Intro to Role Play

This workshop involves two primary groups loosely called management and dissenters. Management is prepared by reading ONLY the Role: Director, Back Story (and the manager back story when I complete it, but it is substantially similar). Dissenters read ONLY the Role: Active Volunteer-Member, Back Story. A "station meeting" is initiated where both groups are present, and the chosen manager reads (or ad-libs) from the meeting script Role Play 1 - Manager's Report at Station Meeting. During the meeting, conflict is sure to erupt. The workshop facilitator halts the meeting periodically to solicit feelings and understandings from the participants, and other activities intended to foster understanding.

How it Works

The conflict is programmed through the different back stories. On the surface, the back stories resemble difficult situations familiar to community radio people. Some of the information differs between stories, and they emphasize different definitions of the key radio concept of "service". Some parts are intended to feel "over the top" both to enable humor, and divert attention and critical thinking from the other elements. This level of the back stories provides the concrete fodder for conflict.

At a deeper level, the back stories are written to activate different frames, based loosely on Lakeof's work -- authoritarian/conservative for management versus cooperative/liberal for dissenters. Management's story is riddled with fear and scarcity and an understated need for control in case the fear and scarcity isn't quite enough. Dissenter's story involves compassion, nurturing, equality, and fairness. By activating the opposing frames, this level of the back stories is intended to magnify the conflict emotionally, making possible experiential learning about the often-hidden toxin in such disputes.

random notes I used

  • Who I am
  • My gratitude
  • Why this is important
  • Role play may evoke strong emotions, taking care of ourselves
  • Confidentiality?
  • Who has struggled with the last 10, 5, 1 years
  • Who has struggled in last 3 and "other side" also in room?
  • Split group into management and dissenters
    • recent or active conflictees switch sides
    • a few others switch sides
    • separate listener-members (bystanders)
  • Distribute role sheets
    • give time to read, groups to discuss
    • ask groups what seems out of line
  • Start the meeting
    • ask management to select a manager
    • manager reads the report
  • Processing questions, observations
    • surprises
    • how do you feel?
    • anyone telling stories of evilness about others?
    • did the evil behavior come from malice?
    • what is the root of the conflict?
      • if misunderstanding ("service"), what's the root cause and fair solution?
    • are you doing anything which surprises you? that you've seen the "other" do?
  • Information of possible use
    • Lakey and others: spectrum of allies and different strategies
    • Lakoff: we all have both frames, and can change them
    • NVC needs/strategy deconstruction etc
    • Intention/filter model
    • Sharp: we don't always do what we're told (solidarity too) (builds egalitarian)
    • How to make a fair decision, for example "service" mission ambiguity
  • Next possible steps
    • fishbowl board or member meeting
    • fishbowl member-director meeting
    • fishbowl manager-member meeting
    • two-line "hassle line" reflection practice
    • five whys -- unravelling from behavior to needs
    • power mapping
    • activating frames
    • swap role sheets, discuss
  • Goals to keep in mind
    • Humility of circumstance
    • Humility of multiple frames
    • De-escalating Toxicity
    • Recognize/feel when going off the tracks, early as possible
    • New tools to try when it does
    • Principled disagreement -- nonviolent coercion strategy and power