The activity introduces the Doughnut by getting people to collectively make the boundaries of the Doughnut and finding the limits in a physical way:
- the outer limit of how far we can stretch until our fingertips can no longer touch, before we fragment - which represents the ecological ceiling of the Doughnut.
- the inner limit of how close we can squeeze together - shoulder to shoulder - before the circle buckles and someone falls into the hole in the middle (or the circle deforms) - which represents the social foundation of the Doughnut.
Between these limits is the space of the Doughnut, and the activity finishes with people sharing example, ideas and inspirations - and doing a high-five lap of honour in the Doughnut - of how we can might into this space of balance, where we can thrive between the limits.
See the activity with 25 people here:
See the activity with 80 people here:
Why use it?
It's an energising and memorable introduction to the Doughnut that can be used in many settings, as long as you have enough people and enough space! It can act as an energiser either at the start of the day or during the day, and it can work as a stand alone activity.
Who is it for?
Any group of people between 25 and 80. It can be for those new to the Doughnut, but it also works for people who already know the idea, as it brings an embodied feeling to the intellectual concept.
How long does it take?
15 minutes for the shortest version, which can extend up to 45 minutes to an hour for the longer version, that involves either introducing the dimensions of the Doughnut, or inviting people to determine their own dimensions.
How many people is it for?
25 to 80
What do you need?
- Plenty of space! For 20-25 people you'll need a roughly square space that's 6 metres in diameter (in both directions). For 80 people you'll need a roughly square space that's 10 metres in diameter (in both directions). If you don't have a space that's roughly square or large enough, you can get creative with how you make the Doughnut. Remember, ideas in practice always meet reality, and we have to learn to be adaptive, and sharing this with the group can be a learning in itself.
- You don't need any props, but if you want to introduce the dimensions of the Doughnut, you might want these print outs.
What does the facilitator need to know or be able to do?
The activity works best if the facilitator has memorised the steps so they can keep the flow of the activity going without having to refer to notes.
Steps (15 minute version)
- Ask the group to self organise into a circle, with everyone standing equal distance apart. As the facilitator you can either stand with them, or in the middle.
- The way the activity starts is that you go round the circle and people take it in turns to call out ‘People’, ‘People’, ‘Planet’... repeating this pattern, and those who say 'People' take two big steps forwards as they say ‘People’. You can make it fun by inviting people to make an action or movement to represent either 'People' or 'Planet'.
- Planet-people then hold hands to form a circle and enclose the people-people. People-people might need to shuffle together at this point so planet-people can connect hands.
- People-people walk around the space enclosed by the planet and invite them to enjoy being held by the planet. Invite them to notice the space, notice the planet people, notice each other. Invite them to tune into what it is to be human on this planet. Invite them to tune into things they need to have access to to live a good life.
- Planet-people drop their hands as it gets tiring (thank them). Then invite people-people to form a circle, shoulder to shoulder, facing in.
- Invite people-people to then shuffle inwards until the inner limit is found when either the circle buckles or deforms. Really get people to squeeze together! Once the circle buckles or someone falls in the hole, get people-people to shuffle back to the limit of how close you can go whilst retaining the circle with everyone in
- Now introduce the idea of the social foundation. Leave no one in the hole, falling short on the essentials of life.
- People-people now turn outwards to face the planet.
- Planet-people re-join hands and ask them to see how far they can go backwards until hands disconnect and the circle fragments. Really make them go backwards (outwards) until they break apart.
- Now introduce the ecological ceiling and planetary overshoot.
- Invite planet-people to come back to the limit where the circle is as big as it can be with everyone’s hands touching. This is the limit, within which we want to be. Planet-people drop hands again.
- Introduce the idea of the Doughnut - to meet the needs of all within the means of the living planet. A goal of balance. Leaving no one falling short on the essentials of life in the hole in the middle, and at the same time not overshooting the limits of the planet.
- Introduce the dimensions of the Doughnut. At the planetary scale, politicians have defined the dimensions of the social foundation - the UN Sustainable Development Goals - and scientists have defined the dimensions of the ecological ceiling - the 9 planetary boundaries.
- Introduce that our current economies, based on endless expansion of GDP, is leaving billions of people in the hole of the Doughnut and overshooting 6 of the 9 Planetary boundaries. How can we transform our economics thinking, business models and public policy to come into balance?
- Introduce that the Doughnut offers ways to think that can help us navigate towards the Doughnut, including Distributive Design, to help everyone meet their needs, and Regenerative Design to help bring us back within planetary boundaries. You can go into more details about Regenerative and distributive design if you like, or save this until after the activity.
- Introduce that balance doesn't mean static. You can now have fun and see how much people can move whilst staying in the Doughnut shape. For example, planet-people hold hands and move them up and down like a wave, then both circles move to the left so the whole Doughnut is moving. We want to create economies that operate within these boundaries in dynamic balance and the invitation to you and to everyone is to innovate within these boundaries.
- Introduce that some people, on first seeing the Doughnut, say ‘I don’t like boundaries I want to break right through them’. Some boundaries are indeed for breaking through - the glass ceiling, racial segregation, unjust laws - but many boundaries exist to protect the health and life of delicately balanced biological and social systems. And limits can unlock creativity.
- To end the activity, invite people to share an idea or example of something to get us into the Doughnut, then run around the Doughnut with high fives from everyone, with celebratory whoops.
- You can combine this activity with Sparking Connections half-way through to introduce the Dimensions of the Doughnut.
- We are currently working on versions of this activity for young people of different ages, to be released in early 2024.
This activity was inspired by an activity created by Nina Lillelien from Volden Skole, Tønsberg, Norway.