Ideas for youth work

When working with youth on the topic of resistance, it’s helpful to have interactive tools, methods and pedagogical impulses at hand to keep the group process flowing and integrate participants into the discussion. In this section, we have collected some shorter and more extensive methods that you can use when working with young people.

Before jumping into the exercises, it is often helpful to begin with starter, icebreaker or energizer activities. They help to warm up the group and give the possibility for the participants to get to know each other better. Here are some starter activity collections available in different languages: Games/Energizers/Dynamicas

Council of Europe: Starters

Exercise: Which resistance form is right for me?

Duration: 30 min 


Ask the group which forms of resistance they know. Collect the examples (possible examples they know: strikes, demonstrations/protests, letters to the editor of a newspaper etc.) by writing them down on post-its or cards and sticking them on a flip-chart, whiteboard, chalkboard etc.

Complete the list. Present the following forms of resistance if they haven’t been mentioned. Explain each resistance form briefly and encourage the group to ask questions if they have any. Each form of resistance can also be added to the post-it collection.

Examples of non-violent resistance

  • Letters to the press or to politicians
  • Songs
  • Demonstrations
  • Street theatre
  • Vigils
  • Strikes
  • Civil disobedience (not paying taxes, demonstrating without permission, blockades,…)
  • Collecting evidence of the Holocaust under National Socialism, e.g. in the form of          photos, drawings, letters, ...
  • Speeches and sermons
  • Refusal to perform military service
  • Blockades (street blockades, train-track blockades)
  • Occupations (squats, land occupations, tree occupations with tree houses)

Examples of violent resistance

  • Damage to property, e.g. sabotage
  • Assassinations and attacks
  • Armed struggle
  • Fighting in the armed resistance, for example the Italian partisans during WWII

The difference between non-violent and violent resistance is crucial. It is important to explain this difference well, especially the meaning and possible legitimacy of violent resistance. For this and further theoretical foundations, please refer to the INTRODUCTION: Types of resistance.


Choose 5-10 forms of resistance out of this list (it is advisable to choose forms of resistance with different degrees of risk) and do a sociometric line-up:

Make space in the room so that participants can stand in a long line.

  • Declare that one end of the room represents the answer: “I can very much imagine practicing this form of resistance myself, if it were absolutely necessary”.
  • The other end of the room represents the answer: “This form of resistance is much too risky for me. I could never imagine doing this, no matter under which circumstances”.

The space in between the two poles represents a continuum. Explain to the group that for each card you will read out, you would like the participants to take a stand in the room depending on their answer.

Our recommended selection:

  • Letters to the press or to politicians
  • Demonstrations
  • Strikes
  • Damage to property, e.g. sabotage
  • Blocking an airplane deporting refugees back to their home countries where they face torture or death
  • Fighting in the armed resistance, for example the Italian partisans during WWII
  • Speaking up to a man in a bus who is showing racist behaviour

When you are finished, ask the participants to take a seat again and reflect about their answers.


  • Which actions were too risky? Why?
  • Were there any surprises?
  • Have they done any of these actions already?
  • Could they now imagine doing a certain action which they couldn’t imagine doing before?
  • Can violent resistance ever be justified? If yes, when?
  • Are there still resistance fighters today?
  • What would be a reason for you to resist?
  • Is Greta Thunberg a resistance fighter?

Reference: Developed by Zentrum polis, 2023.

Exercise: Impro theatre

Duration: 15-20 min


Arrange the seats in the room so that they are all facing in the same direction. Leave a free space for the “stage”. You are now sitting in a theatre! Read out the first scenario. Then ask the group, if someone would like to play out the rest of scene.


  • Family finds a war deserter in their farmhouse; family members have different attitudes and discuss whether he should be allowed to stay or not. If the war deserter is caught, he faces the death sentence. If the family is caught hiding him, they all face the death sentence.
    (Roles: deserter, mother, father, daughter, uncle, neighbour)
  • Father listens to oppositional radio station every night, mother thinks that the family is under surveillance by the violent regime and that it is better if he stops. Listening to this illegal station can lead to torture by the police.
    (Roles: father, father’s partner, son, aunt)
  • Two teenagers discuss whether to tell their parents that they are handing out leaflets against the Nazis. They don't want to lie to their parents, but they don't want them to worry either. And they are not sure if the parents are also against the Nazis.
    (Roles: mother, father, two teenagers)

It is also possible to come up with other scenarios or expand them, adding other roles to each scenario (other family members, the lawyer and advisor of the family, a nosy neighbour, etc.) – just use your imagination!

After more or less 5 minutes it is alright to interrupt the scene. Thank the actors for their courage to go on stage! After the first scenario, you can continue with the next one.

Reflection in the group

  • What could the audience see?
  • How did it feel for the actors to be in their roles?
  • Was there a very challenging moment?
  • Was there a surprising moment?
  • Do they know a similar example from real life?

Reference: Developed by Zentrum polis, 2023.

Exercise: Film discussion

Duration: 30-45 min 


Watch the youth-friendly movie: Meet Anne Frank. Germany, 24:45 min.
Subtitles available in over 50 languages.

Alternatively, you can choose a different audio-visual source from the “Useful Resources” section (e.g. witness interviews) and adapt the discussion questions accordingly.


After watching the movie (or an excerpt of the movie), discuss the following questions with the participants:

  • What was the movie about?
  • What impressed you?
  • Which topics were mentioned from the past?
  • Which topics were mentioned that are still relevant today?
  • What was the main message of the movie?
  • What does Anne Frank’s example have to do with human rights? Which of Anne Frank’s human rights were abused? (Consult Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
  • What would you have done in Anne Frank’s situation? Would you have chosen a different form of resistance? Explain why.

Reference: Developed by Zentrum polis, 2023.

Exercise: Reflecting on the rebellious moment of democracy

Duration: 30-60 min (depending on context)

Aims / objectives

The aim of this exercise is to sharpen (self-) reflection and critical analysis of the political environment, one‘s own position in society, possibilities for action and power relations. The method should encourage reflection on courage, oppression, daily power distribution, structural discrimination, one’s own biography in terms of when one stood up against injustice or authoritarianism and what happened as a result. The democratic moment is that moment when a person demands their own rights to have a say and resists oppression – or does so for others.

Description of the method

There are two variants of this method. In the first variant, the facilitator (youth worker) describes certain situations in which people are treated unfairly, oppressed or discriminated against. This can be shown through short videos, cards, comics or short stories. One part of the participants then tries to put themselves in the shoes of these people and think about options for action. These are developed in small groups and then presented to the rest of the participants. The others work out scenarios of reactions. What can succeed, what consequences can be expected? This exercise can be illustrated by stories about real cases of resistance.

Examples of discrimination:

  • A man orders a coffee at the bar. The waitress replies: “I am sorry, we do not serve coffee to your kind of people”.
  • An older woman with worn-out clothes approaches another woman sitting on a bench in the park. She asks the woman on the bench, if she could spare some change. The woman sitting replies: “I don’t have anything for you people. Maybe it would be better if you went back to your own country.”
  • A woman is standing on the street. A car drives up and stops next to her. A man sitting on the passenger’s seat sticks his head out of the window and shouts at her: “Hey sweetheart, looking good today!”
  • A man is sitting on the street, begging for money. Two police officers walk up to him and demand that he leaves, because he is bothering the clients of the neighbouring fashion boutique.

In the second variant, the participants consider for themselves at what moments they were unruly or rebelled against authority, but also when they were not and why. Possible consequences should always be discussed. Following the examples, there should be a general discussion about the question of when it is necessary and possible to democratically rebel against authoritarianism, discrimination and injustice.

Usability in youth work

First feedback from youth workers in the context of our project shows that the method can also be applied, at least partly, in an informal context, without many formal requirements. Nonetheless, a more formal context (i.e. at least a room where a group can discuss without disturbance) offers more possibilities. In any case, it is important to point out the possibilities for action that the participants have in a given context. While it is important to raise awareness of unjust power relations, this should not end in the impression of powerlessness, but on the contrary, strengthen the courage to get involved in different situations.

Reference: Pausch, M. (2019). Democracy Needs Rebellion, Theoria, 66(161), 91-107. Retrieved Oct 17, 2021,

Text message to victims of hate speech

Duration: 30 min

Aims / objectives

The aim is to put oneself in the shoes of victims of bullying, or victims of hate speech, and threats or discrimination, and to consider what words might give comfort. Empowering victims is an important aspect of combating hate speech and building resilience.

Description of the method

The trainer describes a case of hate speech, a young person being discriminated against or insulted. The participants think about and formulate text messages to comfort and give strength to the person. They show their solidarity through these texts. Afterwards, they discuss which text messages are particularly successful and what mistakes to watch out for.

Usability for social work

The method is suitable for social work and can be tried out in that setting using real examples. The formal framework is not very important, but care should be taken to ensure that there is space for discussion.