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Simulation Exercise, Ice-breaker, Group Building Activity, Name Game/Get to know each other

Backpack of needs and expectations

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A challenging activity for needs and expectations session. It allows participants to start deeper non-verbal communication, creates a trustful atmosphere and provide a tool and a way to express their needs, fears and expectation in a creative way.

Aims of the tool

1) to provide participants with a symbolic(meaningful) tool to express their needs, fears and expectation;
2) to break an ice in the group;
3) to start active non-verbal communication between participants:
4) to pop-up some dilemmas that touch a topic of values (sharing vs. asking, giving vs. taking, cooperation vs. competition)
5) to have creative and fun session where others expect seriously-boring (but necessary) activity.

Description of the tool

Before the activity you need to prepare (print out) a backpack for each participant with his/her name on a handle. Ideally, every backpack should be different color. It is better to divide a big group of participants in a small groups of 8-10-12 people. If a group is more than 12 people, it is quite hard to find a different color for each backpack (so if you have two small groups, you can use one color two times). When you have printed out all backpacks, separate it for the groups and to cut every backpack in 10 pieces as a puzzle. Then mix all pieces in every small group and put it randomly in envelopes (10 pieces per each). One envelope per one participant.

In the beginning you can tell a legend (which can be modified according to your needs) for participant: “Now you will receive something that's belong to you. It is so obvious, that you will immediately recognize it (answer is: Name on a handle of backpack). But, you are so surprised about the fact that we have something yours, so you are not able to speak any more. It means that all action will happen in silence. More over, you cannot take anything you need, you can only give to somebody you think she/he might need. As well, it is forbidden to ask others to give you something you need, you only can wait until somebody will realize that you might need something. So, shortly – you can give and wait until somebody will give you something, but you can not ask and especially take it by yourself”.

Every participant receive one envelope with pieces of puzzle inside. It will take some moments for them to realize what to do, and after a while exchange process will start. Your task as a facilitator is to remind rules from time to time: “You cannot take, but give”, “Do not ask, but think about others”, “Silence is everywhere” and so on. When you will see that participants start to put puzzle together, put glue-sticks, scissors and white A4 paper on the flour and invite people to stick their backpacks to the sheet of paper, so in the end it is possible to cut out a personal backpack.

When everybody has own backpack (small groups gather in one big circle), you can ask participants to think about symbolism of backpack as well as about their expectations/fears and needs/contributions they bring to the TC. Ask participants to write it shortly on a backpack: upper part for expectations, middle part for needs/contributions, lower part for the fears. Give 5-7 minuets for writing it down and then invite everybody to share it with a group. Chose a place on the wall and attach all backpacks in a one place, so during TC it is visible all the time (so participants are able to take it and fill it up every time they want to).


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SALTO cannot be held responsible for the inappropriate use of these training tools. Always adapt training tools to your aims, context, target group and to your own skills! These tools have been used in a variety of formats and situations. Please notify SALTO should you know about the origin of or copyright on this tool.

Tool overview

Backpack of needs and expectations

This tool is for

16-30 years old participants of training course or youth exchange or any other educational activity which last at least 2-3 days.

and addresses

Social Inclusion, Disability, Personal Development, European Citizenship, Peer education

It is recommended for use in:

Action 1.1 (Youth Exchanges)
Action 4.3 (Training and Networking)

Materials needed:

A4 white (recycled) paper (1 sheet per person);
A4 color paper (1 color sheet per 1 person);
Glue-stick (4 per 10 persons);
Scissors (4 per 10 persons);
tape (to stick backpack to the wall);


It takes 60-70 minuets for while process for the group of 20 people:
5min - introduction;
20min - puzzle;
10min - reflection;
30min – presentation.

Behind the tool

The tool was created by

1) TC "IKVISANPIK", Liepaja, Latvia, January 2010; 2) YE "Nature&Rhythm" in Pape - Liepaja, Latvia in July 2010; 3) TC "Environment Deserves Education" in Ziemupe, Latvia in September 2010; 4) TC "You are the part of this world" in Fruska Gora, Serbia i

in the context of

Stanislavs Babins and Ance Kvasnikova (Zemzane)

The tool has been experimented in

A tool was created for training course "IKVISANPIK", which took place in Liepaja, Latvia in 14th-17th of January 2010.

The tool was published to the Toolbox by

Stanislavs Babins (on 12 March 2012)

and last modified

20 February 2012

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