What’s Your Single Story?

Click to rate this method
[Total: 3 Average: 5]
  • Number of participants = 10 – 20
  • Theme = Perception, categorisation, stereotypes and prejudice
  • Duration = 2.5 hours
  • Difficult for participants = Level 2
  • Difficulty for facilitator = Level 2


Introduction to the topic of stereotypes, categorisation, diversity and prejudices using activities such as discussions and movies.

  • How to come to terms with someone’s own selective perception.
  • Sensitisation for heterogeneous groups.
  • How to find a critical approach towards the acculturalisation of groups and thereby finding value in the appreciation of people’s individual characteristics.
  • Explain the keywords and provide definitions.
  • Explain functions of stereotypes: when does the use of stereotypes become ‘discrimination’?

Goals/Learning Objectives

  • To reflect on one’s own perceptions
  • To reflect on the presence of prejudice in our daily lives and how it functions
  • To establish the connection between individual and societal prejudice and becoming more sensitive to the heterogeneity of supposed homogeneous groups, particularly where less visible difference exists.


  • Projector, laptop, speakers, post-its, flip chart, flip chart paper, pens, permanent marker
  • Bag of peanuts (with shell) – 1 peanut for each pair, or crisps if anyone has allergies
  • Video: ‘The Monkey Business Illusion’ (available below)
  • Video: ‘The danger of a single story’ by C. Adichie
  • Handout ‘Categorisation, Stereotype, Prejudice, Discrimination and Their Functions’


Facilitators need to know the videos for PART 1 and PART 4 and technical setup needs to be ready before the workshop.

For PART 2 have a bag of peanuts ready (or bag of crisps if anyone is allergic) according to the number of participants . Write on a flip chart paper the titles:

  • ‘Peanuts are…’.
  • ‘Not all peanuts are…’

For PART 3 prepare the definitions and functions for categorisation, stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination (see handout) and, if you would like to, prepare a presentation. Print out the handout ‘Categorisation, Stereotype, Prejudice, Discrimination and Their Functions’ for each participant.

Flow of the Exercise

PART 1: Introduction – One’s Own Perception

Preliminary goals: Coming to term with someone’s own selective perception as an introduction to the topic.
Time: 15 minutes
Method: Video and discussion
Materials: Projector, laptop, speakers


  1. Tell the participants that you are going to show them a video (‘The Monkey Business Illusion‘). Ask them to count how many times the players wearing white pass the ball. Make sure that anyone who already knows the video does not comment at all.
  2. At the end of the sequence (sec. 0:40), stop the video and ask the group: ‘How many passes did you count?’ After a short feedback, ask them: ‘Have you seen the gorilla?’ Show the rest of the video.
  3. Explain to the group that selective perception makes us miss important information. The reality is complex. Therefore, a selection process is needed.
  4. Transition to part two: our perception is very often selective. We see what we want to see. This also could lead to a persistence of stereotypes and prejudices. This is what we are going to look at in detail in the following steps.
PART 2: Peanut-Method

Preliminary goals: Introduction to the topic of stereotypes, diversity and prejudices. Sensitisation for heterogeneous groups. Get a critical approach towards the acculturalisation of groups and thereby find value in the appreciation of individual characteristics.
Time: 45 minutes
Method: Thematic exercise
Materials: Flip chart, flip chart paper, post-its, pens, permanent marker, peanuts (1 peanut for each pair), one flip chart paper with the written title ‘Peanuts are…’ and the other one with the title ‘Not all peanuts are…’.


In a 10 minute plenary:

  1. Show one peanut (or crisp) to the group and ask them to describe it.
  2. Collect the answers on the flip chart paper with the written title ‘Peanuts are…’ (e.g. ’round’, ‘brown’, etc.)
  3. Then present the basket of peanuts to the group.
  4. Participants should form groups of two, pick a peanut, post-its and a pen and find a spot in the room to talk to each other.

In pairs (5-10 minutes):

  1. Each pair should write down characteristics about their peanut on the post-its. They are not allowed to mark their peanut in any way, e.g. to make dents in the peanut, write on it, colour it, etc.
  2. After working in pairs, ask the pairs to come together in a plenary again and to put their peanut back in the basket.
  3. Ask the participants: ‘Did you get to know your peanut better?’ At the same time, mix all the peanuts up again.
  4. Ask the participants to find their individual peanut in the basket.

Debriefing in a plenary (20-25 minutes):

  1. Ask the participants: ‘Was it difficult to find your peanut? How did you do it? Which specific characteristic helped you to find it?’
  2. Put the post-its on a flip chart paper and add the title ‘Not all peanuts are…’. As a comparison, contrast the flip chart paper ‘Peanuts are…’ with the flip chart paper ‘Not all peanuts are…’.
  3. Ask the intermediate debriefing questions:

• What comes to mind while comparing the two flipcharts? Why are they so different?
• What else did you notice? What surprised you?
• What has this to do with your daily lives? (Explain: Peanuts are a symbol for talking about groups of people.)
• What changes when you get to know someone better? What happens to the preliminary categories when you take a closer look?
• What happens when you do this with groups of people or ‘cultures’?
• Is it at all helpful to have generalisations/categorisations/selective perceptions?
• What function does the ‘homogenising’ of groups have?

Please note: Do not take the symbol of a peanut too literally. People have their own feelings and subjective stories and cannot be simply seen as ‘nuts’!

PART 3: Definition of Categorisation, Stereotypes, Prejudices and Discrimination

Preliminary goals: Explain the key words and provide definitions. Explain functions of stereotypes and explain ‘When do stereotypes transfer into discrimination?’
Time: 15 minutes
Method: Explaining key words to the group and give examples
Materials: Flip chart, flip chart paper, permanent marker, a copy of the handout for each participant, an optionally prepared presentation about those terms


  1. Explain the definition of categorisation (see handout).
  2. Ask the group: ‘What is the difference between stereotype, prejudice and discrimination?’ and let them discuss.
  3. Present the three definitions (see handout).
  4. Ask the group if stereotypes and prejudices have functions. If yes, which ones? Collect the ideas on a flip chart paper. Afterwards, present the functions of stereotypes and prejudices (see handout).
  5. Distribute the handout ‘Categorisation, Stereotype, Prejudice, Discrimination and Their Functions’ to the participants.

Tip: You could also do a presentation on all definitions and functions using flip charts, moderation cards or a presentation programme (e.g. Prezi, PowerPoint or Menti) or without using any extra tools.

PART 4: Danger of a Single Story

Preliminary goals: Summary
Time: 45 minutes
Method: Video and discussion
Materials: Projector, laptop, speakers


  1. Show the video ‘The danger of a single story’ by C. Adichie.
  2. Debriefing questions:

• Did you like the video? Why/ why not?
• To what extent does Adichie’s talk reflect our topic?
• In which way is this whole topic connected to dealing with different cultures or being abroad?
• What have you learned from this video and from the other exercises in this workshop?

If participants feel guilty, please emphasise the positive, empowering aspects of Adichie’s talk.

PART 5: Conclusion

Tell the participants that we all grow up with specific stereotypes and prejudices. It is difficult to get rid of them! A lifelong personal involvement/battle is needed. Therefore, self-reflection and open-mindedness as well as critical thinking on stereotypes and prejudices is important!

Variations & Possible Follow up Activities

This method can be followed by and is connected to the method called Check Your Privileges!.

The group may like to do the activity Timelines to look back at the history of racism, discrimination, power dynamics, hate and may like to explore how the concept and practice of (in-)equality has changed throughout history. Discover the consequences of stereotypes, prejudices, oppression and discrimination through the methods Columbian Hypnosis and Image Theatre where participants explore power dynamics and can discuss those issues from their own experiences. In Forum Theatre, participants act out their experience of power dynamics or discrimination and explore solutions by including them in a theatre scene.

After talking and reflecting on their perception, categorisation, stereotypes and prejudices, the group may want to continue working on understanding discrimination, reflecting on their own prejudices and exploring their experiences of interpersonal discrimination during everyday life with the method Do Not Act Like Me!


Try to address the guilt some might feel after these exercises. Make them realise that we all have prejudices and stereotypes. What is important is how we act and reflect on them. Refer to the empowering aspect of Adichie’s talk for this. This method works best when facilitated by two trainers.

The topic should be relatively new to participants. The majority should not know the videos yet.

Source: ICJA Freiwilligenaustausch weltweit e.V.