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Simon Proposes

I thought up this idea for a game to introduce OWS-type consensus decision-making signals, to practice their use, and to spark discussion about the basics of consensus and some difficulties in consensus decision-making.

Circle game, whole group.

Joker first reminds people of the game Simon Says, leading a quick refresher round of the game. In this game, though, Simon doesn't get to give commands, s/he can only make proposals.

So, for example, the joker says, "Simon proposes we touch our noses."

Then, all the players "twinkle":
a) up to show their support
b) flat to show their willingness to go along
c) down to show their opposition
d) crossed arms with fists to "block" i.e. to show their absolute opposition.

If the twinkles are all up or flat, we all touch our noses.

If there is a down twinkle (better term for this?) or a block, the person who makes that signal explains her/his opposition and makes a different proposal, "Simon proposes we put our hands on our heads." (The purpose of the game is not to go through the full process of hashing out differences, but to practice using hand signals to identify points of consensus/dissensus and, if there is consensus, move forward quickly without coercion.)

Continue until someone proposes ending the game and the group agrees.

Reflection: ask people what they saw or felt, look for issues or tensions. This activity could lead to discussion of the uses of blocks or other issues that come up when using consensus. The activity also asks people to become aware of others and what they are thinking/feeling.

(This video explains these signals and others used on Occupy Wall Street:


If you want the same tricky dynamic of Simon Says, have the Joker sit down before the group has reached consensus, or even if there is no consensus. (This could be a good start for a discussion (in the reflection after the game) of how people do this in reality, assuming agreement and moving on before the group is ready.)

If no one falls for the Joker's tricks, s/he can designate the next "Simon" by making a proposal, "Simon proposes that Matt be the Joker." (This gives the next person the opportunity to decline.)

Use "fist to five" consensus hand signals. See:

Introduce other, less immediate, proposals: "Simon proposes we occupy the administration offices." These can be fantastic or realistic. "Simon proposes we overthrow capitalism" "Simon proposes we abolish gravity."

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