Paradox Intervention – Plan An Exclusive Workshop/ Exchange Programme

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In this exercise, participants are asked to conceptualise a workshop or exchange programme (depending on what fits for the context) that is specifically designed to exclude a particular group of people. With this seemingly odd task, the participants get a feeling about which factors play a role in marginalisation. Subsequently, they reflect about how they may be excluding people without being aware of it and what they could do differently.

Goal/Learning Objective/Expected Output

Awareness of unintended exclusion, ideas of how to make the organisation more inclusive.

Way/level of dealing with subject at stake

Conceptualising, paradox learning through exaggeration of the unintended, reflection of complex processes.

Application in moderation cycle

Opening up, sensitising.


90–120 minutes

Group Size

3–25 people

Level of difficulty



Either internal or external, preferably with knowledge about structural discrimination. Sometimes, with tools like this one, we cannot know what we trigger in participants. Therefore, you should be prepared to deal with emotions or reactions they have not expected.

Materials needed

  • Flipchart

Additional resources:

Process description

The exercise begins with the task of designing a workshop or an exchange programme.

Choose which one of those you ask them to do, according to the working context of the group and the one with which they are more familiar. They have to make sure that they design it in such a way that, for example, no women can participate in it. Or you take any other group that is excluded in your society. If you are a large group, you can also work in sub-groups of 3–5 people, each one excluding a different group from the workshop or exchange programme. Each sub-group gets around 15–20 minutes to come up with a design. Questions that support the process could ask ‘What time and how long should it be?’, ‘How should the invitation be written?’ etc.

When the sub-groups concisely present their designs, ask them especially for the underlying mechanisms for exclusion that they identified. Afterwards, invite them to re-design their workshop or exchange programme and make it as inviting for the excluded group as possible. Give them another 15 minutes to do that.

Now ask people what they have done in their real organisation to make their workshops or exchange programmes more inclusive and let the whole group reflect on this in a group discussion. Eventually, gather some of the insights and immediate actions that they can use for more inclusive designs.

Debriefing options

Reflect upon the emotional reactions of the participants to designing an exclusive workshop/exchange process. There might be quite a variety of seemingly contradictory emotions such as excitement and disgust at the same time. Carefully acknowledge that this is also just human and ask what conclusions participants draw from that.

What are other programmes, workshops, events etc. that people can think of (not necessarily offered by themselves) that exclude groups in their design? How could they be set up differently to become more inclusive?