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Inviting Non-Human Stakeholders

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This method provides a process for empathic engagement with non-human beings and entities when focusing on a specific case or project.


When considering a specific issue or case study, people typically approach it exclusively from a human-centric perspective, prioritizing anthropocentric values, needs and visions. Learning to appreciate non-human perspectives, however, is crucial for socio-ecological harmony. This method brings ‘more-than- human’ viewpoints into the workshop by asking participants to embody the perspectives of specific beings and natural entities, such as animals, plants, rivers, forests, or mountains. The ‘characters’ selected are linked to the case or issue being addressed in the workshop.

For example, the characters can be more deeply integrated into the workshop by including them earlier via Storytelling. Additionally, this method can be combined with Prose, wherein participants write a poem from the perception of their character.

Variation: Using Masks

Masks can either be made by cutting out the face of the character, leaving eye holes, or using pictures portraying only the “eyes” of a character, with sticks attached. Participants can wear the masks or lay the “new eyes”on top of their own, allowing for a moment of reflection.


  1. Present participants with several cards, each representing
    a different ‘character’. Descriptions of the character’s contributions to the local ecosystems and culture, as well as their needs and wants, are written on the backside of the card;
  2. Invite participants to identify with one of the ‘characters’ by choosing a card and reading the description;
  3. Ask everyone to take a few moments to imagine being “in the skin” of their character: how does it feel, what do they notice, how do they move through the landscape?
  4. (optional) In pairs, participants introduce themselves to each other in character, either reading from their card and/or sharing spontaneous reflections (masks optional);
  5. Give participants some time (3-5 minutes) to reflect individually on their ‘character’. Invite them to write down some notes, words, or drawings, inspired by some guiding questions (sample script):
    * the “you” below refers to the character participants embody*
    • What does this place mean to you?
    • What is your best memory of this place?
    • If you think about the past, is there something you are grateful for?
    • How are the changes taking place affecting you and your life?
    • What do you wish for the future of the place, what are the needs you wish could be fulfilled for your species?
    • How would you like to contribute to making this ideal future come true?
  6. Participants share insights or thoughts in pairs, and in the group.
Place on U
5-20 minutes
Materials Needed

Cards with images of various characters used in the exercise on one side, and a short description of the character on the other; paper and pen; (optional) masks based on the characters.

Disruptive Practices
Online Engagement
Care & Empathy
Human-Nature Connection
Ecological Mindsets
Tip and Experiences

The characters chosen should reflect the type of thinking you want to inspire (e.g. characters with different lifespans to inspire long-term thinking, or characters that are important to the relevant ecosystems or cultural heritage of a specific case).

Relevant References & Resources

This method was inspired by Joanna Macy’s “Council of All Beings’: Macy & Brown (1998). Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World.

More-Than-Human Empathy: Abram (1997). The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World.

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