Awareness of Social Identity
Submitted by Richard Kiely
This activity helps participants to become more aware of their own identities and worldview. They will reflect on key components of their identity and critically examine how identities are shaped by different experiences and show up differently in group discussions.
Critically examine how our cultural assumptions and experiences shape our identities.
Begin to uncover visible and invisible aspects of identity and how they manifest in discussions.
Set Up: Prepare for the Activity
Provide participants with, or if doing this online ask them to have with them, paper and writing or coloring utensils.
Organize participants into pairs or small groups (3-4 ppl).
Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.
Step One: Individually Free Write (5 min)
Invite participants to quietly reflect on the following prompts:
What are your social or cultural identities?
What makes up “you”?
Ask participants to take a few moments to write down important aspects of their sense of self. They can record reflections, thoughts, words as they emerge. Encourage them to write down what comes to mind.
Step Two: Identify 5 to 10 Characteristics (10 min)
Ask participants to review what they wrote. Next, invite them to dive deeper by reflecting on the life experiences that have shaped their identity/identities.
They may also want to reflect on the visible and invisible aspects of their identity. For example, what do other people see? How important is that? What important parts of your identity do you hide or make more visible to others?
Once they have added additional thoughts, ask them to create a list of 5-10 characteristics or dimensions that contribute to their identity.
Step Three: Visually Illustrate Parts of Your Identity (5 min)
Ask each participant to draw a circle on their paper. Explain to them that this circle represents a pie. They are to designate each identity characteristic as a slice of this pie. Larger slices of the pie represent more dominant aspects of a participant's identity or identities.
As participants start to create their pies, let them know that they will NOT be asked to share their full Identity Pie with anyone so they can feel free to be honest.
Step Four: Share Parts of the Identity Pie (10 min)
In pairs or small groups, invite participants to describe 1-3 components or slices of their pie.
Instruct participants to take turns listening to each other and to ask curiosity questions.
Note that they should only share what they are comfortable sharing and that there is always the option to pass or to not share at all.
Provide these tips from Activity 4.2 Listening to Understand to help guide participants on listening without judgment:
Silence is golden
Try not to relate the experience you are hearing to yourself
Be conscious of body language
Hear what is not said
Ask open-ended questions
Step Five: Debrief as a Full Group (30 min)
Come back together as a full group to discuss:
What similarities or differences did you notice in your pies?
How did sharing the pies help you to examine what you take for granted? What does this reveal to you? What does it say about privilege? Society? Belonging?
What surprised you about what you shared about your own identity/identities? What surprised you about your understanding of your partner’s identity/identities?
What would you add to your identity pie now that you have heard from others?
How can being aware of your own identity and viewpoint (and open to learning about others) impact how we work together?
How does this examination of identity lead to action? For example, how might critical self-reflection challenge power imbalances in groups and advance accountability?
Step Six (optional): Twist - Revisit Identity Pies (10 min)
If time permits, ask participants to get out their identity pies again. Give them a moment to make any revisions.
Prepare participants that this next exercise will happen very quickly. They will not have time to think deeply. The idea is to react without overthinking the choice.
Instruct participants to cross off one of the parts of their identity.
Count to five and then ask them to cross off another.
Count to three and then ask them to cross off another and so on until only one or two traits of their identity is left.
What was that experience like?
Did you find it easy or challenging to cross out attributes of your identity?
Look at your paper, how does it feel to be only identified by a single or few key characteristics?
When/how does this happen to us? Does it happen to us equally? If not, why/how are some people or groups of people reduced to single characteristics?
Culturally Responsive Collaboration
This activity can be completed by any discussion group.
This activity can be used to build trust and interpersonal connection.
This activity is focused on developing or supporting listening skills. See Sample Listening Certificate Program Design to illustrate sample sequencing.
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