“Forget about the West – after Trump’s election more than ever” – this is how an Indonesian expert began his talk about South East Asia’s economic prospects, just one of many new insights during our first trip to Malaysia and Indonesia. Following an invitation from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation we had developed a simulation game on the TTIP negotiations. Playing this game during workshops in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, we noticed that Donald Trump having been elected the next President of the United States just a few days before had absolutely no dampening effect on the general atmosphere during the game. On the contrary, it was the participants’ first experience of playing a simulation game, and their enthusiasm was boundless! During our classic opening exercise, the “Getting-To-Know-Each-Other Bingo”, we already knew that this game would practically be playing itself without any further input from us.
What’s more, comparing both destinations was very interesting. While Kuala Lumpur seems like a very functional and tidy city, Jakarta is complete urban chaos. The fact that there is not a single subway line for a metropolitan area with a population of 30 million tells you all you need to know. “You learn to be patient here”, a colleague from the Ebert Foundation shrugged, following an hour-long car journey covering just one kilometre.
Once again, planpolitik are visiting lecturers at the European University Viadrina. In October, the fictional simulation game “Peace for Fontania” marked the start of the seminar. The game scenario is based on the war in Syria: terror groups, militias and an autocratic regime are a threat to peace in an entire region. The neighbouring states are influencing the conflict parties and the EU states must agree on a common position.
In the game (just as in reality), all efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement fail. This is how the students for a “Masters of European Studies” experience just how long-winded and complicated negotiations on a European and international level really are. After the game has ended, the actors mapping provides background information on the causes of the war. The next instalment is to follow in December when we focus on anti-terror measures as well as internal and security-related consequences.
Paternity leave is, of course, no holiday. Nobody knows this better than our longest-standing colleague Christopher Haarbeck. But he will, of course, take the opportunity to leave work for a few months and be with his second son around the clock. We wish him all the best, a great time with as little screaming as possible, constantly beaming baby’s eyes and, last not least, a few hours to himself every day.
For the rest of us, Christopher’s leave means a little restructuring. Alexander Kuschel and Sandra Holtermann are taking over some of his jobs, such as preparing the simulation games for the Kirchentag 2017 or our German-Czech youth project. Klaus Schneider, on the other hand, will expertly stand in for Christopher in his role as chief operator and maintenance supervisor of the office deluxe coffee machine.
Figurative bridges can be built with symbolic acts and well-written speeches. Alternatively, playing games is a good way to connect, because everywhere people like to play, no matter in what language. Thus, the project Global Playgrounds saw many bridges being built. With the Deutsch-Türkische Jugendbrücke having commissioned the project, the focus was on facilitating exchange between 12 German and 12 Turkish youngsters. But we also wanted to develop games that built bridges to other groups, namely young refugees. A team of game developers from Bilgi University in Istanbul addressed the basic questions – what comes first, the game or playing? – and had everybody go through a game marathon. Following that, our heads full of ideas and our hands (and computers!) full of materials, we went about the actual developing phase, resulting in six game prototypes that will be fine-tuned and finalised by the end of December. You will soon find the downloadable versions in our download area, complete with instructions in various languages.
Thanks to our relationship with agencies such as denk:lokal, we had the opportunity to test the games at Cafe THF, located in Germany’s largest emergency shelter at the former airport terminal building in Berlin-Tempelhof. For the participants in the project, this was quite an eye-opener, their only prior knowledge of the experiences of refugees being from TV reports – again, new bridges were built. Following this great project with Jugendbrücke, we are very much hoping for another instalment next year.
Following a German-Czech project and our workshop in Lebanon (see “Interest Representation!”), Global Playgrounds was the third project in quick succession to involve two languages and interpreters. We noticed one interesting aspect in particular: you have more time to think what you want to say, but a lot less time to then actually say it …a great way of training oneself to stick to the essentials.