Form a circle, preferably sitting in seats, facing inwards.
Each person’s goal is to move around the circle, one seat at a time, and return to the seat they started in.
To move seats, a person must answer “YES” to a question that is posed by another member of the group.
All moves are one direction only (eg clock-wise.)
To demonstrate, ask the first question, and invite all those who need to move to shift into the seat to their immediate left-hand side.
If one or more people happen to be in that seat, the person moving is permitted to sit on their lap.
If three people are already positioned on a seat, the fourth person will simply stand behind the seated person.
Anyone may ask a question, or you may choose to adopt a particular system to share this role.
Continue until someone returns ‘home’ or your group is exhausted.
Video Transcript for All My Neighbours presented by Mark Collard
I’m going to ask you, as you are seated in your chairs, to consider things that perhaps you imagine you have in common with other people, okay? We have lots and lots of things. It’s innumerable. You couldn’t exhaust the list of things that you have in common.
Although we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about things that we are different to each other, but this exercise is actually focused on things that you have in common.
And your objective for the time that we have available is to rotate all the way around this circle as quickly as you can, but you can only go one step at a time, and when I say one step it’s really one seat at a time.
So this is how it works, is that one person will start… we’ll ask for a volunteer in a moment, and you’re going to simply ask a question to identify all your other… let’s call them neighbours, that have or have done or said or just have something in common with you.
So it might be all of my neighbours who have brushed their teeth. And everyone who has brushed their teeth today will be invited to move one seat to their left. So let’s say only six of you honestly brushed your teeth this morning, okay?
So let’s say I was one of those people. I would get up out of my seat, and I would move to the person towards my left. However it might be that in this occasion Kurt did not actually clean his teeth, as good as your teeth are.
And so obviously there’s not much room, so we simply and compassionately will sit on his knee. So I’m effectively in the same spot, but… and I’ll be on his knee as if there is a space there available for me.
Of course if he had brushed his teeth he would move to the left as well. So if we all did the same thing, everyone would move a seat to the left. But more often than not, there’s only a certain number of us that actually qualify.
Alright, so you got the picture? So let’s say I happen to have moved. I’m sitting on someone’s lap, compassionately. Okay, good, and then the next question comes along. And it’ll be… we’ll just go around the group, and it could honestly just be volunteers.
And the next question gets asked. Let’s say, have you ever been to a zoo. All those people who have been to a zoo, all of my neighbours will get to move one seat to the left.
But let’s say I had not been to a zoo but Kurt had been to the zoo, I get to move as well because I’m a part of his chair effectively. So Kurt moves with me. And let’s say David had not been to the zoo either, and so now we’re going to be seated on top of Dave.
Now there’s only ever a maximum of three. If we happen to have that occasion when there’s more than three people, it just becomes too difficult and they just simply stand either in front of, to the side, or behind that chair so that you acknowledge the chair that you’re actually with.
Got the basics?
So to repeat, your object is to get all the way around the circle – you may not actually with the time available – to rest yourself on the knees of a person if necessary in that seat, but if it’s free obviously you just have that seat to yourself.
And we’ll work our way around the circle.
Think of those things that you might have or maybe are fairly unique to you. For example maybe you could ask I want to know about all of my neighbours who have been in a parade. It’s likely not all of you have been in a parade, but only those that do qualify get to move. Got the basics?
Take a note of the seat that you’re presently in, because that’s the point at which you want to return to. Alright, has someone got a suggestion? And I’ll repeat it just to be sure that it’s heard.
What’s one that you would like to start with? What’s something you would like to know about that you have in common with your neighbours?
(I think I’ve got one that’ll make us all move, but there’s one that I’m worried about.)
Give us the one you’re not so worried about.
(So it’s… I drove to campus today.)
Alright, so all of my neighbours who drove to campus today.
Great, move one seat to your left.
(people changing seats)
It’s okay. Just on the knees. And naturally depending on size, weight, energy… just be compassionate.
Alright, let’s work our way around. So from the very first person we’ll go to the left, so can you think of something, Brian? All of my neighbours who…
(Have travelled to Texas in their lifetime?)
(people changing seats)
(I’ll be kind.)
That’s right, be kind. Alright, let’s go with… I want to know about all my neighbours who have been in a parade.
(people changing seats)
(… all of my neighbours who have children.)
Yeah, I have children.
(people changing seats)
How To Play Narrative
This activity is best suited to a group that is already comfortable with one another.
The basic set-up is a circle of people, everyone sitting on a chair facing inwards.
Explain to your group that each person’s mission is to move around the circle, one seat at a time, and return to the seat they started in. Depending on how many people you are working with, this may take a while, or not. But, the ‘getting there’ is not ALWAYS the point, right?
Next, describe that to move into the neighbouring seat, each person must be able to answer “YES” to a question that is posed by another member of the group. After a few sample questions from you, invite your group to volunteer the remaining questions.
To illustrate, if the question is “DID YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH AFTER BREAKFAST THIS MORNING?” everyone who brushed is entitled to move into the seat on their left.
However, it is possible that not everyone brushed their teeth this morning (tsk, tsk,) so not every seat will become vacant. Herein lies the fun of the exercise – people are permitted to sit on the laps of others.
After several minutes of questions (inviting them from the group however you choose,) it is highly likely that there will be multiple stacks of people sitting on laps identified as belonging to a particular chair.
Being mindful of the person on the bottom, suggest that after the third companion has landed, all other ‘guests’ simply stand in front of the chair they belong to.
For the record, if an individual is part of a stack of people on a particular seat, and they are the only person who needs to move seats on the next question, they simply free themselves from the scrum.
Expect a lot of laughter, and lots of clever questions that purposefully dilute or concentrate the traffic jams. Continue until someone returns ‘home’ or your group is exhausted.
Practical Leadership Tips
In case it’s not obvious, people do not actually need to say “YES” in order to move around the circle – this response is simply something they can say to themselves. Moving is a tacit admission of ‘Yes.’
Furthermore, all moves are voluntary – ie Challenge by Choice. That is, even if an individual could answer ‘Yes’ to a particular question, they do not have to move if they feel embarrassed or too threatened to do so.
Naturally, with people invited to sit on the laps of others, consider the abilities of your group and the sequence of your program activities to make this game a success. Take a look at the Health & Wellness Programming tab to explore this further.
Adopt any system that suits your needs to invite questions from your group. For example, you could adopt a particular sequence to ensure everyone gets a turn, or request any random person with a question to speak up.
Sometimes I instruct my groups to preface their question with “ALL MY NEIGHBOURS WHO….” just to emphasise the reality that no matter where we live, we’re all neighbours.
As your group is asking the questions, it’s your job to ensure that the questions remain appropriate and safe.
You could integrate All My Neighbours into a well-designed SEL program to focus on the ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different scenarios, all the while enjoying a fun group experience together.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Use this fun game to highlight occasions when accessing one’s emotional intelligence will help us to avoid uncomfortable moments. For example, the ability to ‘read the room’ or ‘read the moment.’ Consider inviting your group to reflect on that moment in the middle of the game when a particular question was asked, by asking:
What reactions did you observe in the group / yourself?
What did you make these reactions mean?
Is this reaction uncommon, or do you observe it regularly?
What do we think is an appropriate response to this situation?
Can we prevent reactions like this?
As with many fun, large group games, All My Neighbours is an excellent vehicle for exploring the development f healthy behavioural norms. Consider framing your group’s experience in advance to help them reflect on topics such as comfort zones, trust and empathy at the end of the game. For example, not everyone will feel immediately comfortable with other people sitting on their laps. This element alone affords the opportunity to discuss what happens when we (more generally) ‘cross the line’ or unintentionally (or unconsciously) offend others.
Count The Rotations: If your group really enjoys this exercise, continue playing and ask individuals to count the number of rotations they make around the circle.
One Move, All Move: Whenever a person needs to move into a new seat, everyone who is sitting on their lap or ‘higher’ must accompany them into the new seat, whether the question applies to these others or not. For example, imagine that Neil is sitting on Tanya, who is sitting on Ingrid, who is seated on the chair. If Tanya is the only one of these three people who has to move, Ingrid will remain on her seat, but Neil will have to follow Tanya to the seat next door.
Stand-Up: Rather than chairs, place as many rubber spots, hula-hoops, carpet squares, etc as there are people in your group in a circle. Now, when people move, they simply keep at least one foot on a spot.
Nominate The Move: As a question is called, the questioner can nominate how many spots a person may move.
Everyone Moves: Everyone moves on every question. If a person’s response is “YES,” they move to their left, otherwise they move to their right. Utter chaos, but tons of fun.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Even groups that think they know each other pretty well will often learn something about others in this next exercise…
A big part of our program is about building community. When we are together, no matter how diverse we may be, there are many things that bind us together. Our next activity will help us learn about how many things we have in common…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun circle game:
How did it feel to be the only person who moved on occasions?
Was there a long period of time when you did not move? What did you make this mean?
Did you learn something about someone you did not know before?
Fun & Interactive ‘Community-Building’ Games Session
What You Need:
12+ people, 45 mins, chairs for everyone
Copy Claps – brilliant, non-verbal opener which to attract your group’s focus
Name Impulse – very simple name-game which seeks to set a new world record
One Duck – contagiously fun circle game which is harder than it seems