This year, we developed and facilitated different event formats with partnerships for democracy all across the country. The partnerships are part of the Federal programme Living Democracy!, and the idea behind them is as simple as it is convincing: actors in civil society and representatives of local administrations are working together to strengthen democratic structures and address current social challenges, including project funding, counselling, activating citizens and democratic conferences. Our role in this was to facilitate simulation games for youngsters at Charlottenburg town hall, talk about right-wing populism with school kids in Coburg and Hildburghausen, explore the interplay between freedom and security in Offenbach, discuss everyday discrimination in Neukölln, develop ideas for social strengthening and cohesion in Pasewalk and much more. Many thanks to all partners for the good and easy cooperation! We are curious to see what 2018 will bring.
Even before the launch of the 2017 edition of “Global Playgrounds” in October of this year, major political issues got in its way: due to the change in the assessment of the situation in Turkey by the Federal Foreign Office, the seminar could not take place in Turkey as planned. So, it was Brandenburg instead of Izmir. But this did not detract from the success of the project – thanks to the flexibility of all participants, the great German-Turkish trainer team and the highly motivated participants from Germany and Turkey. And in view of the tensions at the high political level, it is even more important that civil society dialogue should continue.
One very intensive seminar week later, we had six game prototypes on the topics of migration and integration of refugees. The games are currently being designed and produced. The participants learnt the basics of game development – specifically, for games that teach you something and are still fun. The games are to be played with very different groups, not least with refugees in Germany or Turkey. One of the highlights of the seminar was therefore a game test in a Berlin refugee shelter.
After just two years of collecting (and rejecting) ideas, developing concepts and writing applications, our ERASMUS+ project #TEVIP is finally becoming tangible. October saw us meet all the project partners in person for the first time. During the meeting in Berlin, we discussed what we actually mean by the term “values” and what makes values “European”. We want to look for common ground, but we do not want to avoid conflicts. On the contrary, we want to focus on different interpretations of “respect”, “freedom”, or “solidarity” and the abuse of these terms. Even in this small circle, this discussion was exciting and insightful.
We then made some adjustments to the basic structure of our project and planned the next three years together. Milestones underwent a reality check by all partners and were adjusted where necessary. What had so far been formulated in abstract and theoretical application prose became alive and concrete. Those three intense days made our heads spin, but we’ve caught the bug and we couldn’t ask for a better team – even if one or two large obstacles are yet to be overcome.
One country had always been missing from our map of places we’ve worked in, but that changed in early November: planpolitik goes UK! The occasion was a good one and was very nearly even better, because our online simulation game platform Senaryon became a close second to winning the Evens Prize for Peace Education 2017. But even though another great project was finally awarded, we were invited to London by the Belgian Evens Foundation to talk about ourselves and Senaryon at panels and workshops during the conference.
The title of the conference “Conflict Matters” can cleverly be interpreted in various ways, some descriptive, some admonishing. Not only practitioners of our field from all over Europe were invited, but also scientists, philosophers and artists. We were amazed by the variety and scope of views on the issue of conflict. Theatre artist Olga Halaczek is concerned with energy in school classes, without which there can be no discussion of conflict issues, while the Serbian philosopher Srećko Horvat was concerned with the unification of the workers’ movement against capitalism.
And us? What do simulation games have to do with conflicts? We were often asked about the effects of simulation games. To answer this question, we quickly made use of the conference title’s second, warning translation option: “Conflicts are important”. The idea of consciously addressing societal conflicts in a simulation game instead of trifling them – online – was met with open ears and great interest. So, it was a worthwhile trip to London. After all, what could be nicer than being a simulation game ambassador among such a community? Especially if you can drink draft Guinness while you’re at it.
Unter den Linden 1, Berlin – overlooking Humboldt University, Berlin Cathedral and the reconstruction of the former “Schloss” – is where you will find the classicist capital city residence of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, one of our oldest cooperation partners. It was there, at the end of October, that we facilitated a scenario workshop whose title was somewhat loaded: “The ‘neighbours of the neighbours’ – Russia and Turkey and their impact on EU neighbourhood relations ten years from now”. If reading this has made you a bit dizzy, you can imagine that the preparation of this workshop took a lot of time and brains. The participants of the scenario workshop, more than 20 alumni of the Young Leaders for Europe and the Summer Academy Europe from all corners of Europe, also worked intensively on this project. Making things even more challenging, scenario workshops tend to turn traditional steps of analysis upside down. The final result is the starting point of the thought process. Therefore, a possible state in the future will be described and visualized in detail. Only then one starts to consider which decisions, developments and events could make the described result possible.
Over two intense days, four working groups developed possible scenarios for Russia and Turkey as constructive or destructive actors in the European neighbourhood structure. Not least in view of the current situation in the regions, the description of a positive/constructive self-conception of the two states in the future required a high degree of imagination on the part of those present. In combination with the existing expertise, however, four surprising and inspiring scenarios for Europe’s future were presented at the end. Football played a decisive role in several scenarios: if peace in Europe is what you desire, you should root for Russia and Turkey to win the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, respectively. Sorry, Germany!
The last week in August saw our return to the simulation game universe, going straight into a full-blown event marathon, starting with 12 events in just five days, taking in Berlin, Hildburghausen, Shanghai, Rostock and Bremen. On the 30th of August, almost the entire planpolitik team was active, facilitating seven simulation games simultaneously: climate negotiations, EU lobbyism, terrorism, asylum policy and three events on populism. Our topics truly reflect the current social and political challenges. Over the coming weeks and months, climate as a topic will continue to keep us busy. In the run-up to the COP23 climate summit in Bonn – presided over by the Fiji Islands – we will facilitate numerous simulation games and workshops with groups of pupils, students and experts.
A federal chancellor with pink hair streaks, a 14-year-old in a tracksuit as minister for family affairs, and a state secretary who’s only lived in Germany for two years – this was what the Federal Cabinet looked like on German Unity Day in Mainz. Our simulation game had guests to the Federal Government tent assume the roles of ministers, state secretaries and even that of the chancellor. On the whole, eight cabinets met in the cabinet chamber. Each had to discuss two draft laws, it was either compulsory vegetable production for hobby gardeners and compulsory voting or the introduction of anonymous job applications and a tax on fast food.
Using these fictional examples, the participants experienced the importance of compromise and how difficult government work can be. They got a good look „behind the scenes“, especially when Christian Schmidt, the real German Minister for Agriculture, met his simulated counterpart and gave the participants some personal insights into government business. We have fond memories of the colourful mixture of participants as well as the fantastic atmosphere in which governing took place. Many had never taken part in a simulation game before, entering the challenge feeling a little apprehensive, only to emerge all the more happy and proud. So far, simulation games are rarely a part of mass events and fairs – the Mainz experience has shown just how many people are willing to take part. Here’s hoping the number will grow!
Up and down the country and all year long, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs’ „Partnerships for Democracy“ have facilitated democracy conferences. The way each conference is implemented varies from place to place, but the goal is always the same: raising awareness of the possibilities and challenges of a democratic society, pointing to municipal areas of activity and ways to participate.
In the middle of September, the city of Langen (Hesse) invited around 800 pupils to take part in its democracy conference. Following welcoming addresses and presentations from municipal leaders, participants proceeded to gather ideas on making public space more youth-friendly. There was also the „municipal puzzle“, a new planpolitik development allowing the youngsters to get to know the tasks a municipality tends to face and create their ideal municipality. Playfully, they learned that while there are areas in which a municipality must basically follow orders from the federal level, there are also many areas which the municipality and, indeed, its citizens can help shape. Assuming different roles, the youngsters discussed possible projects: should the municipality invest money in a new hospital, or will that not leave enough for a new football pitch? Is it worth raising taxes to pay for a new cinema? In the end, one thing is clear: if we want to take all different interests into account, we need to be able to compromise. But whether you’re a pensioner or a single mum, you can have your say and help shape the community.
Even the event’s title suggested that this would be no ordinary day: “Diverse Islam vs violent Salafism. Possibilities for prevention and intervention”. This series of information events, organised by the Regional Centre for Politicial Education in North Rhine-Westphalia (LpB NRW), has two main goals. On the one hand, it offers educators and teachers an overview of different currents of Islam, not least in order to underline the diversity of religion and thus counteract possible blanket negative attributions and stereotypes towards Muslims.
On the other hand, the event aims to shed light on the dangers of violent Salafism. In order to be able to counteract these extremist aspirations decisively, possible prevention and intervention strategies for dealing with young people at risk in schools and educational institutions are presented.
Our task during the first implementation was to moderate the lectures and subsequent discussions on these complex and highly topical questions. This proved very exciting and demanding, with plenty of new territory for us. In addition, a total of 11 expert inputs across a 10-hour program presented a certain methodological challenge. Still, we are very happy to be moderating the following three events on the same topic as well.
We are excited that the European Parliament’s Information Office has commissioned us to facilitate a total of eight one-day EU simulation games at schools in North Rhine-Westphalia, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt in the coming months. While the two NRW dates are already booked, we are still looking for interested schools in Thuringia (1 event) and Saxony-Anhalt (2 events). The basic conditions are very simple: the offer is aimed at school classes from 10th grade onwards. You can choose from five different topics, and the event can take place anytime between now and February 2018.
Are you a school teacher with a desire to get your teeth into an EU simulation game? Get in touch with our colleague Annegret Schneider (a.schneider[at]planpolitik.de) for detailed information.