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Co-operative Puzzles


Begin by asking the group: “What do people need to do in order to co-operate successfully in any task?” Note down important points on flipchart paper e.g. each person needs to know what the task is; what they can do to help; what other players can contribute; how to help other players; and how to accept help from them. After five to ten minutes explain that you are going to play a game to see how co-operation works in practice. Sit or stand players in groups of six (around tables if available). Place an observer or two at each table.

Give a large envelope containing a set of hexagons to each group and ask them to give each member one small envelope. They must not open the envelopes yet.

Read out: “In the small envelopes, there are pieces of cardboard. Your group’s task is to exchange pieces of cardboard with each other so that you can make hexagons. The group must end up with six hexagons all of the same size. During the game, everyone must follow these rules:

  • You may not ask for, or signal for any piece, held by another group member. If you want any piece, you must wait until it is freely given to you.
  • You may give any piece you have to any other member of your group at any time, but you may not ask for anything in return. Please work in silence until your group has finished.
  • Make sure that everyone understands these rules and show where they are displayed on the flipchart paper.
  • Then say: “Go!”

While groups are working, the leader and any observers must not intervene other than making sure that the rules are being strictly observed. At the same time, the leader and observers can see how groups are progressing: noting what strategy, if any, a group is using; seeing if leadership is developing etc. Note which group completes six equal hexagons first. Allow time for all groups to finish unless they get really stuck, which can be useful in the discussion later.

Ask the small groups to stay at their tables and then request each group member to tell the others in that group in turn how they felt at the outset and at the end of the activity. Then start a second round in the group, again in turn, telling each other what they were trying to do. Finally, encourage all the members of each group and their observers to discuss what actually happened.


Come back together as a whole group and ask for impressions, descriptions and insights about feelings and actual behaviour; including:

  • How successful was it working together?
  • How did you communicate?
  • How did people help or obstruct each other?
  • Did people take different roles in the group?
  • How did co-operating make you feel?
  • How does this compare to the ideal co-operative behaviour discussed beforehand?
  • What actions could you change in the future?

Variation One

Remove the restriction on non-verbal communication.

Variation Two

If you want to make any of the hexagon formats simpler to piece together, then use a symbol, map, logo or picture as a background to each unit.

Resources Required

A set of cardboard hexagons from the activity sheet below, in a large envelope for each group of Pioneers (six Pioneers plus at least one observer per group); enlarge the Co-operative Hexagons template on a photocopier and stick the copied sheet onto card. Cut out the pieces, and put all the pieces with the same alphabetical letter on them into a small envelope. Repeat for all letters. You should have six small envelopes when you have finished. Put these into a large envelope. Prepare other sets in the same way so each group of six will have one. You will also need a piece of flipchart paper with the two rules written out (see below), more flipchart paper, and pens. Tables are helpful if available


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