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Whom to rescue?

Use this scenario to support young people in developing their abilities in decision making and in selecting criteria for making rational decisions.


When to use it:

  • understanding rational method in decision-making process;
  • exercising individual and group decisions.

Size of the group: 10 to 20 people

Age of the group: over 14 years old


Preparation: 30 minutes

Presentation: 45 minutes


  • printed handouts (scenario, volunteers personal details, ranking sheets)
  • pens
  • flipchart papers
  • markers




  1. Split the participants in groups of five.
  2. Give them the following scenario or use the handouts:

Your group is asked to take the role of a research management committee who are funding projects into human behaviour in confined spaces.

You have been called to an emergency meeting as one of the experiments has gone badly wrong.

Six volunteers have been taken into a cave system in a remote part of the country, connected only by radio link to the research hut, located by the cave entrance. It was intended that the volunteers would spend four days underground, but they have been trapped by falling rocks and rising water.

The only rescue team available tells you that rescue will be extremely difficult and only one person can be brought out each hour. It is likely that the rapidly rising water will make some of the volunteers to drown before rescue team can reach them.

The volunteers are aware of situation. They have contacted the research hut using the radio link and said that they are unwilling to take a decision regarding the order in which they should be rescued. By the terms of the Research Project, the responsibility for making this decision now rests with your committee.

Lifesaving equipment will arrive in 20 minutes at the cave entrance and you will need to tell the team the order you want people to be rescued.

The only information you have available is drawn from the project files and there is some background information about each volunteer.

You may use any criteria you find fit to help you make a decision.

Volunteer personal details:

Volunteer 1: Helen

Helen is 34 years old and a housewife. She has four children aged between 7 months and 8 years. Her hobbies are ice skating and cooking. She lives in a pleasant apartment that is owned by her family. Helen is known to have developed a secret romantic and intimate relationship with another volunteer (Alin).

Volunteer 2: Evike

Evike is 19 years old and a sociology student. She is the daughter of a wealthy Hungarian family. Her father is the owner of a prosperous company and also a sponsor for the local football team. Evike is unmarried but has several high-born suitors as she is very attractive. She has recently been contacted by an important modelling company to ask her to be the image of a holiday advertising campaign.

Volunteer 3: George

George is 41 years old and works as Secretary of State for the Ministry of Minorities, responsible with the Rights of Roma people. He graduated Law and Sociology and is a founding member of an NGO that promotes civic education and social inclusion for Roma. He is married with 11 children whose ages range from 6 to 19 years. His hobby is playing trumpet in a jazz band.

Volunteer 4: Alin

Alin is a 27 bachelor. As a member of special troops he spent part of his service as an undercover agent, working in the weapon trafficking networks from Ukraine. Since returning to civilian life he has been unsettled and drinking has become a persistent problem. Currently, he is devoting much energy to leading caving groups. His hobby is fixing and driving old cars.

Volunteer 5: Paul

Paul is a 42 man who has been divorced for 6 years. His ex-wife is now happily remarried. Paul works as a medical research scientist and he is recognized as a European authority on the treatment of rabies. He has recently developed a low-cost treatment which could be self-administered. Much of his research data is still in his working notebooks. Unfortunately, Paul has experienced some emotional difficulties in the recent years and has twice been convicted for indecent exposure. The last time was 11 months ago. His hobbies are classical music, opera and sailing.

Volunteer 6: Mike

Mike is a 59 years old man who is the general manager of a factory from the automotive sector. The factory has 250 people. He is a well-known person in the local community and he is also an adviser for the local council. Mike has recently returned from Germany where he was personally responsible for promoting a contract to supply large numbers of car parts over a five-year period. This contract, if signed, would bring 100 new jobs in his community. His hobbies include collecting antique guns.

Ranking sheet

Order of


Your answer

Team’s answer







3. Ask each time to write on the same flipchart paper their decisions.

4. For each group, ask what were the criteria they chose in making the decision. Challenge the participants with questions so that they can make a difference between an emotional and a rational decisions; challenge the participants at the level of life values that transpire / are revealed from the decisions taken.

Follow-up questions

  • What was the most discussed volunteer in your group, if he/she should be rescued or not?
  • How can you evaluate your decision, once you take the decision?

Possible variations

For step 2., you can adapt the story and the characters in accordance with the workshop audience’s cultural background.

Other resources:

Play the module 1 and 3 of the Unlock Social Enterprise game, on critical thinking and ability to prioritize. The games are available at this link:

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