Rights Race Exercise

Time: About 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the group
Materials: A large room or open space, piece of paper to represent the corporate charter or a corporate person costume, step forward/step back list


This activity works well after an explanation of corporate constitutional rights and the history of corporate power.  Choose a local issue that folks are aware of - ie, clearcutting, pollution, mountaintop removal mining, etc - and the corporation and elected government entity that are involved with that problem. 

For example:
Issue: Mountaintop Removal
Corporation: Massey Coal Company
Government: City Council

Set the scene

Participants line up on one side of the room, activity leader on the other.

Activity leader: "I am the City Council, and you are the people of this community.  There is a proposal by Massey Coal Company to blast off the tops of some mountains in our community to mine the coal underneath.  You are the concerned citizens of our community, and it's my job to listen to the people as I make this decision."

Explain the race

Activity leader: "Now, in order to influence the Board of Supervisors, you have to get to them.  Whoever gets over here first has more sway over the decision. I'm going to read a set of statements, and if they are true for you, take a step forward or backward as appropriate. This exercise should be done in silence. If don't hear what I say, you can ask me to repeat the statement. If you don't want to answer a question you can pass and stay where you are, or lie."

The race!

Activity leader reads the list. Feel free to skip around, but be sure to ask all types of questions. Once you have asked a significant number of privilege questions, nod to the "lawyer" with the corporate charter or who is leading the corporation (works best if this character is hiding out of sight from the audience so they don't know they are part of the exercise). The lawyer should interrupt the game and say something like, "excuse me, I hear this community is about to make an important public policy decision. My client, Massey Coal Company is a good corporate citizen that will be impacted. We have a right to be included in the public process. Since we were not invited, I'm going to start here [and walk to the front of the line]."

Then begin to ask the rights and realities questions that would apply to the corporation as well (at the end of the list, in grey).

(NOTE: You may need to let the volunteer know when he/she gets to take extra steps as a corporate person. It also works to plant a co-presenter or informed volunteer in this role.)


Have everyone return to a circle (standing or sitting) to debrief.  Prompts:

  • How did it feel as a community member to be part of the race?
  • What is the likely outcome of the decision?
  • Were you surprised by anything? 
  • Do you have any questions about any of the rights used in the scenario?