When we got to know our expectations and fears, and created the group’s regulations, it is high time for a fundamental integration – getting to know your names, ages, interests, short and long conversations with participants, physical games or group competition. The main methods of integration can be divided into four types:
and it is worth planning them in this order.
Since – as a group – we have not introduced ourselves yet, it makes no sense to move on to further issues. There are many ways to present yourself briefly to the whole group. Depending on the age and number of participants, choose a way that the participants feel as free as possible with the information presented, and so that the whole activity does not last too long (more than 30 minutes).
Any age, group less than 20 people. We place the participants in a large circle. We draw the first participant who will say their name, country and make a simple move (e.g. clap their hands). Then they choose which person (on the right or on the left) will have the task of repeating the information they provided and presenting their information, similarly. Following the movement indicated by the first participant, the following participants repeat the sequence from the very beginning. Thus, the last person should list the names, countries and movements of all participants in the group.
Age >15 years, number of participants up to 35 people. Participants sit on chairs in a circle. The organizer takes one of the seats and holds a roll of toilet paper in their hand, from which they tear off any number of pieces, and then give it to the next person, asking them to do the same (each person must tear off at least 1 leaf). We pass the roll in a circle to all participants. Then the organizer reveals what is behind the number of pieces of toilet paper – as many as the participants torn off, as many facts about themselves as they have to tell the group (starting with their name).
After getting acquainted with their names, it is worth offering participants a short exercise to check and consolidate the acquired information (e.g. place them in a circle, face each other, give one participant the ball and instruct them to pass it to any selected person, simultaneously calling them by name. That person should pass the ball in the same way, but to another participant – the ball should not spend more than 3 seconds in the hands of one person).
We got to know our names, but we haven’t spoken to each other yet. It is worth introducing at least one activity that will be the basis for interesting conversations between individual participants of the event.
Speed dating – let’s divide participants into two groups of equal size. One group should sit on the chairs in a narrow (inner) circle, back to back. Participants in the second group should arrange their chairs so that each of them is seated in front of one person from the first group (outer circle), facing them. In this way, participants from both groups form discussion pairs. The organizer gives couples on a “date” an interesting topic to talk about (e.g. what is your favorite holiday memory? why did you come to this project? how would you spend a million dollars?) and three minutes to conduct it. After the time has elapsed, the people from the inner circle move one place to the left – in this way, new discussion pairs arise, with which the organizer introduces a new topic.
You can get to know each other not only through words, but also through physical activity and sport. These tasks often also help to regain energy in the group and improve the mood of the participants. They are very often combined with competition, which additionally increases motivation. When selecting methods of physical integration, however, one should especially remember about the expectations, age and characteristics of the group – so as not to exceed the limits of their comfort in the context of space and personal limits of all participants.
Divide the participants into two teams that will act as one of the 3 characters: giants, wizards and elves. When the participants play the role of a selected character, they all make certain movements together and make sounds assigned to them:
Giant: Stand on your toes, raise your arms like a giant, and make a menacing growling sound.
Wizard: bend down, wave your hand like you are casting a magic wand spell, and make a magic sound: “Abracadabra!”
Elf: Crouch very low, cover your ears with your hands and make a high-pitched noise: “Eeeee!”
You can practice the poses together until everyone knows how to become each character. Divided teams face each other in separate sides of the room. Before the start of the round, each team has a minute to assemble and decide whether they will become a giant, wizard or elf this time. When they are ready, the teams line up facing each other, behind the lines indicated on the floor, at a distance of about 10 meters. To start the round, the leader shouts “Three, two, one, go!”.
At this point, both teams begin to act out a character of their choice (giant, wizard or elf). As soon as they do, the winners try to catch the losers – they chase them, and when they touch them, they drag them to their side – to their team. The losers try to retreat to their side, behind the line, to be safe this round. The following elements determine who wins with whom:
The giants defeat the elves because they are able to “crush” them. Elves defeat wizards because they outsmart them. Wizards defeat giants with a magic spell. If both teams show the same character, no one wins. The rounds are repeated until one team wins (the other team is fully captured).
The day devoted to the integration of the group should be crowned with an exercise that will allow participants to find or strengthen their position in the team – they should confront their attitudes towards group work and learn to cooperate to achieve a common goal (so they can later celebrate it together). In this type of exercises, debriefing is very important (see EVALUATION), i.e. a joint summary of the effects of the task, how it proceeded, how the participants approached the task, what surprised them, what they were satisfied with and how they felt during its implementation. This is valuable information, not only for the organizer, but most of all for the participants themselves.
- Divide the group into two teams. Explain that they live in two cities separated by a great river. After years of discussions, the inhabitants of both cities decided to build a bridge; one group will build one half of the bridge and the other will build the other. The problem is that cities cannot communicate with each other during the process. However, they have the option of choosing their representatives (one for each city) who will discuss the bridge design and provide information to their groups. City representatives will only talk to each other twice.
- Each group goes to a different room from which it will not be able to hear or see the other group. In their room, the group will find various materials needed to build the bridge. All participants in the exercise know about the fact that the bridge must connect the two banks of the river, which – on a scale – is one meter wide, and that the bridge should be able to support something medium heavy, such as a cup or a wide roll of tape. Representatives will have to agree on the width and height of the bridge, as well as how to connect both ends. The group has 10 minutes to select a representative, allocate tasks and start construction. After this time, the spokespersons can talk to each other. They cannot show each other their projects (photos, drawings). They only talk for 5 minutes. The group then has 20 minutes to hear the spokesman’s report and continue working on the bridge. Spokesmen meet for the next 5 minutes to agree on any amendments. Finally, the group has the last 10 minutes to complete the bridge construction.
- After construction is completed, the groups meet and present their halves of the bridges which are joined into one bridge. Then the bridge is tested (with a cup, tape, scissors).
- The groups discuss the course of cooperation and the division of tasks among them and with the other group while joining the halves of the bridge.
Why is it important?
The day dedicated to the main part of the integration during the project is very important as it is responsible for creating a friendly, relaxed atmosphere in the group of participants. It also allows you to break down unnecessary barriers between participants and the project’s organizer. A group that feels good in its own company works much more efficiently and with greater motivation.
What could pose a challenge?
The major challenge for the organizer is, above all, planning the entire integration process. That is why it is worth sharing this task with the leaders of national groups during the Internet contact or a preparatory visit (see: PROJECT PREPARATION). It is worth familiarizing them with our priorities and expectations regarding integration activities and determine which exercises will be appropriate to achieve our goals together. During the project itself, the challenge may pose the involvement of participants or their reluctance to participate in particular activities. In such a situation, it is worth spending a longer time explaining to the whole group the values of the integration process and the special importance of each of the planned exercises – what will be the effects, why we perform them and why we chose those methods. In the case of people who submit comments on individual methods, especially when it is a group that reasonably justifies their objections, one should be prepared for a possible change in the exercise – international projects especially require from the organizer some flexibility and readiness to change. You can also ask the protesting participants directly for an alternative task proposal; they are often experienced people and can offer us a very valuable activity.