1.  Give out the session notes from Unit 4. Give a little time for the group to reflect on the last unit. Do they have any other thoughts about this?  How did people find the writing they did in the learning log for Unit 4?

Outline the different ideas that have been explored so far - the common experiences of people who experience various forms of unequal treatment; the idea that many inequalities are unjust, avoidable and could be changed. During Unit 4 the group looked at how some of the groups who experienced discrimination appeared to have little power and were not actively involved in the decision making process in society.

2.  Provide feedback from the midpoint evaluation, if undertaken, and relate them to the previous discussion points.

3.    Give out programme for Unit 5.

In this unit we will be exploring issues about power and what makes us feel powerless. We will also be looking at what stops us from participating more actively and what is meant by participation in public life.

4.    We will also be working on the Group Project.



This exercise works best if you have a fairly spacious room with a lot of light upright chairs that you can easily move around.  Please pay due care and attention to safety aspects, particularly if some people have accessibility difficulties.

1.    Arrange chairs in a straight line:

Ask the group, if people were sitting in these chairs, which person would have the most power? You may get a variety of answers - usually the chair on the far left, but sometimes the chair on the far right. Ask people to say why they think this.

2.    Ask people to arrange the chairs so that those sitting in them would be more equal - the order of power has changed.  Let people play with the idea, and say why they think power has changed.

3.    Try to make one chair higher than the others - put it on a table or a stage, or use a bigger chair. Ask for a volunteer to sit in this chair and look powerful! If you can’t get a higher chair, ask the person to stand upright with arms folded. Everyone else gathers in front of him or her.

4.    Ask for suggestions as to how to reduce this person’s power by physical positioning only - in other words, not by shouting or saying anything.  Let people adopt different positions or move others around, and ask them to ‘freeze’ or ‘hold’ the position they choose. They have not to touch the ‘powerful’ person.

5.    Play with different positions until the group finds a ‘tableau’ position they think is best at reducing the person’s power and increasing their own. Check with the ‘powerful’ person if they agree, or what their opinion is. Encourage more than one person to take a turn at this position.

6.    Encourage discussion about the different positions and ask group participants for examples of their own.

7.    Ask the ‘powerful’ person or people how it felt to be in that position

8.    Then ask the group to make a circle, briefly holding hands - to help everyone out of role.



This exercise involves reading through a few long pieces of writing. Participants generally enjoy the reading but not the short time pressure. You may wish to give out the handouts for reading the week before and/or be available while groups are reading their pieces.

However, it is worthwhile persisting with the reading as one of the outcomes of HIIC is to develop study skills. This exercise will help with skills on taking in information, reflecting on information, relating them to personal experiences and drawing insights on the circumstances of people who might be ‘different’ to us

1.    Give out Handout A. The World Health Organisation (WHO), the health arm of the United Nations, has made a number of statements which support participation. More recently, the UK Government and the Scottish Parliament have also made a number of statements that support participation and involvement. But what stops us?  Why do we find it hard to put our points of view forward or to take part in the decision making process? What situations make us feel powerless?

2.    Give out Handout B. Group members answer the questions individually. The situation they describe can be any occasion where people have felt they had no power or control over what was happening to them for instance, between friends or family, with officials or professionals.

3.    Working in pairs, share each other’s responses to the questions. (5 mins each.)

4.    Working in a big group, ask who would like to share their experience in the large group. Write up the key points on a flipchart sheet. Are there any common elements within these experiences?  Use the following checklist if required:

 Sometimes gate-keepers to resources can withhold things we need e.g. information, medical care, emotional support or choices.

  • The physical ‘trappings’ of power e.g. impressive offices and cars, large desks etc.
  • Using a particular language or jargon which others find hard to understand.
  • The way that we give others power e.g. by internalising the feeling that ‘they are better than us’.

5.    Now ask participants to look at their example situation again, and to think about what would have made it a better experience for them. From people’s responses draw up a ‘checklist for participation’ e.g. ‘being involved’, ‘being listened to’, ‘having control’. Pin this up as you will be referring to this in Exercise 5.



1. Return to some of the ideas about ways in which we have experienced power, discussed in Unit 5 Exercise 1. Introduce the idea that ‘power’ is not always straightforward, but depends on all sorts of factors.

2.    Give out Handout C. First go through the idea of three different types of power and check that people understand. Talk through the sheet and clarify what has to be done in this exercise.

3.    Working in small groups of three or four, allow 10 minutes for people to note examples of types of power from their own knowledge or experience. Or you could make this a whole group exercise, going through the sheet together and noting the group’s examples.

4.    With the whole group discuss each ‘dimension’ in turn. Develop the idea about power and the link with participation.


PARTICIPATION (75 minutes)

1. As we have seen many government and policy documents talk about people participating more in the planning and provision of our services. What kinds of things prevent this happening more easily?

2. Do we know where decisions are made?  Do we know who makes them? Why don’t we go to Health Board or Council meetings? Are they too far away or not known about?  Do they offer childcare? Are the meeting places accessible? Draw out any experiences which group members may wish to share.

3. Give out Handout D. These are some reasons why people don’t participate in community or public life.

4. Split into small groups. Outline the following scenario:

A new Community Partnership has been set up in your area. Its aim is to regenerate the area through a range of social and economic programmes. It has an obligation to fully involve local residents in its operation. Taking into account the barriers outlined in Handout 4 and also your ‘checklist for participation’ from Exercise 3 what kind of actions would be needed to create greater opportunities for people to participate in the Community Partnership?

5. Each group should note some key points before feeding back to the whole group.

6. Officials and Government bodies talk a lot about participation but how do we know what level of participation or influence exists within the structures we deal with? Give out Handout E and read through it with the group.

7.    Give out Handout F and ask participants to read through it. In small groups ask participants to match the examples to one of the levels of participation given in Handout 5. Discussion points – what were the key areas of debate within the groups? What insights have they drawn from this? Did participants identify more than one level of participation within an example? If so, why? And what does this tell us about levels of participation?

The ‘correct’ levels should be:

Example 1: Local Health Project leaflet - Consultation

Example 2:   Council “Tough Choices” leaflet - Information

Example 3: Support group for young parents - Supporting independent community action

Example 4: Improvements to local park - Deciding Together

Example 5: Young homeless person - Manipulation

Example 6: Youth action organisation - Acting together


THE GROUP PROJECT (75 minutes [+ 1 hour ‘homework’ if required])

1.    Working on Presentations

2.    Try to allow a bit more time for this session.

3.    By now, each group should have established its overall idea and begun to research their topic and prepare their materials.

4.    Encourage people to add any points from the last few sessions, including today. Sometimes people keep the session work and their presentation separate, as they have not quite digested the ideas and their own thoughts about them.

5.    Pointing out that what they are presenting is, for example, the reality of ‘equity’ or ‘powerlessness’ or that they are adopting a ‘social model’ of health, helps people to link some of the theory to their own life experience and make it meaningful.

6.    Again, give participants the opportunity to do further work on this in their own time.


RECAP AND SUMMARY (15 minutes)

1.    Go over the key points from the session referring to the flipchart if necessary.

  • The Power Chair exercise
  • Powerlessness
  • The different dimensions of power
  • The ideas about participation.

2.    Give out Unit 5 Learning Logs and collect in the learning logs from the previous units.