The Matchbox Game

Migrant Entrepreneurship & Employment


− To address the issue of immigrants integration

− To make the participants feel some of the difficulties immigrants face in their integration into a host country

− To understand how external conditions can influence, positively and negatively

− To understand the importance of having a clear purpose

− To develop resilience and determination

− To develop skills of critical analysis


Expected Outcomes

In the end of the sessions the participants will be able to understand the difficulties of the process of immigrants’ integration in a host country and to feel sympathetic for those who are in that position. As this session is based on a role play, the participants will perform specific roles and feel on the skin what the other feels. It is also expected that participants understand that external factors, the environment, influence a lot and that is important to have in mind a clear goal and to be resilient.


Target group

All groups/society


Number of participants: 15 – 30 people



(1 - very easy, 5 - very difficult)

Degree of expertise needed - 3

The amount of work to prepare and implement the scenario - 2

Relative overall cost predicted - 1



1h 30 min


One large room with 2 totally separate places

Chairs (one per person) put in U-shape

2 tables placed on each side of the room

2 Chairs (one per table).



flipchart or blackboard; paper; markers

40 matchboxes of small dimension (4,5 cm x 3,5 cm x 1,5 cm) (These dimensions are only indicative)

2 blindfolds for the eyes or scarves to cover the eyes

Copy of  instructions’ Cards for the Main Characters (Annex 1 and Annex 3)

Copy of 6 instructions Card’s for the Secondary Characters (Annex 2 and Annex 4)

A clock with stopwatch and timer



The facilitator prepares the space: on each side of the room will be placed one table and one chair, the flipchart or the blackboard will be on a place to be seen by all. In each of the table he/she spread the matchboxes. The facilitator has printed the 8 Instructions’ cards: the 2 Instructions’ Card for the “Immigrants” (Annex 1 and Annex 3), the 6 Instructions’ Card for the “Characters” (Annex 2 and Annex 4).




Session’s presentation: facilitators, participants, objectives and sequence.

Brief explanation of the Role Playing. There will be 2 immigrants who are in a process of settling in a host country. (15 min)



Role Play “The Matchbox Game” (30 min)


The facilitator explains the main aspects of the game to the participants. He/she tells that this is a role play and there will be 2 immigrants who are in a process of settling in a host country. He/she asks for two volunteers, who do not mind having a blindfold for a while. (5 min)

The facilitator gives an ‘Instruction Card’ to each and asks them to wait outside of the room when studying their role (10 min).

Meanwhile, the facilitator explains to the participants in what consists the game:

− Each of the volunteers waiting outside is an immigrant who is in a process of settling in a host country. Each of them has to pile matchboxes in a tower. The matchboxes represent different steps/aspects of his/her integration (job, school, family, money, communication in country’s language, official documents, residence/home, neighborhood, support networks). In spite of some of these aspects are more important than others, all of them are important foundations and building a tower with these boxes represents his/her success in his/her way of integration. Each of the immigrants has to pile at least 7 matchboxes because it represents the basic conditions for him/her to stay in the country. Only from 7 upwards the immigrant can stay and start a life. For each box as he/she can pile the tower he/she is becoming more and more integrated.

− This game has two different phases. In the first phase the 2 volunteers will do the exercise (previous explained) alone, during 8 min. and after that there will be a second phase, in which the ‘immigrants’ will repeat the exercise but, without they know, other ‘characters’ will participate, performing different roles.

Then, the facilitator asks for more 6 volunteers and gives the instruction’s cards to them. The volunteers have to study their roles. They are prepared to enter in the game only when the facilitator will call them. The facilitator tells them that they will interact with the immigrants (3 to one and 3 to the other) and to talk according to his/her character (instruction card) but they never, under no circumstances, can touch the immigrants nor the materials (except if and when the immigrants gives them matchboxes).


If there are more participants, the facilitator can divide the group in two and ask them to be the observers, one group per table.


Phase 1

The facilitator calls the two volunteers into the room and guide each of them to a table.

He/she explains (what they already read in their cards) that the spread matchboxes represent the foundations required for their process of integration in a host country, they have to pile it up in a tower (one on top of another) for having a successful integration and life in a host country. He/she stresses that at least they have to pile 7 matchboxes but they can pile much more, for each box they pile the tower they are becoming more and more integrated.

He/she explain that they will have to pile the matchboxes blindfolded and using only their less skilled hand, and they will have 8 min for that.

He/she asks the immigrants to set a number they think they can achieve. They define their goals. In the flipchart / board the facilitator draw 2 columns (with the names of the ‘characters’ they are performing) and two lines (one for the expected results and one for the achieved results) and notes the numbers (expected results) of each immigrant.

Then, the facilitator covers the immigrants’ eyes with the blindfolds and the exercise begins.

When the time is over, the facilitator tells them to stop and not make any more movement, uncover their eyes, counts the piled matchboxes and note the numbers in the flipchart / board. (8 min)


Then, he/she inform the immigrants that they will have a second chance to improve their results. The first time was a pilot test when they experimented how it is working with blind eyes and with just their skilled hand and now they will have a second opportunity, and also with more time, they will have 12 min.

The facilitator draws an identic grid for the 2nd opportunity and notes the numbers that the immigrants transmit. He/she cover their eyes again and the game begins.


Phase 2

In the first 2 minutes the game proceeds as in the first phase, nothing different happens. But, after that, the facilitator will pick up one volunteer and place him/her in front of each of the immigrant’s table.

Each of them will perform his/her role. He/she has to make the immigrant understand what he/she is there for. He/she has to act and to talk according to his/her character (instruction card).

The facilitator picks up the other characters, one by one, but giving enough time between them, in order the immigrants, who are blindfolded, become aware of different persons around and different roles, behaviours, requests, orientations. It is important that the immigrants realize that there are ones who are trying to help them and others who don’t, and also others that give contradictory orientations. (12 min)

When the time is over, the facilitator tells them to stop and not make any more movement, uncover their eyes, counts the piled matchboxes and note the numbers in the flipchart / board. The facilitator compare the numbers between the two immigrants and between the two phases, declare a winner of each phase and invite the participants to go back to their seats for the debriefing. (5 min)




In the debriefing the facilitator should address firstly the immigrants, then the other characters and at last the observers. (30 min)


Questions for the Immigrants:

About the 1st phase

− Was it difficult?

− Did you have a strategy for reaching your goal?

− What helped you and what prejudiced you?

− Was the time enough?

− What did you feel when you knew there would be a second chance?

− What did you feel about being ‘blind’ / not being able to use your most skilled hand?

About the 2nd phase

− Did you feel more confident than in the 1st phase?

− What did you feel when you realize that the game rules have changed (persons around)?

− Did you have the perception of what they wanted? Did they helped you in your task or not?


Questions for the characters (address the same questions to each of them):

− What was your role? (Help the immigrant; Difficult his/her life)

− What did you feel in that role? (Good, bad, ambiguous)

− Was difficult or easy to perform that role?  How did you manage it?


Questions for the Observers:

In the1st phase

− How was the immigrant? Confident or afraid? Enthusiastic / Sceptic? Focused or dispersed?

And in the 2nd phase, after entering the characters

− Did he/she continued motivated or willing to give up? Did they show despair, anger? Was he/she calm/nervous?

− Did he/she accomplish his/her goals? What help him/her the most? What prejudiced him/her?

− And the characters, did they followed their role until the end or modified their behaviour?


Tips for reflection / Parallelism with reality:

− Did the participants (immigrants and the other characters) were in a situation that felt the same (‘external factors’ defaulting or helping them)?

− Do you know any immigrant who had passed for difficult situations when arriving to a host country? How did he/she managed?

− Do you think that they can feel ‘blind’ and ‘handicapped’ (Not being able to use one’s most skilled hand)?

− Do you already have been in the situation of the host characters (local persons who host immigrants)?

− What can be done to help immigrants?


Support tools

− Attendance list;

− Evaluation exercise: The 5 fingers of a hand: (15 min)

− Thumb - what I considered cool?

− Forefinger: what I point out (for good or for bad)?

− Middle finger: what I considered bad?

− Ring finger: my relation with the group of participants?

− Little finger: what was not enough?




Martins, A., et all. (2008). Clube Mais – Educação para o Empreendedorismo. 1ª Edition Moura. Funded by the Equal Initiative. Available in Portuguese at:


Ideas for action

For smaller groups the Role Play can be done with only one immigrant and 3 characters. The role of the characters can be modified in order to respond to specific purposes of the session.

This Role Play can also be done to highlight the obstacles that arise when launching a business, in general, regardless of immigrant added difficulties, and can be part of a training program for entrepreneurial skills.



Annex 1: Instructions’ Card for the “Immigrant Entrepreneurs” - Ilyna

Annex 2: Instructions’ Card for the “Characters” for Ilyna

Annex 3: Instructions’ Card for the “Immigrant Entrepreneurs” - Mohammed

Annex 4: Instructions’ Card for the “Characters” for Mohammed


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