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close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part II - Planning nutrition action projects
close this folder Unit 1: Working with the community to improve nutrition
View the document Session: Simulation exercise

Session: Simulation exercise


To demonstrate the advantages of working with the community to plan and carry out action projects.

Time: 1 hour


- Tinkertoy pieces or any materials that can be used for table top construction of small structures. Sufficient materials so that each trainee has at least 10-15 pieces of building materials. (In Indonesia, straws and paper clips are used.)

- Measuring stick or ruler

- Flipchart and marking pens

Preparation :

- Before the session, prepare work spaces (tables) for groups of 8-10 trainees.

- Place a set of building materials at each table.

Trainer's Note:

In this exercise, trainees will be divided into "Community Advisors. and "Community Members." They will work in three different situations to complete a simple task:

Situation 1 - ADVISORS work alone

Situation 2 - ADVISORS plan then instruct COMMUNITY MEMBERS how to complete the task

Situation 3 - ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS plan and complete the task together

DO NOT DISCUSS THE PURPOSE OF THE EXERCISE WITH TRAINEES BEFORE CONDUCTING IT. When trainees have finished the exercise, you will help them analyze the results of the three different work situations.


1. Tell trainees they will now take part in a simulation exercise. Explain that you will discuss the purpose and results of the exercise with them after it has been completed.

2. Divide trainees into groups of 8-10 persons each. Ask each group to sit at one of the tables. Each group member should have 10 or more pieces of building material. Explain that these building materials are the resources that groups will use to complete the exercise.

3. Divide each work group into equal numbers of ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS.

4. Conduct the three situations below:

Situation 1

- Only ADVISORS work on this task. COMMUNITY MEMBERS are observers.

- Tell ADVISORS they have five minutes to assemble their construction pieces. Their GOAL is to construct the highest structure possible with the materials they have in their possession.

- After five minutes, stop the groups. Measure and compare the heights of their structures. Write the height of each structure next to the name of the group on the flipchart.

Situation 2

- GOAL is the same - to build the tallest structure possible with the resources available.

- ADVISORS plan how to build the structure. Ask COMMUNITY MEMBERS to move to another room while ADVISORS plan how to build the highest structure possible with the resources available. Allow five minutes for planning. Then call the COMMUNITY MEMBERS back to the training area.

- Tell COMMUNITY MEMBERS and ADVISORS that they have five minutes to build their structures. ADVISORS must tell COMMUNITY MEMBERS how to assemble the pieces. ADVISORS cannot touch the building materials.

- After five minutes, stop the groups and measure the heights of their structures. Again, record the heights on the flipchart next to the name of each group.

Situation 3

- GOAL is the same - to build the tallest structure possible with the resources available.

- ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS work together to plan and construct their structures.

- Ask ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS to plan what to build and how to build it with the materials they have.

- Allow five minutes for planning and five minutes for building the structures.

- Stop the groups after five minutes of building and again measure and record the heights of their structures on the flipchart.

5. Discussion: Compare the results of the three situations. Situation 3 should have given the most successful results.

Ask the following questions to promote discussion:

- What happened in Situation 1? (Working alone without coordination)

Possible responses:

- No planning

- Few resources (building materials)

- No agreement about how to use resources to achieve the goal

- Confusion

- Results were disappointing

- What happened in Situation 2? (COMMUNITY carrying out ADVISOR'S plan)

Possible responses:

- ADVISORS had a plan but they did not include the COMMUNITY in the planning process

- ADVISORS had difficulty explaining their plan to the COMMUNITY MEMBERS

- COMMUNITY MEMBERS were confused

- COMMUNITY MEMBERS: How did you feel during Situation 2?

Possible responses:

- Confused

- Did not understand the instructions given

- ADVISORS did not explain what they wanted

- ADVISORS: How did you feel during Situation 2?

Possible responses:

- Frustrated

- COMMUNITY did not follow instructions

- Difficult to explain what we wanted without showing them directly how to assemble the pieces

- Why did Situation 3 give the best results? (ADVISORS and COMMUNITY working together )

Possible responses:

- More resources were available because ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS contributed their materials

- Everyone understood the plan and worked hard to build the structure

- ADVISORS and COMMUNITY planned and worked together

- Did the groups have any problems in Situation 3 that they did not have during the first two work situations? If yes, what were the problems?

Possible Responses:

- Difficulty agreeing on a plan

- Needed more time to plan

- Confusion during the construction

6. Ask trainees: "If our goal had been to improve the nutrition of women and young children, instead of building the highest structure, which of the three work situations would have given the best results? Why?"


Situation 3, in which ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS worked together, should give the best results .


Active participation of COMMUNITY MEMBERS is necessary if nutrition activities are to have the desired result.

COMMUNITY MEMBERS are more likely to participate in activities if they have had the chance to help plan them.

Activities and programs planned with active COMMUNITY involvement take the priorities, felt needs and abilities of the target population into consideration. Activities planned by outsiders often fail to give adequate attention to these important considerations.

When ADVISORS and COMMUNITY MEMBERS plan and work together, they share common goals and a common understanding of the steps they have decided to take to reach those goals.

7. Remind trainees that it is easy to talk about involving COMMUNITY MEMBERS in nutrition activities. It is much more difficult to achieve true COMMUNITY participation in the planning and implementation of those activities.

Ask trainees to brainstorm answers to the following question: "What conditions are necessary for active COMMUNITY participation in nutrition programs?"

Possible responses:

- ADVISORS must be willing to work with members of the COMMUNITY

- COMMUNITY MEMBERS must be interested in solving the problem of malnutrition and child health

- Dialogue/discussion

- Time/patience

- Support from COMMUNITY leaders

- ADVISORS who are facilitators, not dictators

- Etc.

8. Summary: Review the following points with trainees.

- COMMUNITY participation in the planning and implementation of nutrition activities leads to the COMMUNITY'S active participation and ownership of those activities.

- Activities planned by COMMUNITY MEMBERS are more likely to respond to their priorities, felt needs and resources. COMMUNITY-planned activities are generally more appropriate and acceptable to the COMMUNITY than those planned by outside ADVISORS.

- The role of ADVISORS and project managers is to promote active COMMUNITY involvement in all stages of planning, implementation and evaluation of nutrition activities.

- ADVISORS should act as facilitators, not dictators. They should work with the COMMUNITY to identify their most pressing problems and ways to solve them using available material and human resources.