Finding a way to communicate the struggles experienced by SRLs to those who work everyday in the justice system – and for whom its complexities and anachronisms are commonplace and familiar – is a real challenge.
A critical part of NSRLP’s mission to help unpack some of the simple stereotypes about SRLs – for example, that they are intentionally creating difficulties, that they are enjoying the lonely experience of self-representation, or that they prefer to represent themselves than have a lawyer assist them – and to build greater understanding and empathy about the realities of the SRL experience.
Faced with this challenge, Sue Rice and Julie Macfarlane have developed the SRL Interactive Game, which we are beginning to use at professional conferences and training events.
How the Game Works
- First, a volunteer is solicited from the audience to play the SRL in the “Game” and is blindfolded (the metaphor is obvious).
- Having been blindfolded, the “SRL” is located at a distance (approximately 10-12 steps) from a given “target” destination, (marked as “Access to Justice”)
- Numbered cards (1-25) are then distributed to audience members. Each card contains:
- An “event” (taken from our data) in the experience of a SRL
- An instruction (for example, “move three steps forward” or “move one step backwards”). For a positive event the steps are forward, a negative event the steps are back. In the worst case, the SRL is directed ‘back to start” or doesn’t move at all.
- A quote(s) or finding from the original SRL Study that is relevant to the event/ experience
Here are some examples from our evolving card deck:
“Hello, I am Duty Counsel.
Sit down and tell me your story.”
(MOVE FORWARD 4 STEPS)
“Talking with duty counsel helped me confirm that I was understanding what was going on. ..the duty counsel was the best resource in helping me to know that I was doing this right.”
“You used the wrong form.
You will have to start again.”
(GO BACK TO START)
“This is a process that makes smart people feel stupid.”
“Everyday after work I go to the library and work on my papers, late into the night.”
You have used up all your vacation days and have to take unpaid leave to attend at court.
(MOVE BACKWARDS 3 STEPS)
“(Being a SLR)…sucks up all your time, your work suffers, your homelife and your other responsibilities suffer.”
- The “SRL” picks a number between 1 and 25 and on calling out that number, the card is read out by the audience member holding that card (in full, including the event, the instruction and the quote/ finding).
- A wild card allows the “SRL” to have a “friend” to help them move forward or back, but for most of the time they are on their own. For safety purposes, four “spotters” are positioned on the corners of the game area, representing four “extreme” consequences for SRLs – financial, emotional, health and employment.
- The game continues for a set time or until all the numbers have been exhausted/ all the cards read out OR the “SRL” reaches their target destination of “Access to Justice”.
Reflecting on the Game
Educational and training games can be highly effective at raising consciousness of new and challenging information and ideas. The SRL Interactive Game aims to provide insights into the realities of the SRL experience for both the volunteer “SRL”, and audience members who watch him/ her struggle.
Common themes in reflections by both the “SRL” and audience members after playing the game include a deeper sense of the difficulties faced by SRLs and the profound emotional disorientation and feeling of helplessless/ loss of control many experience. The game also serves to emphasize the types of support and assistance that SRLs value and need.
Incorporating the SRL Interactive Game into your conference/ training
If you are interested in having the SRL Game conducted at a training or conference event, or if you would like to discuss the possibility of us “training your trainer” to use the Game, please contact Julie Macfarlane (email@example.com) or Sue Rice (firstname.lastname@example.org) .