Peacebuilder’s Backpack: Differences


By: Nettie Pardue | clock-icon 20-25  minutes | people-icon 15 people – unlimited  | Continuum activity

I was first introduced to a version of this activity by a friend and fellow volunteer who I worked in 2006, at SEEDS Community Resolution Center in Berkeley, CA. I had done a number of continuum style activities, but never any activities that specifically addressed areas around conflict. Since then, I have tried this activity out with hundreds of people. It is a great activity for a newly formed group to learn more about group members and how they might respond in situations that might induce conflict.  I put this activity in the category of continuum activities. You can use a version of this activity with a number of topics where people get to decide what they feel with their feet.


  • To introduce group members to each other
  • To introduce the differences within a particular group
  • To hear perceptions of different group members


The purpose of the activity is to introduce group members to the differences that might be present within the group.

1. Ask participants to ALL stand in the middle of a large space. There must be ample space on either direction where individuals can move.

2. Explain to the participants that you will be asking them a series of questions and then need to respond with their feet and move to one side or the other. A sample list of questions is found in the materials section below. EX: Do you like structure or do you like more open to being flexible and in the moment? If they like structure they would position themselves on one side of the room / space. If they like flexibility and being in the moment they would go to the opposite side of the room.

3. After each round the facilitator can ask a person from each side and perhaps someone in the middle to comment. “Tell us more about why you positioned yourself where you did.”

Facilitator Notes:

–  Facilitator can create their own list, based on the group and what they want to observe. The traits below in the materials section are in no specific order, only suggestions.

– Depending on group size and time available, start with at least 3-4 rounds of questions.

– Depending on time and group, you can also ask each person (small group) in the room or a 2-3 people to offer there own question for the group.

– Another variation is to ask each person to come up with a question that they are curious about the group or something about their own culture. Each question can be shared in a go around debrief but not done in the activity. These questions can be kept and referred back to in later activities.


Suggested Type of Debrief: 

We suggest doing a standing debrief after you go through a couple of the different comparisons of differences.

Ideas for Debriefing Questions: 

– What did you learn from this activity?

– Is there anything that you learned that might be useful in working together with this group?

– Were you surprised by anything?

– What did this activity tell you about the commonalities or differences in this group?



List of different traits that can be used in activity.

· Quick, impatient, wants action   —  Slow, deliberate, needs time

·  Needs to plan ahead   —   Flexible, decide-as-you-go

· Likes structure  —   Likes flexibility

·  Goes by the rules  —   Likes free form

· Wants it logical   —   Wants it to feel right

· Wants to know how people feel  —   Wants to know the facts

·  Uncomfortable with anger   —   Comfortable with anger

· Talking at the same time is o.k.   —   Feels people should take turn

· Needs to talk if there is silence   —   Comfortable with silence

· Flexible about time   —   Precise about time

Serious   —   Uses humor


A large open space is needed for this activity based on the group’s size.


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 want to recognize and give credit to the experiential educators and peacebuilders who have impacted and inspired our work.  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.