Materials: “Lifesavers” made of paper (prepared in advance), large piece of paper, markers


Exercise description

Prepare lifesavers in advance by cutting them out of a large piece of paper (see photograph). Write out the names of different social groups on them:

  • youth
  • the army
  • multinational corporations (e.g. McDonalds, Coca-Cola, etc.)
  • peace workers
  • senior citizens
  • people with disabilities
  • black people
  • the media
  • the government
  • women


Each social group appears on two lifesavers. An alternative to the lifesavers is to write the names of social groups in big letters on an A4 piece of paper (that participants can tape to their chests using masking tape, sticky tape or a clothes pin).

Step 1: Select groups. Participants have to select one of the social groups and take the corresponding lifesaver.

Step 2: Describe the task. Describe the task slowly and clearly:

“Participants who represent the same group are a pair. Each pair has one vote. Pairs cannot be separated.

You are all travelling by plane to a conference. The topic of the conference is conflict and violence in the world and possible responses. At the conference you will be representing the group you have selected.

Suddenly, the pilot informs you that due to technical difficulties, everyone has to evacuate the plane within the hour. However, there aren’t enough parachutes for all the passengers. Three pairs will be left without parachutes. The pilot has their own personal parachute and isn’t willing to give it to anyone else.

Each pair has the task of writing out the reasons why they should be given a parachute, thus ensuring that they will continue their journey to the conference and their work on dealing with conflict and violence in the world. Decide which one of you two will be the spokesperson. You have five minutes for this task.”

Step 3: Presentations. Spokespeople present the reasons why they (their group) should be saved. They have three minutes for their presentation.

Step 4: Voting in pairs. Pairs have five minutes to discuss who should be given a parachute and to choose five groups to cast their votes for (they cannot vote for themselves). Voting is done in secret: pairs write out a list of five groups on a piece of paper.

Step 5: Voting. A list of all the groups that are on the airplanes is on the large piece of paper. Trainers tally the votes next to each group’s name. Three pairs who have the fewest votes are not given parachutes and they have to take off their lifesavers. If there is a draw, the pilot declares that she will not wait around for a decision and that they have five minutes to make up their minds or else she will catapult herself out of the plane to save her own life and leave everyone else to their fate. Therefore, they have to vote again.




Suggested questions for evaluating the exercise:

  • How did you select which group to represent? How satisfied were you with your choice? How difficult was it to justify your survival?
  • How did you feel when deciding who to cast a vote for? How did you decide who to cast a vote for?
  • How do the groups that weren’t chosen feel? What did you get out of/learn from this exercise?

Type of exercise:


45-90 min


Possible difficulties:

Workshop example: