The set-up for this activity is very simple:
Offer people a large piece of paper and crayons/markers/pens.
Ask them to think about their own life as a river to get to this workshop/event: “What different streams and other rivers helped you get here—working on this issue and involved in this movement? Think about the fast-moving times in your life and the challenges or rocks that you moved through. Draw these as a river. Use the metaphor to its fullest—maybe there are offshoots, rapids, waterfalls, or still times in ponds, etc.”
Give people at least 8 minutes to draw. If you give people more time, then they will need to spend more time sharing. This activity can be done in as little as 20 minutes, or as long as 1.5 hours.
After people draw, give them some time to share, either in small groups (takes less time) or in the whole group (takes more time).
ALTERNATIVE: THE LIFE OF THE GROUP OR THE CAMPAIGN
You can also have people draw a river of life not for their personal lives, but for the life of the group/campaign. In this version, people draw in small groups or, if the group is under a dozen people or so, in the whole group. This time they are drawing the river following the course of the campaign.
This is another way to have people reflect—perfect for a group needing to rethink the arc of their campaign, or who may need sometime to appreciate their strengths in campaigning.
OTHER ADAPTATIONS: During a 350 training in the Philippines, the facilitators drew the end of a river flowing into the ocean and explained “This represents our goal.” Then they asked people to draw backwards from their vision of the goal to what would help them reach it.
(For other tools to help visualise the path of the campaign, see Review of Activities Timeline or the Paper Plate Challenge.)