||49 Practical Activities and Methods for Human
Rights Education > The scramble for wealth and power
The scramble for wealth and power
In life, some people are fighting for their
dreams and some are fighting for wealth and power.
|| Level 3
||8 - 25
||This activity simulates the fight for wealth and power and
inequality in the world. The main issues addressed are:
- Inequality in the distribution of wealth
- Power imbalance and the consequences
- The injustice of poverty
- The right to equality in dignity and rights
- The right to education,
- The right to health, food and shelter
- To develop an understanding of the injustices that
result from the unequal distribution of wealth and power
- To think critically about the causes and consequences
- To promote human dignity and justice
- 120 coins
- 3 to 4 pairs of socks
- 2 large sheets of paper and markers
- Paper and pens
- An open space
- Read through the instructions so you have an overview
of the whole activity, Note that the simulation is divided
into three parts: part 1, The Scramble (10 minutes); part
2, The Donations (10 minutes); and part 3, Creating Economic
Fairness (40 minutes). Discussion follows at the end.
- Take 20 of the coins and keep them to one side
- Choose three people for the role of migrants
- Make a wall chart to record players' wealth (see illustration)
- Prepare a chart headed "Honourable Donors"
Explain that this is a simulation game. Participants will distribute
the world's wealth and power among themselves.
The global divide
In developing countries,
one child in 10 dies before his/her fifth birthday. By comparison,
in the United States one child in 165 will die before turning
five years old.
In 1998 in developing
countries, about 130 million eligible children out of a total
of 625 million did not attend primary school. 73 million of those
children are girls. (UNICEF)
The wealthiest fifth of
the world's people consume an astonishing 86 percent of all goods
and services, while the poorest fifth consumes one-percent.
Part 1: The Scramble (10 minutes)
- Explain that the aim of the game is to get as many coins
as possible. There is only one rule: no participant may touch
another member of the group at any time (you may stipulate a
punishment for this, for example, pay 1 coin).
- Ask everyone, except for those playing the "migrants",
to sit on the floor in a large circle (so they can have enough
space to play).
- Take the reserved twenty coins and share them out between
any four or five of the participants
- Give four other participants one pair of socks each. Tell
them that they must put them on their hands and keep them on
during the whole game. Postpone any discussions of the reasons
for sharing out the coins and socks until the debriefing.
- Scatter 100 coins evenly in the middle of the circle.
- On the word, "GO" participants are to gather up
as many coins as possible. This will probably not take longer
than 2 minutes!
- After all the coins have been collected, ask participants
to report their wealth to the rest of the group. On the wealth
chart, record each participant's name and the number of coins
- Remind the group that these coins represent their wealth
and power in the world. The amount they possess will affect
their capacity to satisfy their needs (e.g. for basic education,
adequate food and nutrition, good health care, adequate housing)
and their wants (e.g. higher education, cars, computers, toys,
televisions and other luxury items). The implications are as
- six or more coins - people will be able to meet
all their basic "needs" and most of their
- three to five coins - people will be able to meet
their basic needs
- two or fewer coins - people will have difficulty
surviving due to disease, lack of education, malnutrition,
and inadequate shelter.
Life Expectancy at birth 1995-2000
The number of years a
new-born infant would live if prevailing patterns of age-specific
mortality rates at the time of birth were to stay the same throughout
the child's life.
UNDP Report 2001
Czech Republic: 74.3
Russian federation: 66.1
South Africa: 56.7
Equatorial Guinea: 50.0
Sierra Leone: 37.3
From the highest life
expectancy at birth to the lowest there is a difference of 43.2
Part 2: The Donations (10 minutes)
- Tell participants that they may, if they wish, give coins
away to others. However, they are not required to do so. Tell
them that those who do share will be honoured as donors, with
their names written on the list of "Honourable donors".
- Allow 3-4 minutes for participants to redistribute the coins
if they wish.
- Then ask for the names of those who gave away coins and the
amount that each donated. List them on the chart of "Honourable
- Ask if anyone changed category as a result of giving or receiving
coins and record these shifts on the chart with an arrow.
Part 3: Creating economic fairness (40 minutes)
- Divide the players up into three groups according to the
number of coins they have (great wealth, some wealth and little
- Place one of the "migrants" in each of the three
groups. Take note of their reactions at being placed in one
group rather than another, but save any discussion about their
placement until the debriefing at the end.
- Hand out the pens and paper. Give each group the task of creating
a plan for the fair distribution of the coins (the world's wealth)
in order to decrease the gap between the different categories
of wealth and power. Each group's plan of action should:
- explain what needs to be done (if anything),
- describe what the group plans to do and why, and
- show why their plan is fair.
- Give the groups ten minutes to devise their plans. Explain
that it is not necessary to go too deeply into the drawing-up
of the plan, but rather they should highlight some of the possible
actions that should be done to address the problem of poverty.
- Ask each group to appoint a spokesperson to explain their
plan to the others and answer questions. List the proposed plans
on a large sheet of paper.
- Now announce that a vote will be held to decide which plan
to adopt. The distribution of votes will be as follows:
- each participant in the group with "Great
wealth and power" - five votes
- each participant in the group with "Some wealth
and power" - two votes
- each participant in the group with "Little
wealth and power" - half a vote
- Have participants vote. Record the votes cast for each plan
on the large sheet of paper. Announce which plan is to be implemented.
- Carry out this plan, redistributing the wealth if necessary.
Debriefing and evaluation
Start with a brief feedback on the activity itself and how people
enjoyed it. Then go on to discuss what happened and what people
learnt. Draw on the following questions to promote the discussion:
- How did people feel about the way in which the coins were
acquired and distributed? Were they treated fairly?
- Why did the people who gave coins away do so? To be honoured?
Because they felt guilty? Something else?
- How did the people who received coins in part 2 feel? Grateful?
- What about the participants with socks? What kinds of people
do they represent? Which group did they end up in?
- What about the three participants, the "migrants",
assigned to groups? Did they feel treated fairly? Is what happened
to them similar to what happens to people around the globe?
What sorts of people? Is it just chance where we end up?
- What differences were there in the recommended plans for
fair distribution? Did the plans reflect the wealth of the group
making the proposal?
- Why were some people given more votes than others? Was this
an accurate representation of those with more or less power
in the world?
- Are human rights infringed when we see such differences in
wealth and power? If so, which ones?
- Who are the "haves" and the "have-nots"
in the world in your country and in your community? How did
they come to be in these positions?
- Should the "haves" be concerned about the situation
of the "have-nots"? For what reasons? Security, economic,
moral/religious or political reasons? Why might the "haves"
give money or resources to the "have-nots"? Is this
a way to solve the problems of poverty?
- What might the "have-nots" do to improve their
situation? What are some actions that "have-nots"
have taken around the world and in our country to address the
inequalities of wealth and power?
- Do you think there should be a redistribution of wealth and
power throughout the world? Why or why not? If yes, how would
you propose to accomplish this? What principles would guide
your proposals for change?
- Can human rights discourse be used to support a new redistribution
Tips for facilitators
The aim of this activity is to make people
aware of the unequal distribution wealth and power in the world,
yet there is a danger that it may confirm the existing inequalities.
You should therefore be aware of the social and economic composition
of the group and develop the discussion accordingly.
Try to bring people into the feeling of the game so they get
involved and really "act" as if the coins were their
wealth. You could tell them that they will be allowed to keep
the coins and after the activity or during tea break, be able
to "buy" drinks and/or biscuits with the money.
Emphasise that, as in real life, if they give away some of their
coins they will lose some of their wealth and the privileges that
If it is too hot to use socks, use other means to emphasise
that some players have more wealth and power than others. For
example, some participants could be held back and only allowed
to join in after 15 to 30 seconds. Alternatively, players could
have one hand tied behind their backs - if they are right-handed
they should use their left hands and vice versa.
The questions in the debriefing and evaluation are complex and
may very well require deep and lengthy discussions. If the time
is short or the group large, you may want to divide the questions
amongst small groups. These small groups should be "mixed",
that is contain people from each wealth category. Make sure that
the different groups feedback in plenary so that everyone has
a chance to hear and reflect on all the questions.
Note: This activity is adapted from another one in Economic
and Social Justice: A Human Rights Perspective, Human Rights Resource
Center, University of Minnesota, 1999
Suggestions for follow-up
You could debate the issues further or ask people to write a
report. Suggested topics are:
- How do wealth and power affect one's ability to enjoy human
rights and human dignity?
- Are there responsibilities associated with having wealth
The group may like to continue with the theme poverty and explore
some of its consequences through the activity "Horoscope
If you would like to look further at how we discriminate against
certain social groups and at the same time blame them for the
situation they are in, then you may like to do the activity, "Just
do it!" in the all different all equal education pack.
Ideas for Action
Make contact with an organisation that works with the disadvantaged
in your community to ascertain the local needs. Then go on to
plan a project to try to help.
Sometimes the simple fact of "spreading the word"
about an issue is a good step towards making change. Thus, you
could suggest that people raise the issues of wealth distribution
with their parents and friends.