- To build skills by trying new behaviors (such as asking people for money)
- Give participants a new experience (such as doing nonviolent intervention).
15-60 minutes (depends on scenario and amount of debrief)
How to Lead
Parallel lines is a quick and efficient way of leading a role-play. In this exercise, participants will have a partner. Each one of the pair will have a role to play, given to them by the facilitator. Participants will be given a few minutes to try out different behaviors within those roles, and then the facilitator will debrief. Here are the specifics:
First, get participants standing and into two parallel lines facing each other. Every participant should have a “partner” – one person standing in front of them. Make sure that’s true (if there is an odd person out you can tell them to be an observer).
Second, explain that participants are going to get a chance to experiment with the current topic (nonviolent intervention OR fundraising OR explaining NP, check the scenario [below]). If the scenario is very physical (e.g., the intervention scenario), you may want to tell them they cannot hit each other.
Third, explain the roles for those people on one line (we can call it the “A” line), then explain the role for those on the “B” line (see role explanations below). Give participants (an A and B pair) a moment or two to get into character, then have them begin!
Running Parallel Lines
Immediately after telling the participants to “begin!” they may take an awkward moment while they get into role. Let them get into it. While the role-play is going watch to see the kinds of interventions/behaviors various participants try out. After a few minutes cut off the role-play and begin the debrief (for very physical role-plays cut it off more quickly; for less physical role-plays give it more time). One sense of when to stop the parallel lines is when participants look like they have run out of ideas or when the several of the role-plays have reached a natural conclusion (e.g., they agree to give money or the intervention is successful!).
Debriefing Parallel Lines
Debriefing takes three phases: feelings, behaviors in the role-play, and generalizing lessons.
Role-plays can be lots of things: stressful, exhilarating, engaging, scary, etc. Since people learn best when they are fully present, after stopping the role-play give the participants a chance to express their feelings. Ask the line of participants who have been doing the most amount of work (e.g., those trying to convince people to give money, those intervening with the dog beater, those explaining Nonviolent Peaceforce) for feelings: give them a chance to really express feelings (not analysis yet!).
After getting feelings from the one line, with people still standing, ask the other line: “What things that your partner did worked or helped the situation?” Help participants clarify what behavior it was that helped (enough so people could do it again!). Balance that with also getting a wide range of different answers. You can write various things people found “worked” on newsprint (or have a co-facilitator or observer do that). Move to the next phase when people begin looking antsy.
Next, have participants return to their seats. If you wrote a list on newsprint, review that list. You can add to that list with personal stories of other examples (of fundraising, for example). You may also elicit other personal stories of other things that work from people’s personal experience. In essence, help the group move from the experience of the role-play to a more generalized sense of what the options are. Finally, hand out the relevant hand out. Help the group connect the handout with the discussion the group was having.
Optional: If the group has the time (and if you think they have the energy), you can run the role-play again: this time switching roles (those in A line take B’s role and those in B line take A’s role). This is great for skill development, helps groups think of more options, and is useful for everyone’s learning.
To do that, you can just do the first two phases of debriefing (while people are standing: feelings and listing what works, skip having people in their seats) and then set up the role-play again, explaining people will be switching roles this time. Then go through the complete debrief.