Type of Activity: Processing, Consensus

Concept: The freebie arose thanks to one particular 6th grade group. To say they were not functioning well together does not adequately describe the enormous conflicts and interpersonal challenges this group had before them. At one point, two of the more volatile (and unfortunately) leaders of the group had stopped all forward movement (literally and figuratively as they were completing a traverse initiative) and were simply arguing with each other. A third student came to the facilitator and asked them to step in and manage the conflict, as the group wanted to get on with things. The facilitator asked the student what he might do to respond.  The student said flat out that there was nothing he could do, so it was suggested he go and talk with the arguing students. He told the facilitator there was no chance the two would listen to him, and the facilitator again suggested he try. In retrospect, the facilitator realized that the student who had come for help had done exactly the right thing – he had reviewed the resources available and, realizing the group didn’t have what they needed, he had attempted to outsource the problem to an expert.

Process: How to Introduce

At the beginning of each day, introduce the groups to the concept of the Freebie.

Give the group two Freebies (if they’re only given one, a scarcity mentality arises and the group will seldom use it).

The Freebies can be used at anytime throughout the day, for an answer to a problem, to end an initiative without completing it, or for whatever else they choose (within reason of course). The only stipulation is that the group must come to a consensus on its use. One person cannot come forth and say they would independently like to use the Freebie.

Consensus may need to be explained and taught, as most groups only have experience with the majority rules approach to decision-making (see consensus cards).

Responses to the Freebie:  The Freebie has been used with hundreds of groups. Many facilitators have reported their success with its use.  Far and away the most common result is that the Freebie is a tool that  provides a group-facilitated conversation on limits, challenge, resolve and ability.

Usually what happens is that one person gets frustrated and says to the group, come on, let’s just use the freebie and do something else. (Common response to frustration and challenge.) Someone else in the group says that s/he doesn’t think the freebie is necessary because the group is able to do the challenge. Then, a conversation ensues around what is frustrating, what is the value for the group in stopping, and what is the value in continuing. 99% of the time, the group recognizes the increased value in continuing, and not using the freebie becomes a rallying cry for using all of their abilities to complete the challenge. Throughout these conversations, the mere existence of the Freebie is usually enough of a catalyst for the group to talk through these issues, without specific intervention or guidance from the facilitator.

For more resources see:  A Teachable Moment

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