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Power up!

A warm-up activity that raises (!) the question of power, what/who is powerful and what is not. Should be done quickly, but may lead to discussion that deserves time. This could be a good warm-up for a fuller discussion/analysis using, for example, the power line activity.


  • Group sitting in chairs, warn them that they need to ready to stand up quickly.
  • Joker starts by naming something s/he thinks is clearly powerful -- for example, "CEO" -- and pointing to the next (or another) person.
  • That person has to stand up, if s/he thinks the thing/person (in this case, a CEO) is powerful; or remain seated if s/he thinks it is weak.
  • Then, that person names something powerful (or powerless) and points to the next person, and so on.
  • Keep the energy up and do just long enough to get it a bit smooth -- until people are warmed up.
  • End with reflection on what items we thought were powerful and which were powerless. What was the difference? Any doubts?

    Watch for:
    People may interpret "power" in various ways so you need to decide how you will handle this. For example, the joker may be thinking in terms of social power -- "the military" -- but the next person may be thinking of mechanical power -- "monster trucks" -- and the following person emotional power -- "Nina Simone" (also an example of social power).

    My preference is to be as open as possible because it reaffirms the freedom of thought/imagination we want and because the unforeseen interpretation of an instruction is almost always fruitful.

    Joker points to someone and says, "Power." The person has to name something/someone with power. If others in the circle agree, they stand up, if they disagree, they remain seated. The person then turns to someone else and says "Powerless." That person names something/one that is powerless, and so on, alternating between power and powerlessness. An observer should be paying attention to which items draw a unanimous reaction and which do not.

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