A Party to Recruit Corporantia

1009892593_d597a0608e_bImagine a party which goes like this:

  1. Guests: Upon arrival, each guest is given a bracelet with a letter and a color (e.g. for forty guests, there might be one red bracelet of each letter—A, B, C and D—two green bracelets of each letter, three yellow bracelets of each letter, and four white of each letter). Each guest must keep their bracelet for the duration of the game.
  2. Rooms: There is one room (or circle) per letter, and each guest is initially assigned to the room corresponding to his/her letter. At the beginning of the game, ensure that each room has exactly the right number of chairs for the number of guests assigned to that room.
  3. Winning: The goal of the game is to maximize dancing. When the music starts, each guest not “in poverty” goes to his/her assigned room. All guests with the letter corresponding to their assigned room dance.
  4. Entering Poverty: When the music stops, each guest must sit in a chair. If there are not enough chairs, then the guests assigned to that room must set an objective rule to decide who gets a chair. To make it objective, all criteria for the rule must come from the bracelets. For example, people cannot win chairs by being faster, stronger, or more aggressive. Instead, priority for a chair could go to people with red bracelets, or green bracelets, or the most common color, or the least common color, or the most common color among the impoverished, or to the color that didn’t get a chair last time (etc.). Anyone lacking a chair goes into “poverty”.
  5. Chair Movement: During each song, the host records a census of color and room assignment among those in poverty, then identifies two rooms at random. The room with more assigned people currently in poverty is the winner for that song and the other is the loser. The host, all people in poverty, and anyone sitting (not dancing) in a room other than the loosing room transfer one chair each from the losing room to the winning room.
  6. Prison: When someone from poverty takes a chair, the guests assigned to the losing room may optionally send that person to prison. Anyone sent to prison takes the chair to prison and sits in it until the end of the game. People in prison have no room assignment; they do not dance nor move chairs from room to room.
  7. Exiting Poverty: After chairs are moved, each person left in poverty flips a coin; those who get heads  leave poverty and become reassigned to the winning room (although they cannot dance if their bracelet doesn’t have the letter corresponding to their room assignment).
  8. Ending the Game: The songs get shorter and shorter. The party ends after a set number of songs (e.g. 20).

At the end of the party, the guests review the record of diversity among those in poverty. Were there times when the rules to decide who gets a chair changed? Why? How did guests feel about people who shared their color? How did they feel about people who shared their letter? How many people were dancing in the end?

This is an exercise you can use to raise awareness of how diversity impacts us. Rather than model diversity in a simplified way which implies that we should be blind to diversity, this exercise acknowledges that diversity comes in two kinds. Each room represents a social role, and the chairs in that room represent the number of positions available for that role. The letters and colors on the bracelets represent our diversity. Some elements of our diversity are relevant to social roles and others are not, yet both kinds of diversity can impact who loses social positions when there aren’t enough positions to go around.

“Stay-at-home parent” and “small business owner” are two examples of social positions that became dramatically less common at certain points in history. Participants in the exercise should ask themselves: How many such transitions do I expect to witness in my lifetime? Were any stages in the game reflective of modern life? What would it take to maximize dancing?

This game is rigged for evaluativism: Even though rule 5 always favors the room with the greater opportunity to improve, it writes-off the losing room entirely. Then what comes around goes around; no matter what players decide about who goes to prison and who goes to poverty, rule 5 rigs the game so that most people will not be dancing in the end.

Corporantia are players who want to replace rule 5 with a more subtle kind of chair-balancing that scientifically determines the number of chairs to move. They want to figure-out how many people were assigned each letter, and balance the distribution of chairs across all rooms so that the number of chairs in a given room matches the number of people with the corresponding bracelet. To implement such a rule in real life would relinquish unprecedented political and economic power to science. Those who propose such a shift can seem to be “playing god,” and it takes exercises like this one to build consensus.