Sociograms and Spectrums

In a sociogram, participants place their bodies in positions that represent something about themselves. It’s a way to help people think more deeply about what they think—and share opinions within a group.

Time: 10-30 minutes Group Size: 7-100+ people

A Flexible Training Tool for Empowerment

In Russia they use “community sociograms”, where the facilitator stands in the centre of the floor and announces that this spot represents the centre of the learning community at this moment in time. The facilitator then asks participants to stand somewhere on the floor in a way that represents their relation to the centre at this moment (see I am the Centre).

After participants choose their spots, the facilitator moves around interviewing a sample of the participants. Their reflections support self-awareness about participation in the workshop, and participants often make a new choice about participation as a result.

Another popular version of sociogram is called the Spectrum (or spectrogram). In its simplest form, a Yes/No choice is constructed about a controversial issue, for example the strategic usefulness of property destruction in a social change campaign. On one side of the room one choice is posted on paper, and on the other side, the other choice. For example:

  • was the last action that we did effective (yes/no);
  • do you believe our group should engage in civil disobedience (yes/no);
  • do you have a personal commitment to strategic nonviolence (yes/no).

Participants are invited to place themselves on an imaginary line between the two choices, representing their own position on the issue. Once they’ve done that, interviews are done from a sample of participants over a range of positions.

The spectrum allows complex discussions of polarized debates. It can allow a lot of discussion and reveal new strategic considerations. Sociograms can be used:

  • to reflect on past actions/events/strategies;
  • as part of group decision-making by having people show where they currently feel (e.g. “are you for this current proposal? yes/no”);
  • as community-building by allowing individual reflection, especially on controversial issues.

Only your imagination limits the possibilities of using sociograms. One trainer asked a group: “Those who give leadership, go to that corner.” She paused while some went. “Those who give leadership that isn’t openly displayed, go to that corner.” (Amid embarrassed laughs, others went to the other corner.) This was followed by the group’s first really honest discussion of leadership. Other facilitators use sociograms to develop knowledge about social class, rank in their group, strengths in teamwork, roles in social movements, team types, and much more.