This is our most requested online section! Here we post reliable training tools (or activities/exercises). All training tools are based on our direct education approach, rooted in popular education.

For even more tools check out our various books & manuals, which include hundreds of additional training tools.

Diversity & Anti-Oppression

Diversity Interviews

How to assist a marginalized individual or subgroup in your workshop to become integrated into the group, and also how to assist the mainstream in your workshop to learn more deeply about difference. This one is best done if you first of all experience it as a participant in a TFC workshop or with another qualified trainer.

Mainstream & Margin

We invented this in response to trainers asking us: what do you do with a group that is genuinely clueless about its racism (sexism/homophobia/ etc.)? We found it works with low-consciousness groups and has tremendous value for experienced activist groups, too.

Power Shuffle

A diversity exercise also called Step Forward/Step Back, this tool can go fairly deep considering it doesn't take much time. When placed well in a workshop, this can be a powerful exercise to help participants understand their rank and privilege or lack of it.

Walking Across the Room

This diversity exercise, also called "Crossing the Line" is geared to increase the group's awareness of difference that exists within the group as well as increase individuals awareness of their own issues with difference.

Team Building

Stepping Stones

This tool is built to provide a group challenge and support in building team work. Scenario: Two people's movements in Mexico are growing rapidly in adjoining regions separated by a shallow river. The movements need to learn from each other how to deal with the repression from the armed forces. They agree to exchange teams of experienced people for a month so this mutual education can take place. Actually making the exchange, however, is highly dangerous because it means crossing the narrow river which has turned poisonous from polluting factories upstream. And the crossing must be made in the minutes between navy patrols which go down the river regularly. Can your entire team cross the river safely before the patrol comes?

Ankle Walk

Here's a challenging exercise for practicing making decisions and communication. We've used it successfully in a number of settings -- US, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Canada -- and with groups of six people to over seventy! It's best for a middle-sized group -- around 15-25 people. In this adventure-based learning activity the challenge is fairly simple: to walk as a group from one place to another. The twist: the group must walk all in one line together with their feet touching their neighbors' feet the whole time

The Big Wind Blows

This activity is designed to provide participants with an opportunity share information about themselves in a low-intensity activity and warm the group up for deeper conversations. It's also a great way to get the group energized!

Team Types

This tool gives participants' an opportunity for self-reflection on behavior and type help participants work together as a team through understanding each other more deeply give participants another "lens" for looking and working with each other. Team types is a straightforward tool for participants to learn about themselves through identifying themselves within four different categories. These four types each represent different aspects of how people may operate in group settings.

Organizing & Strategy

Tornado Warning: Four Roles of Social Change

Here’s a tool to learn about the four roles of social change activists: Helpers, Change Agents, Rebels, and Advocates. It’s goal is to build appreciation of the different roles, gaining empathy for all roles and different approaches to change.

Getting Help: Setting Goals & Using Coaching

Getting help can be hard. It runs counter to many of cultural values: independence, individuality, personal control, self-help, competition, to name a few. Activists tend to focus on skills on help others – but spend less emphasis on our own development. Getting help is necessary. If we are to grow, learn, not burn-out, and win then we need help. In this tool we create some space and time for people to think through how can they continue to learn and get help.

Finding Tactics that Matter

Here is a way to bring out unreflected wisdom about what makes actions effective. Depending on your goals, you may have your own generalization pieces of theory, but a great winner to help kick-start people thinking innovatively about tactics.

Moving Your Allies

This exercise is meant as a follow-up to the Spectrum of Allies exercise. We develop arguments and one specific request to move a given constituency one wedge over to our side. We then roleplay the interaction.

Meeting Facilitation & Better Trainings

Fishbowl: "Worst Meeting Ever . . . "

Groups can love sharing stories of their worst meetings! Here participants get to act out the worst meeting ever, and then what a good meeting looks like. It's light and playful, and a great way to get into a discussion about how to make group meetings work well.

Meeting Facilitation: The No-Magic Method

Back by popular demand, Berit Lakey's "No Magic Method": guidelines that will go a long way toward helping your group to meet both joyfully and productively.

Step In: Step Out - using comfort zones

Now a kinesthetic way of getting into the concept of comfort zones: step in and step out. This tool can be placed early in a workshop as a way of concretizing the concept of comfort zones -- as a bonus, this tool is a way to both talk about comfort zones and simultaneously builds the container as people actually step outside of their comfort zones through personal self-disclosure.

Closing Circles

Looking for fresh ideas for your closing circles? Here are some of our favorites that we have used with different groups! E-mail us with new closing circle favorites.

Nonviolent Action

Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism: a strategy game

This strategy game explores ways of navigating difficult scenarios and gain perspective from multiple angles of an issue through a fictional country Eslandia, whose economy is faltering, ethnic tensions are high and terrorism is on the rise.

Street Speaking

Street Speaking takes participants out of the training space and into the street to make a real time soap-box style public speech! In it we face our fears and practice the art of public speaking.

Upside-Down Triangle: Understanding the Consent Theory of Power

By themselves, rulers cannot collect taxes, enforce repressive laws and regulations, keep trains running on time, prepare national budgets, direct traffic, manage ports, print money, repair roads, keep markets supplied with food, make steel, build rockets, train the police and army, issue postage stamps or even milk a cow. People provide these services to the ruler though a variety of organizations and institutions. If people would stop providing these skills, the ruler could not rule. - Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action

Quick Decisions

A classic nonviolent training tool: quick decisions. In one minute, groups are challenged to reach a decision of an action to take based on some situation. Great for action basic workshops, consensus training, and affinity group preparation.

Third-party Nonviolent Intervention

Review of Activities

Activists know to act. But they may not create the space to reflect. Reflection without action is impotent; but action without reflection is aimless. This tool gives participants a structured way to review “what they have been up to” – it’s a great intro to sessions on strategy, a simple tool, and a great way to catch themes carrying a group. Place this tool early in a strategy workshop to get a diagnostic read on the issues and struggles in the group.

Accompaniment Role-Plays

Looking for some role-play ideas for teaching accompaniment or intervention for unarmed bodyguards? Here are some ideas we collected for our training manual.

Gummy Bear Exercise

A major way to reduce burnout is to prepare people for the stresses, especially the stress of returning home after work away from home. This is a way to visualize issues of stress/trauma in the field and dealing with re-entry -- and with gummy bears! It is used for groups internationally, but can be adapted to most any setting where stress is a factor.

Intelligence Collection Drill

This drill teaches security skills/concepts, cultural sensitivity, information and threat analysis, and decision-making. It's an energetic tool as the team gathers information to uncover whether it's becoming a target by the government in this extended role-play.

Other Tools . . .

Sustaining Self-Care: a tool for personal awareness

This tool is support participants in increasing their awareness around their own self care practices

Banner Making for Activists 101

In demonstrations, vigils and anywhere else you are making a public statement, banners are terrifically useful. They tell who you are and either graphically or by their presence in a place, declare your intent. They also help you get a group together in a large gathering, or focus the TV cameras, as well as catching the eye of other, related groups that may want to associate themselves with you.

The State Budget Crisis

This tool is designed to support participants to increase their comfortability with numbers and the state budgeting process, understand how budgets are an expression of our values, increase confidence their own programs to defend them and develop a greater understanding of the tension and pressure under legislators (empathy).