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close this bookNonformal Education Manual (Peace Corps, 1989)
close this folderChapter 4: Helping people identify their needs
close this folderInformal discussion and interviewing
close this folderGroup discussions
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentProblem tree
View the documentThe balloon exercise
View the documentBrainstorming/prioritizing
View the documentHints for facilitating a group discussion

The balloon exercise

This exercise also starts with the group identifying a problem, this time it should be written in the left hand corner of the paper or board. Then, instead of asking the causes of the problem, participants should reflect on one or more consequences resulting from it. For each of the consequences they should draw a balloon and link it to the first. They continue looking for consequences of each of the consequences they have written, and link these with a chain of balloons. Finally, they should reflect on where the chain of negative consequences can be broken, and indicate these as in the diagram on the next page.

This exercise can be done by the large group together with the facilitator writing down what participants say, or it can be done in small groups of three or four participants, with each group coming up with their own analysis of the problem and their own proposed solutions. After they have spent some time on this exercise, the small groups can reconvene and share their balloon chains with each other.

Now that many solutions to the problem have been proposed by the group, the facilitator can list them all so the group can decide on the feasibility of each one and propose a course of action.

For non-literate groups, you might use balloons cut out of paper beforehand and masking tape to stick them on the wall as the consequences of the problem are discovered by the group. Ask participants to draw a symbol that stands for each consequence on the balloons as they are mounted on the wall. A group artist will likely emerge, amid much laughter. As the diagram on the wall gets more complex, be sure the participants remember the symbols they have chosen so that they can "read" the diagram after it is finished and find appropriate places to break the chain of negative effects.

Adapted from Lyra Srinivasan's Practical Ways of Involving People