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The Bead Game

A Tearfund partner in Senegal developed a game technique to evaluate participant's knowledge, attitudes, and practices before and after educational sessions about AIDS

1998 Available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

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From: Coping with conflict – Footsteps 36

Ideas for helping to resolve conflict within and between communities

A useful evaluation tool

It is difficult to collect data to evaluate HIV/AIDS education programmes. Working with people who have low levels of literacy is particularly challenging, because written questionnaires cannot be used and people are hesitant to reply honestly in oral interviews.

CRWRC project staff in Senegal developed a game technique to evaluate participants’ knowledge, attitudes and practices before and after educational sessions about AIDS. This tool helped us gather data on sexual practices while allowing participants to share information anonymously.

The game uses small, numbered cloth bags. Coloured beads are given to participants. A series of questions to which the answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, are read out. For each question, a participant responds by placing a bead in a numbered bag which is passed around the room by a facilitator. A red bead is ‘no’ and a green bead is ‘yes.’

This technique allowed participants to respond anonymously to questions such as: ‘Do you talk with your children about sex?’ or ‘Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?’ The participants found the activity amusing, and we were able to gain useful data. Groups quickly became comfortable with this method.


  • numbered list of ‘yes/no’ questions to be read out
  • numbered small cloth bags – one per question
  • beads (or other small objects) of two different colours (for example: red and green)
  • unnumbered bags (one per participant) to hold the beads.


1. Ask participants to sit in a circle.

2. Explain the activity, and give each participant a bag with beads in it.

3. Ask participants to answer each question by placing a bead in the numbered cloth bag as it is passed around. Make it clear that their replies are anonymous, as there is no way to know who answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each question. Participants should hide the bead in their hand.

4. Read each question aloud to the group, at least twice.

5. After each question, pass a numbered bag around to collect each participant’s answer. When everyone’s response has been collected, close the bag and move on to the next question.

6. To find the results, count the beads in each and work out the percentage of ‘yes/no’ answers for each question.

Envelopes can be used instead of cloth bags. Other small objects such as shells, beans or rocks can be used instead of beads. Yellow beads can be added if a ‘maybe/I’m not sure’ answer is necessary. To help participants remember how to answer, we used the colours of a traffic light (green for go or ‘yes, ‘ etc). We suggest asking a maximum of 20 questions.

The game could be used in all kinds of ways to gather information from participants, especially health programmes that deal with sensitive topics such as family planning, drug/alcohol use, STDs and AIDS prevention.

Do remember to share the results with the participants and discuss what they reveal.

An example of the sort of data that can be gathered on sensitive issues while allowing participants to share information anonymously.

Siri Wood was project coordinator with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) AIDS prevention project in Senegal, BP 5323, Dakar Fann, Senegal.
[email protected]

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