Each team spends 15-20 minutes creating a joint poster that shows some [[#|ideas]] of what a culture of heart and peace might look like. Then brainstorm about what goals you want to set as a team. Vote on ideas and select 2 or three team goals. Write the goals on your poster and record them in your notebooks.

Teamwork and presentation: One representative from each team briefly explains the team’s poster and states their goals.

Discussion: Ask questions to get a better understanding of each time’s vision. Look for any common elements or themes that appear in several posters. Make a list of some phrases that describe what the posters show.

[Write these phrases down for use later in creating songs, poems, or rap music about peace. Keep posters for final team reflection exercise.]

Knot Game

Preparation: None.

Introduction: Have members of each team stand in circle, shoulder to shoulder, with their eyes closed and hands stretched out toward the center of the circle. Each person tries to find two unknown hands (from two different people, not their neighbors). Then players open their eyes and try to disentangle themselves without letting go of each others’ hands.

Discussion: How did you finally accomplish the task? Did anybody take leadership and direct the rest of the group? Did anybody give up? Why? What made the group finally succeed?

[When things in life get confusing, it helps to be part of a team. Don’t let go of your teammate’s hands.]

Tug of War / Tug of Peace

Preparation: A length of strong rope

First activity: Divide all the participants into two teams. Ask these two teams to stand up and hold opposite ends of a long, strong rope. Mark a line across the middle of the area. Each team must try to pull the other team to its side of the line. When you say, “1, 2, 3, Go!” the teams should start pulling against each other. Let them go on until one team has ended up falling over the dividing line.

Second activity: Next, ask all participants to sit in a circle. Now tie the same strong rope in a large circle and spread it around to the participants so that they are sitting around the edge of the rope. Ask all the participants to pull together on the rope so that they can all stand up.

Discussion: How are the two exercises similar? How are they different

[The idea is to show how, instead of people pulling on opposite ends as in a tug of war, where only one team wins, we can approach situations in a win-win way, so everyone benefits and feels good about the results.]

Lion, Fox, Elephant

Preparation: Post pictures of a lion, fox and elephant on three different walls. Beside each picture post a large sheet of paper, divided into two sections, one labeled “Good Features” and the other “Bad Features.”

Activity: Ask participants to look at the pictures and then go and stand by the picture of the animal that appeals the most to them. Invite each group to brainstorm ideas to write down under the label “Good Features.” Then have groups rotate to the other two pictures, where they will brainstorm ideas to write down under “Bad Features” of that animal. Encourage some humor.

Inventory Sheet: “Interaction Styles:” Make copies of the following inventory and the information on the following peace. Give an inventory sheet to each participant to fill out, and hand out the information after they fill out the inventory.

Interaction Styles Inventory

Here are six statements about your typical interaction styles. Check the one that best describes you.

I enjoy things most when I am…
helping others do getting others to doing what I want
what they want to do do what I want to do to do without having to count on others

I would describe myself as a person who most of the time is…
friendly, open and who energetic, self-confident cautious and fair and who
sees some good in almost everyone and one who sees opportunities stands by what I believe to be right
others miss

I find those relationships most gratifying in which I can be…
of support to a strong the one who provides the neither a leader nor a
leader in whom I have faith leadership others want to follow follower but free to pursue my own way

When I run into opposition to what I am doing, I am most apt to …
give up what I am doing become forceful and press become doubly cautious and
and put my wants to one side for my right to be doing it check my position very carefully
in order to be helpful

In getting along with difficult people, I usually …
find it easier to just go along find them as challenges respect their rights and
with their wishes for the moment to be overcome insist that they respect my rights and interests

If I’m not getting what I want from a relationship, I am most apt to …
keep hoping and trusting become more forceful and abandon the relationship and
that things will work themselves persuasive and push harder to look elsewhere for what I want
out I due time get what I want

Now add up the number of check marks in each column.


Explanation: When you are finished responding to the statements, total up the columns on your Interaction Styles sheet. If your total in column A is highest, your interaction style is represented by the elephant. If your total in column B is highest, your style is like a lion. If your total in column C is highest, your style is like a fox. If your totals add up to a different animal from the picture you are at, please get up and move to the picture.

These three animals represent three different styles of relating with other people. Each style has its strengths and each has its weaknesses:

Elephant (altruistic, nurturing style)
likes being genuinely helpful
cares about others’ feelings and well-being
dislikes selfishness and anger
views self as needing to be more assertive

Strengths: supportive trusting adaptable optimistic
Weaknesses: submissive gullible spineless impractical

Lion (assertive, directing style)
likes to control and get things done
likes to compete and win
dislikes gullibility and indecision
views self as needing to be more considerate

Strengths: ambitious competitive self-confident forceful
Weaknesses: ruthless combative arrogant dictatorial

Fox (analytic, autonomous style)
likes to be independent and self-sufficient
values planning and orderly approach
dislikes emotionalism, respects logic, fact and wisdom
views self as needing to be more trusting and considerate

Strengths: analytic cautious methodical fair
Weaknesses nitpicking suspicious rigid unfeeling

There are several important truths to be learned from this inventory:
  • All people have a characteristic, interpersonal style.
  • All interpersonal styles have strengths.
  • All interpersonal styles have weaknesses.
  • Weaknesses are strengths used to excess.
  • Stress may bring out people’s weaknesses or make them change their style of interaction..
  • Effective teams include people with all three interaction styles.

Teamwork: Please meet together in your teams.
Go around the circle and state your interaction style, according to your inventory results and what you learned about yourself through this inventory. Notice the mix of different interaction styles on your team. Discuss what you learned about the differences in styles. What did you learn about the strengths of others with different styles? Discuss how you can apply these insights to working together as a team.

(Adapted by Joy Pople and Akiko Ikeno from Religious Youth Service interactive learning exercises)

See also:
Communication Skills
Conflict-Management Exercises
PeaceMaker video game role-playing scenarios in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (free)
People Power video game of non-violent resistance strategies ($10)