Peacebuilder’s Backpack: Peace by Piece

  • Peace by Piece

    By: Nettie Pardue | clock-icon15-20 minutes | people-icon10-200 People | Icebreaker

    June 1 - Peace by Piece

    We learned a version of this activity from Outward Bound Singapore during the 2010 Outward Bound Symposium in Singapore. We modified it and used it with our Palestinian and Israeli Emerging Leaders program during a small retreat with 20 leaders. Half of the group knew each other and the other half were new to the group.


    – To foster cohesion between conflicting groups.

    – To accelerate relationship development in newly formed groups.

    – To provide an opportunity for groups who do not normally work together to achieve a shared goal.

    – To create a common metaphor for a group/team about working together.

     SET UP

    The goal of the activity is for everyone to get rid of their puzzle pieces and find the appropriate spot for their pieces.

    – Decide on the number of puzzles you will use. Each person should receive 3-4 puzzle pieces.

    – The facilitator explains that each person was given ____ # of pieces.

    – Mix the pieces and distribute to the group.

    – The task is complete when all the pieces are part of a puzzle.


    Suggested Type of Debrief: Large group discussion

    Ideas for Questions:

    – How did you contribute?

    – What was your role?

    – How did the group work together / not work together?

    – What did you observe?

    – What patterns of interaction did you observe?

    – What does your piece represent?

    – What does the completed puzzle represent for this group?

    – How can this exercise inform what we are doing today or the next few days?

    – How does this activity relate to peacebuilding and conflict resolution?

    Puzzles – 10-15 Small puzzles (15-25 pieces per puzzle) depending on group size. Each person should receive 3-4 pieces.

    We like wooden puzzles from this website- click here to view and purchase them online.

    – Choose puzzles and pictures that may not offend cultures or have symbols that might trigger certain groups (ex: flags of one ethic group, historical symbols or nationalistic colors)
    – Choose smaller puzzles with 15-25 pieces with big pieces.
    – High paced activity that is good for new groups or returning groups
    – Make sure you set up the activity in a confined space so all the puzzles are visible and do no get moved into other areas.
    – Great activity for all cultures because puzzles and pictures may not need a lot of language. Good visual activity.

    The blog is designed for educators, trainers and facilitators to support experiential peacebuilding practices throughout the world.  It can be applicable for other practioners who are doing group development and leadership work, though we try to frame the activities in a context for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Many of these activities have been modified and developed over time. We try to give credit for each activity that we use and identify the source for inspiration. 

    If you like this blog, have feedback or additional ideas, please comment below or email us at nettie.pardue[at] Find us at or on Facebook.