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close this bookTraining for Elected Leadership - The Councillor as Decision-maker (HABITAT, 1994, 22 p.)
close this folderPart II. Workshop on the councillor as decision-maker
View the documentOverview
View the document3.1 Warm-up exercise: decision preferences checklist
View the document3.2 Trainer presentation
View the document3.3 Exercise: good and bad decisions
View the document3.4 Simulation: the allocation decision
View the document3.5 Case study: a central bus park for Rumai
View the document3.6 Skill transfer exercise

3.4 Simulation: the allocation decision

Time required: 120 minutes


This exercise is to provide an opportunity for participants to learn about decision-making while engaged in the process of making a decision. Simulations are strong aids to learning. They place participants into hypothetical situations that resemble what they are likely to experience in real life. Because they are just simulations, participants can put themselves into the roles assigned to them and act out the real-life situations using new behaviours and techniques. Participating in a simulation is much like having a dream - an experience so vivid that you can't get it out of your mind even after waking up.


Divide the group into four smaller groups with one of these groups composed of five members. Give each group a copy of the situation and role descriptions. Note: If possible, distribute handout materials (based on the situation described below) in advance of the workshop to give participants a chance to become familiar with the situation and their roles,

You may either appoint participants to play the town council member roles (five members) or ask for volunteers. At any rate, participants should be found for the role of council chairperson and each of the other (four) councillor roles. You may select names for each of the councillors or ask role-playing participants to use their own names.

Assign the remaining participants to groups 1, 2, or 3. From each of these three groups, select one person as an observer. When all remaining participants have been assigned roles, ask those who are members of the three groups to go to their assigned rooms to develop a plan of action for "selling" the council on their proposal. Ask them to complete the task in 45 minutes. Suggest that they choose one of the group to serve as its spokesperson. Explain that the council has a very crowded agenda and that each group will have only five minutes to make its presentation.

While the three groups are deliberating, have those participants who are playing councillor roles arrange the chairs and tables in the training room into a town council room as shown on the next page.

With council members seated, the presentations are made in turn. Other than the three observers, allow only members of groups that are presenting or have already presented to be present in the council room. In other words, no group should be permitted to hear another group's presentation until after it has made its own.

After all presentations are made, council members begin their deliberations as the three observers listen, watch, and record their comments.

Call time after 15 minutes whether a decision has been reached or not. Ask for reports from the three observers and comments from each of the council members and group leaders. Focus the ensuing discussion on the process used by the council to arrive at a decision and its effectiveness.


Councillors at front of room seated behind tables placed end-to-end. A smaller table placed at centre for use by citizens who wish to make presentations to the council. Squares at the back of the room represent citizens after they have made their presentations.


The situation

A wealthy merchant and resident of San Pedro has died and left a large sum of money to the town. The sum is US$50,000 (or the equivalent amount in another currency) to be made available to the town council in five annual instalments of US$10,000 each. The merchant has stipulated that the money is to be allocated for some worthwhile public purpose at the discretion of the town council. However, should the council fail to allocate the money or delay its decision beyond the next council meeting, the offer will be withdrawn irrevocably.

Three community groups have declared an intent to submit proposals for use of the money. The task before the council is to hear each of the three proposals and to choose one of the community groups as the recipient.

Description of San Pedro

San Pedro is a commercial town within a developing country. The central government is in the process of implementing a decentralization plan that will affect local government in San Pedro. The town is governed by a town council of five members, each representing a separate district. Councillors are elected for two year terms by obtaining a simple majority of the votes cast at an election in their respective districts.

Councillor roles

The Council Chairperson. You are Council Chairperson, elected from one of San Pedro's non-industrial districts. You were voted as Chairperson by your fellow councillors on a vote of 4 to 1. You are widely respected for your leadership skills and ability to arrange compromises between warring factions on your council.

Your council's task today is to decide which of three community groups will receive the finds from the merchant's gift to the community. You have arranged for the leaders of each community group to present that group's case for the funds and for the council to discuss the merits of each proposal. Your objective is to ensure that:

1. The funds are not lost owing to the council's failure to reach a decision;

2. Reach a consensus on the best use of the funds; and

3. Maintain the council's reputation as reasonable, fair, and concerned with the best interests of the community overall.

Two pro-business councillors. San Pedro is a mill town. The town's economy depends in large measure on several plants that process agricultural products. As councillors, the two of you share a common interest. Both of you represent districts which are home for plant employees. Many of your constituents have lost their jobs owing to the recent closing of a jute mill, one of the town's principal employers. Your constituents would benefit most directly from a vocational training centre which one of the three groups is proposing as the most worthy use of the merchant's gift.

Two pro-social service councillors. Not all of the town's problems are economic. The industrial character of San Pedro has produced many social problems as well. A by-product of unemployment has been the departure of many non-working males for more promising areas of the country, leaving wives and small children behind to fend for themselves. Moreover, lacking in adequate health facilities, the community is vulnerable to the rapid spread of many infectious diseases including the dreaded AIDS virus. As councillors, each of you has long championed the cause of the poor and the disinfranchised of San Pedro. Both of you are on record supporting more funds for health care and the needs of indigent children. You intend to support either the day-care centre or the health programme depending upon which of the two proposals is presented to the council in the most convincing manner.

Community group roles

Group No. 1. You represent a private company formed with the backing of local businesses to retrain workers for other employment in town. The corporation has acquired space from one of the plants and is seeking funds to operate a vocational training centre. Your main concern is the high rate of unemployment in the community. You believe your company can help reduce joblessness. But you need a supplemental source of funds for several years to sustain your efforts to put people back to work.

Group No. 2. You are an activist group with strong support in the non-industrial areas of San Pedro. You are supported by public health and medical groups in the area and are seeking funds to underwrite a new programme aimed at preventing the spread of diseases, and especially AIDS, through education in the face of a growing epidemic. You feel your organization most deserves the funds because of the urgency of the health problems facing the community.

Group No. 3. You are a church-based group with strong support from every religious denomination in the community as well as the public schools. Your organization is the principal provider of services to the most disadvantaged in the community, and, owing to its non-profit status, is dependent totally on outside funds. You need funds to open and operate a day-care centre in a low-income neighbourhood for the benefit of marginally employed, single parents with many small children. The centre would care for small children while their parents were working. As heads of their households, single parents are responsible alone for the welfare of their children. If they do not work, these parents cannot feed their children. However, these parents cannot afford to pay for housekeepers to care for their children while they are working. You see the centre as the answer for this chronic community need.


1. Did the council make a decision? (check one)



2. If "no," why not?

3. If "yes," how was a decision made? (check one)

Decision not to respond to ideas suggested by others.

Decision made by the council chairperson on behalf of the council.

Decision made by two or three of the stronger members of the council.

Decision by majority vote.

Decision made by consensus (general commitment to go along and support a particular course of action that is not necessarily everyone's Councillor as first choice).

Decision by unanimous consent.

4. In making the decision, was there a tendency of councillors to be nice to one another at the expense of critical thinking? (check one)



Explain your answer below: