Defining one’s own values. The interrelation between majority and minority in democracies. Hallmarks of populism and „alternative facts“. And, not least, effects and effectivity of seemingly simple solutions to complex political problems – the rise of right-wing populism across the … Continue
The terrorist threat, Brexit, closing of borders, the Euro crisis – most headlines about the EU have been rather disconcerting of late. The President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is speaking of a „multilayered poly-crisis“. Many believe that fundamental change … Continue
Gathering materials, cleverly distributing roles, working out schedules, coordinating small groups, solving conflicts and always staying on top of things – successfully facilitating simulation games requires some training. As an addition to our range of training courses, we now run … Continue
George W. Bush was still President of the United States, Jacques Chirac was President of France, only Germany was already governed by Angela Merkel. The IS was practically unknown, the conflict in Sri Lanka had not yet been resolved – and planpolitik consisted of two people… Back in January of 2007, we travelled to Paris to visit the American University (AUP) for the first time, bringing a simulation game on the Sri Lankan conflict.
The students and lecturers of the International and Comparative Politics faculty were sufficiently enthralled, and since then we have been back every year for a four-day module on „Conflict Management, Negotiation and Mediation“.
Thus, at the beginning of March, we celebrated our 10-year AUP anniversary. Every year, our trip to Paris marks a particular highlight in our calendar. On one hand, working with students from all over world is a lot of fun, on the other, Paris is different to Berlin: more colourful, busier, more beautiful and tastier. If it were up to us, we’d still be teaching that module at AUP in 2027, we only hope Merkel won’t still be chancellor.
A couple of weeks ago, we ran our newly created interactive workshop on (right wing) populism in its entirety for the first time. 26 highly motivated scholarship holders of the „grips gewinnt“ programme gathered for a weekend to address democratic values, interrelations of majority and minorities in democracies, hallmarks of populism and „alternative facts“ and, last not least, the effectivity of seemingly simple solutions for complex political problems. At the heart of the workshop is the simulation game „Who the people? – Populists in power“, demonstrating how democratic structures can be undermined rather quickly. The programme encouraged participants to engage in discussions, to ask questions and, occasionally, to listen up in surprise, motivating them to promote democratic values even more fiercely than before and to speak out when necessary!
Our range of simulation games is growing steadily – every year, we create around 15 new games. Owing to the „energy turnaround“, demand for events and games on energy policy has increased considerably over the past few years. For example, we have recently created tailor-made simulation games for Deutsche Gesellschaft e.V. and the EU project “ImTeam4EU” as well as running numerous events for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and various German universities and academies.
In response to this growth in demand, we have introduced the Business and Energy department, looked after by our colleague Klaus Schneider. Klaus is your contact for „classics“ such as the stock exchange simulation or the game on state debt as well as for many relatively new games on topics such as grid expansion and renewable energies. He will gladly answer all of your questions!
The fictional Saxonian town of Weichenbach is allocated 500 asylum seekers. Where will their accommodation be? Who will carry the cost? Some citizens of Weichenbach see this as an opportunity for their town, others wonder whether their town is equipped to cope with such a challenge, and others categorically oppose taking in the refugees. Thus is the opening scenario of „Next Stop Weichenbach“, the simulation game that has just won the first prize in the Games 4 Change Migration Design Challenge in the U.S. The awards ceremony will take place in New York City at the beginning of August – we’re very much looking forward to it!
The game is based on our Senaryon platform and is being developed in partnership with the Saxonian Centre for Political Education (SlpB). Pupils play the game over a period of three weeks, partly while at school, partly from home. They assume roles of local councillors, citizens’ groups and members of the press. The game’s most important goal is to convey the interrelations and functionalities that define municipal politics and opinion-forming processes. The SlpB has brought to the project the basic idea as well as plenty of experience from the project „Commune in Dialogue“. Spanning several years, this project has involved 160 moderation sessions on the creation of refugee centres in Saxony, providing the basis for the creation of the game’s scenario and role profiles which we then fed into Senaryon. We have also added a whole range of technical functions. The game is currently in its test phase and will be available in schools across Saxony from May.
At last! – the planpolitik simulation game catalogue Planspielkatalog 2017 (English version coming soon) is here, providing an overview of our current range of games. With 80 different simulation games divided into seven different topical sub-categories, there should be something for everybody here. As you have become accustomed to with planpolitik, the simulation games are playable both in the classic seminar format or online and they can be adapted to almost every kind of target group. Of course they can also be augmented with interactive workshops, negotiation trainings, ideas workshops or conferences. Those who would like to develop their own simulation game have come to the right place, too: our training sessions will quickly enable participants to understand the components and tricks that make a great game. We like to pass on our knowledge and experience. After all, we have always been convinced that the range of simulation games on offer in political education can never be too big.
In comparison to our negotiation training module, which by now we have run at least 50 times, the leadership training course has remained somewhat in the shadows. But now, following Berlin’s Hertie School of Governance and the International Nature Conservation Academy on the beautiful island of Vilm, we have a third and hopefully permanent outlet. In December of last year, we practised strategies and techniques of leadership and team management with international students of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Erfurt. As in our other training modules, we used a mix of interactive exercises, a lot of feedback, theoretical input and case studies. Compared to other training formats, reflection on one’s own strengths and weaknesses plays a particularly important role.
The module is always particularly interesting for Björn and Simon, giving them an opportunity to include their own experiences as managers of a small business that by now comprises 12 employees. By the way, the format is not only suitable for professionals and people in leading positions, as was the case with the nature conservationists on the island if Vilm. The topics we touch on are also relevant for students at the entry into professional life – especially when the future employer is following a leadership strategy which assigns management duties to a wide range of employees.
The end of 2016 saw the second one-week winter academy by the Kurdish children’s and youth association KOMCIWAN e.V. in Eschwege, Hesse. Reflecting last year’s international developments, our one-day workshop was entitled “Right-wing populism”. During an ideas workshop, more than 50 youths and young adults formed small groups to develop ideas and strategies for facing the authoritarian tendencies, nationalism and exclusion currently on the rise across Europe.
All this took place in English, German and Kurdish – pure creative chaos. At the end we had a huge collection of innovative ideas that not only reflected the diversity among the participants but also demonstrated how productive working outside one’s own cultural comfort zone can be. We enjoyed it very much. Until the next time!
The location: The Federal Chancellery. Not bad. The assignment: Four parallel workshops with 100 youngsters with and without migration backgrounds from all over Germany. Yes please! The topic: Germany as an immigration society. Very good! The format: 90 minutes to cover a short simulation game AND the development of meaningful guiding principles, to be presented in a concluding plenary session with the Integration Commissioner, State Minister Aydan Özoğuz. Oh yes, with added guest speakers in two of the four sessions. No pressure, then!
But as we all know: pressure forms diamonds. Therefore, the results from our workshops were more than presentable. Over an exuberant 60 minutes with Aydan Özoğuz, our proactive kids pulled out all the stops, touching hearts and providing food for thought, as well as a charming plea for patience, goodwill and optimism, aimed at German society and presented by a 17-year-old young Syrian woman who found a new home in Leipzig two years ago. By this point, all the stress and head-scratching that had been part of conceiving of and preparing this event was forgotten. There is hope!
The pupils of Evangelische Schule Neuruppin have been presented with a unique opportunity. The school management has invited them to re-imagine their own school. What do they want school to be like? What could be improved? What are their visions? And, best of all, their ideas are to be implemented and tested during a pilot phase at the beginning of the next school year.
And – we’re supporting them on their way! During a first workshop in January, moderated by us, the youngsters developed many new ideas. There were suggestions by experts, but mostly a lot of independent work and discussion. There were out-there and very pragmatic ideas, fundamental discussions on the pros and cons of grades and pressure to perform, but also a great sense for the complexity of the subject matter. In order to make the complexity tangible, we took inspiration from the method “design thinking”: the discussion process produced many artfully crafted works using playdough, wood, paint, and whatever else could be found in our big case. We look forward to see where the project will take us – next, there is a conference in May organized by a team of pupils, with guests including youngsters from other schools and other countries. During the conference, the initial ideas are to be fleshed out and then prepared for implementation. We’re excited!
The Federal Programme „Demokratie leben!“ has several lines of support to bolster democratic structures in Germany. Amongst other things, nationwide Partnerships for Democracy have been set up whose members implement concrete measures and projects to strengthen democracy. In turn, our partner PARTS joined forces with Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie e.V. in 2015 to offer a series of training courses for members of such partnerships. This is where we come in: a newly developed simulation game module addresses the question of how to deal with right-wing populist organisations, when to aim for participation or exclusion and what reactions are to be expected by that decision. Following the simulation game, there is a transfer to the participants’ work reality. After all, that is where points of contact require an active, elaborate approach to the topic of right-wing populism. And since, by that point, the discussion transcends the mere question of inclusion vs exclusion, a protected discussion of this issue is all the more relevant.
And what does all this have to do with cabbage? The answer is simple: every simulation game needs a setting. And this one is set in the fictional town of Sattenberg, where the local cabbage festival is in danger of being taken over by a right wing populist organisation. The actors of the game must now discuss how far their tolerance and concept of freedom of opinion will stretch.
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