Set the Stage

Act out the key roles of the economy, explore their relationships and play with the script in this interactive activity

Version 1.0 (January 2024)

From top to bottom: Rethinking Economics Students in London, UK; the School of Life Brazil; Ecological Design Thinking masters students at Schumacher College, UK; Team 28 and 29 students at Kaospilot, Aarhus, Denmark; Changing the Frame students, Schumacher College, UK.


This activity is based on chapter 2 of Doughnut Economics, called See the Big Picture. Inspired by the 90-second video animation below, it introduces participants to the 10 roles of the Embedded Economy Diagram. It does this by inviting 10 people in the group to play the 10 roles and gives each a role description of 'the old script' first of all, playing out the dynamics of the 20th century mainstream economy roles and relationships. It then introduces 'a new story', along with new role descriptions, before then opening up to the more realistic scenario of both stories being in play at the same time, to see how a new economic story might encounter the 'old script' on stage.

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Why use it?

The roles of the Embedded Economy give visibility to all key economic roles, including those that were sidelined in 20th century economic theories, such as unpaid care work in the household, and community co-production in the commons. When we see all the roles embodied we can explore their relationships and play with possibilities, and this can open up new ways of seeing how we can take action in our many and various economic roles in our life, in our work, in our community and globally.

Who is it for?

This activity is for facilitators, teachers and educators who want to open up awareness of the diversity of economic roles and relationships in the economy, both locally and globally. 

How long does it take?

The activity takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how much reflection and discussion time you choose to build in at each stage.

How many people is it for?

This activity works best with 20 to 30 people, with 10 acting roles and 10 to 20 audience members.

What materials do you need?

You need to print out - or make your own - cast list, which requires 10 x A4 sheets of paper. You might also want something like 10 x oblong sticky notes to temporarily hide the 'new story' role descriptions.

What does the facilitator need to know or be able to do?

To prepare for this activity, you might want to watch the animation above, and the video below, which will familiarise you with the Embedded Economy diagram and the roles.

This content is hosted by a third party: YouTube ( By clicking 'Show content' you confirm that you have read and agree to their Terms of service.

By clicking below you also consent to the creation of a cookie so we can remember your choice for one month. See our Privacy Notice for our full cookie policy.


This activity was written by Rob Shorter and Kate Raworth of DEAL. It was inspired by Team 28 and Team 29 students of Kaospilot, Aarhus. It has evolved in practice with the students of Rethinking Economics UK and the Ecological Design Thinking students 2023/24 at Schumacher College UK.


In advance:

  • Print out the 10 cast sheets from Doughnut Economics Cast List (see attachment)
  • Fold the cast sheets in two and cover each ‘new story’ with a sticky note so it’s hidden from view

1. Ask for 10 volunteers to be cast members and actors in the economic play. Hand out the cast roles.

2. Create the space of the stage by defining its edges. This could be a large rug, or measured out with tape, or some other clearly defined space. When on stage, you’re in character. 

3. Cast members: take it in turns to read out aloud your ‘old script’ role description to everyone. You are now acting that role.

4. In silence, the 10 cast characters start moving around the space, encountering other cast members as you go. As you encounter each other, react to their role, given your own. Notice each others’ reactions as you go. Keep reacting as your role in character.

5. Still in silence, and as a whole cast, create a physical configuration where your role is positioned in relation to all the other roles. You might want to be close to some and far away from others. You might want to do some actions or you might want to be still. You might want to stand up on something, or be close to the floor. Try not to discuss this, it's better to let it emerge through movement and expressions alone.

6. Look at the configuration that has been created. Now hear from each of the cast members - how does this feel and what do you notice? As a facilitator, go to different parts of the configuration and ask this question of the different cast members in those areas. And allow the feedback to flow with the what the actors are saying. For example, if someone mentions a strong dynamic with another cast member, maybe go to that person next to hear their perspective.

7. After asking the cast, now ask the audience what they observed.

8. Now ask where we see some of these dynamics playing out everyday, from our personal lives to the global economy.

9. Following this, it’s now time for a whole new story. How could these economic roles change and how could changes impact the relationships between them? Cast members: flip your cast-role paper, uncover your 'new script' and repeat steps 3 to 8 with ‘a new story’, starting by reassembling as a line of cast members on stage reading out your new role description to the audience.

9. Ok, now it’s time for a reality check. As we know, in theatre, you can just decide to change the script in an instant, but in reality change doesn’t happen like that. You can’t just drop the curtains on the old story and open the curtains on a new one. So this time, repeat steps 3 to 8 with some 'new story' characters trying to emerge whilst still surrounded by many old story characters. Choose which roles to change. Which do you think are most likely to try to transform first? Introduce these new story characters and see how the old story characters interact with them. What kinds of relationships emerge? What tensions arise? What’s the cast's experience of trying to rewrite the story in the middle of the old play?

10. If you want to take the activity in different directions, you can explore some of the following:

  • What additional roles do people think are important to add to the cast list, reflecting many cultural and geographic contexts? Bring these in as new cast members.
  • What different role descriptions do you want to create yourselves?
  • What differences exist place to place, culture to culture, geography to geography?

Reflect as a group or in pairs:

  1. What does the experience of this activity bring up for you - personally, in your work, in your community, or globally?
  2. What things do you think might help a new story emerge?





    Emily Glantz


    #taxjustice #fiscalmatters #sustainablefinance #financialinclusion #financialstability #upstream #freepalestine

    Asuncion Aguilar

    Sophia Antipolis, France and Barcelona, Spain

    Guiding organizations and regions through their transformational journey to embrace regenerative and distributive dynamics.


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