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Theme C: Social Sustainability

Activity Theme 3.2 The Story of Abigail

This activity highlights how our daily judgments of right and wrong are based on underlying value systems which influence the way we assess situations and understand actions.

To understand one’s own values and the diverse variety of values within the group To reflect upon how little it can actually take for people to be judged and excluded. It gives inspiration to a discussion about climate blame.


-Are there online activities?

-Are there offline activities?



Are the participants  expected to interact?


Does the facilitator interact?


Are online activities used?


There is a lot of blame related to climate change. Judging each other's behaviour. For some, an action or an opinion may be considered correct and logical while the very same actions or opinions may be considered wrong and abstract for others (for example, some may think it is ok
to not sort your trash or okay to fly with an aeroplane etc., where others really despise such actions). 

Tell the participants they will listen to a story.
They have to assess the actions and behaviour of the characters in the story, first on their own, and afterwards in groups. This will allow them to compare perspectives and discover other participant’s value systems. Explain to the participants this specific exercise is often used in intercultural settings to explore differences.


Carry out

Read the following story aloud, at a slow pace:

“Abigail loves Tom who lives on the other side of the river. A flood has destroyed all the bridges crossing the river, and has left only one boat afloat. Abigail asks Sinbad, the owner of the boat, to bring her to the other side. Sinbad agrees, but insists Abigail has to sleep with him for his service. Abigail is confused as to what to do. She goes to her friend and asks for advice. The friend tells her she does not want to interfere in Abigail’s personal business. In desperation, Abigail accepts. Sinbad then takes her across the river. Abigail meets Tom, happily embracing him and then tells him what has happened and what sacrifice she had to make, to see him. Tom pushes her away and leaves her; angry and disappointed about her action. Not far from Tom’s house, Abigail meets John, Tom’s best friend. She is upset, does not know what to do and tells him what has happened. John hits Tom for treating Abigail that way and walks away with her.”


After the story, ask the participants to individually rank the five characters
– Abigail, Tom, Sinbad, the friend and John. Who acted the best?
Who acted the worst? Tell them to rank from 1 to 5, where 1 is the worst behaved person.


Split the participants into groups of four. Give the groups 10 minutes to discuss and rank the characters again, using their individual rankings as a starting point, but ending with a ranking they have agreed on all together.

Ask each group to present their ranking and explain their reasoning.
Allow for discussion after all groups have presented their ranking.

Debriefing: What can this story tell? That we are all sinners?
Or how difficult it is to do the right thing? Debrief by asking the participants if it was difficult to agree within the groups.

How did the groups manage to come up with a ranking everyone could agree on? Allow for some discussion and then present the Iceberg

Model of Culture:

• Explain that what we see on the surface is only the story of Abigail at a particular point in time. We are not aware of what happened before the story began, we do not know the background of the characters in the story, and we have no knowledge of their relations.

• With reference to the Iceberg Model, point out only a very small portion of the iceberg can be seen; the bulk of the iceberg is underneath the water line and therefore invisible.



• How did you find this exercise?

• Was it difficult? Thought-provoking?

• What have you learnt about your own judgements?

• Ask participants how the different characters and their actions would be

perceived; if this was a true story, taking place in their own community?

Would any actions be deemed unacceptable? Would they lead to social

exclusion? What consequences might this kind of exclusion have had?

• Ask if the participants have experienced anyone being excluded from

society if they have ‘misbehaved’. How do mistakes affect their rank?

Preparation and materials

Pens and papers
Flip chart
The Abigail story, printed out for each group


Around 30-45 minutes.









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