Industry, Debt & Trade

Programme Idea 4

4. Winner takes all

Fist or palm?

Aim: To understand how the gap between rich and poor Countries began. To understand some of the basic forces at play here we need to explore our own sense of competitiveness and lack of trust and co-operation.

Allow 15 minutes.


You will need:

Two participants facing each other with hands behind their backs.

To make a large chart (Download 7k pdf file), with the scoring on it

Divide the group into pairs. Tell the participants the rules of the exercise and explain the scoring system. Be careful to refer to it as a 'game' (not a competition). Try to avoid words such as 'winning' or 'losing'. It is important that you do not in any way imply that this is a competitive exercise (though most participants will naturally assume that it is!)


The game is played in silence. Only the Leader may speak.

Partners face each other, with hands hidden (under table or behind their backs).

On a given signal (for example a whistle, or the word 'now') from the leader, players show their partner either a clenched fist or an open palm.

Each pair keeps its own score.


When you are sure that everyone understands the rules, start the game. Give a clear signal for hands to be shown. Repeat 10 times. Ask for scores. Has anyone scored more than 30? Anyone under 20? Do not make any comment.

Follow up:

Now play the game again but this time tell the players that they can discuss the game and negotiate possible moves with their partner. Again, they record their scores. They can have 10 further goes, which they take in their own time. Ask for scores and begin discussion.

Points for discussion

Did you think you were taking part in a competition, or were you helping each other to solve a problem?

Did any pairs decide to operate differently the second time around?

If you didn't discuss your moves, why not?

Did anyone agree a move, and then cheat?
(N.B. The best result for both partners is to show two open palms.)

Let the group discover the implications.

Does this game show anything about the way we operate on a world scale?

How similar is this 'game' to the way countries discuss trade agreements or disarmament? For example do they follow their own interests rather than co-operate with other countries?

Taken from 'It's not fair'- Christian Aid

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