IAF Methods

Fear in a Hat

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This process can be either used as a first activity, during the initial part, or even in the middle of the program. It is used to foster group support and can be helpful for raising the group's awareness to issues that they might want to value in a Group Contract (e.g. supporting each other, showing respect etc.).
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The purpose of this activity is to raise the awareness of the group to problems they all share, and to thereby bring the group closer together.


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  • A hat, bag or basket
  • paper and pencil per participant



Ideal conditions: The participants should feel comfortable in the environment


1. As a first step, the facilitator has to set an appropriate tone, being e.g. settled, attentive, caring or serious in an easy way to do so, by using the wanted tone in the introduction, commencing the topic of fear, and explaining that this is a natural feeling. Openly acknowledging fear, without being subject of ridicule can help, and will reduce the fear.

2. The facilitator now asks everyone, including the group leader (if applicable) to anonymously complete the following sentence on a piece of paper: "In this trip/group/program, I am [most] afraid that..." or "In this trip/group/program, the worst thing that could happen to me would be..."

3. These pieces of paper will be collected and then mixed (in a hat), asking each participant to take one of them and then read about someone else's fear. In turns, each group member will then out the fear in front of them, and then elaborate what he/she thinks that person is most afraid of in this situation. No one is to comment on the statement, or on what has been said, but only listens.

4. When one person is done, the facilitator can ask the next one to go on. In case that a person does not know what to say, one or two questions can be asked, e.g. Do you have the same fear. If the person still does not elaborate after the questions, the facilitator should leave him/her to it, and move on to the next person.
The facilitator should avoid showing his/her opinion about the fear, unless a person seems to misunderstand or even disrespect the note.

5. As soon as all fears have been read out and elaborated on, a discussion about people's notions and feelings can be introduced.

This activity can lead into other activities, e.g. developing a group contract, setting personal or team goals or any activity in which the participants explore their feelings closer.

Possible variations are to change the subject from fears to Likes and Dislikes (in two separate hats), Worries, Complaints/gripes, Favorite Moments or Wishes.


Follow-Up Required: There is no follow-up required, but a reflection is of course possible.

Usual or Expected Outcomes: The outcome should be a group that feels comfortable about themselves, and less insecure about what might happen.

Potential pitfalls: A problem might occur when a participants ridicules someone's fear and thereby disrespects that (anonymous) person and the whole group.

How success is evaluated: The process is successful when the participants feel more positive about themselves, and the group.


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