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
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
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
Fact or fake? It’s not just millions of Europeans who ask themselves this question when scrolling through their Facebook, Insta or Twitter feeds. Brussels is also trying to address the dangers of fake news and hate speech. The key question is what obligations social media platforms have in dealing with deliberately false and discriminatory content. To ensure that this is not just the concern of a few politicians, the Representation of the European Commission in Germany has launched the project “Fact or Fake” – and we are part of it! In a total of 54 workshops, more than 1,000 students will take on the role of EU parliamentarians and discuss the role of platform operators in the fight against hate speech and fake news. Depending on the pandemic situation, they will use our digital simulation platform Senaryon or meet face-to-face to exchange arguments. As in reality, the outcome of the debate is unclear. But one thing is certain: 2021 will be an exciting year for Europe’s digital future – and thanks to the “Fact or Fake” project, that will certainly apply to us and our participants as well.
Most people who consciously experienced the years of German reunification around the fall of the Berlin Wall can well remember the Treuhandanstalt and its importance in the transformation process from the beginning of the 1990s. In the years following German reunification, the federally owned institution had downsized, privatised or shut down thousands of formerly GDR-owned enterprises, often accompanied by large protests against mass layoffs and liquidation processes that were perceived as non-transparent. Even at that time the Treuhand was hailed by some as being without alternative, as constituting a Herculean task of economic policy, while others demonised it as a brutal neoliberal experiment at the expense of the East German population.
Thirty years on the term “Treuhandanstalt” means next to nothing to many young people in Germany. This is to change with our project on the Treuhand complex. Funded by the Stiftung zur Aufarbeitung der DDR-Diktatur (Foundation for the Reappraisal of the GDR Dictatorship), we are developing an interactive educational workshop over the course of the year in which young participants aged 15 and over will delve into the social, economic and political effects of the Treuhand’s work from different perspectives. The highlight of the workshop will be a simulation game addressing the question of the extent to which the Treuhand’s work should be systematically reappraised thirty years later. The workshop materials will be made available free of charge on the project’s own website from the 4th quarter of 2021. We are very much looking forward to this exciting, challenging task and will keep you informed of the project’s progress.
In recent weeks and months, our Senaryon team has been contacted with a wide variety of enquiries and project ideas. Not least due to the pandemic, the range of utilisation models and project designs has expanded significantly – which makes us very happy!
Time and again we receive expressions of interest in our simulation game platform from abroad, most recently from the Goethe Institute Istanbul and a young NGO from Lithuania. Since in both cases we are addressing local school kids, the simulation games are made available in the respective national language. A good opportunity to delve into the subject of Senaryon’s multilingualism: so-called ‘locales’ are used in the programming code to determine the language in which the user interface is displayed. They determine, for example, the language in which controls appear in a game – and the direction in which text is written. Senaryon currently has locales for German, English, Arabic, Turkish and soon Lithuanian. The effort to add new locales is manageable. In addition, simulation game content can be entered in any language.
Technically, implementing digital simulation games via Senaryon in a new language or even in several languages within a project is much less complicated than you might expect. Therefore, don’t be afraid to think about multinational projects using Senaryon! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time (email: boehmler[at]planpolitik.de).
The extended planpolitik family has been on a clear growth path for a few months now: Annegret Menden became a mother for the second time in October 2020, Konstantin Kaiser held his firstborn in his arms for the first time a few weeks later. We said goodbye to Lina Plank in mid-January for maternity leave and subsequent parental leave, and soon Charlotte Wiesenthal will follow her. Then in May, our programmer Allan Anderson will take two months of parental leave for his second child. We are happy for each and every one of you and wish you all the best.
At the same time, all the new blood keeps the personnel merry-go-round going at planpolitik. Readers may recall that after 12 years of creative collaboration we said goodbye to Konstantin Kaiser at the end of October. All the best, old friend! In the meantime, Helen Böhmler and Lars Harzem have taken his place internally to continue to keep their finger on the pulse of the times with the Senaryon simulation platform. Fortunately, we were able to recruit our long-time freelancer Katja Sinko as a parental leave replacement for our European department to ensure that continuity and quality will be maintained there, especially when Annegret returns in April. Allan, however, is irreplaceable and so we have timed the digital projects so that we can get through the two months without a replacement. Last but not least, we are happy to welcome Lena Nahrwold who joined our digital team at the end of February!
“Adapting skills to resist radicalisation”, an extraordinary project with exciting project partners, started in November 2020. The aim is to adapt interactive online educational materials from our British project partner Ariel Trust (LINK) for free use by multipliers in Germany. The project is financed and coordinated by the Belgian Evens Foundation (LINK), which we have known since 2017, when we were nominated for their Evens Prize for Peace Education.
Skills to resist radicalisation” (STRR) is an interactive website with short films, online exercises, handouts and manuals to prevent radicalisation and strengthen young people’s resilience to inhuman ideologies. Ariel Trust’s approach is very similar to that of planpolitik: Through role plays and interactive exercises, young people between the ages of 11 and 14 develop and test communication and action strategies. While the English-language materials were developed for teachers in British schools, the adapted German-language version now includes three workshop concepts with a total of nine 90-minute modules that multipliers will also be able to use in extracurricular educational work from October 2021.
Besides the exciting content, it is also our project partners that make STRR a favourite project: We are particularly pleased that we are once again working with the Protestant Support Group for Social Youth Education (et) and the “Respect Coaches” programme. They accompany us in the adaptation process and test the materials. Another great partner is Daniel Müller from dkmnews, who designs and implements the illustrations and animated short films. We presented a first sample at a workshop with Respect Coaches at the beginning of February and were pleased to receive a lot of positive and helpful feedback.
All over Germany there are schools where some of our simulation games have become an annual tradition. But as popular as our workshops are at many schools, we occasionally hear some teachers that the entire timetable has had to be moved around to enable the whole year to take part in a simulation game. As a result, we have launched another successful test format of digital teaching. If we can’t be there ourselves (which we would much rather be), we might as well take advantage of the flexibility of digital formats. We have developed a serialised version of our simulation game Just Transition, which we normally run as an on-site block event. This means that it can now be conducted across four double periods within the regular weekly teaching schedule.
The time between lessons can also be used: Familiarisation with the roles becomes homework, allowing the game to get going right away in the second session. The students always have all the information at hand via our simulation platform Senaryon. They can also communicate and negotiate with each other between lessons. Due to plenty of good feedback, a total of seven events are already scheduled to take place in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The format works so well with home-schooling that we had to wonder why we hadn’t thought of it before!
2020 – the year of extremely steep learning curves! This also applies to our know-how in the conception and facilitation of interactive online workshops, whether they include a simulation game or not. We have passed on this knowledge directly in many online training courses, e.g. to teachers, trainers from the civil society sector and lecturers at universities. The basic principle of our training courses is always that all interactive methods are best explained by trying them out in practice.
Several training concepts have been developed: These include the 90-minute crash course and the somewhat more detailed 3.5-hour version, which provide an overview of common methods and tools as well as the basic rules of workshop design and facilitation. For the less experienced participants, these are the first steps towards being able to independently design and conduct workshops with interactive methods in the future. The more experienced trainers will enjoy the exchange and the inspiration for their own work.
Our longer formats usually deal with specific methods. Our most “classic” training is on the development and implementation of simulation games, which has since been augmented by a section on the development of simple online simulation games via video conference or our simulation game software Senaryon.
Equally exciting was the request to transfer the Design Thinking method to the digital world and to accompany this with a training course for independent implementation. But how can a method that draws heavily on haptic experience and fast, direct exchange within the team work online? To answer this question, we went a little further and researched what ideas the Design Thinking scene has for an online implementation. The result is a mural-based Design Thinking experience with upstream training for independent use. So here, too, we can say – mission accomplished.
EU and LGBTI rights – does this have anything to do with each other? We certainly think so. Therefore, we have developed a one-day modular workshop concept for teachers on behalf of QUEERFORMAT, the agency for Queer Education. The extent to which LGBTI rights are protected by the EU and what the individual EU countries think about this are just some of the insights that the participants will take away with them. At least as exciting is the look at the situation in the individual member states. In order to illustrate this, we have revived a classic of children’s games – the card game known as Happy Families! But instead of comparing car engine sizes or the weight of dinosaurs, we compare EU countries with regard to the protection and rights of LGBTI persons – and we frequently found ourselves amazed when researching this. Do you know which country has the most LGBTI-friendly laws in the EU? If so: Congratulations! If not, print out LGBTI Top Trumps, cut out cards and off you go on the next game night. The materials will soon be available at queerformat.de and of course here, at planpolitik.
(PS: It’s Malta)
At the annual Tiergarten Conference held by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in November each year, experts from all over the world discuss security and foreign policy. This time, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was in charge of the opening, delivering a fascinating speech on Social Democratic foreign policy, the role of the EU and international cooperation. Of course, it was also about how to deal with those who do not really want to play along with multilateralism. Afterwards there was some time for questions from the audience. This part was moderated by us, always keeping an eye on the nervous faces of Mr Maas’s entourage, who had the Minister’s tight schedule in mind. Björn had the pleasure to give the floor to his lecturer from his very first university seminar: Professor Gesine Schwan.
After this rather traditional start, our actual core competence came into play: With the help of a fancy survey tool (digital, of course) and discussions in small groups, we tuned the participants into the topics of the panels that were to follow and thus brought them into conversation with each other. We had developed the questions up for discussion together with the organisation team of the Tiergarten Conference. In this way, the moderators of the two subsequent panels were able to refer directly to the results of the surveys and use them as a way into the conversation.
Last November, we reached another milestone in our ERASMUS+ project #TEVIP: After two years of work, it was time to share the project results with our own colleagues and those of our partner organisations. In beautiful Piemont, 25 trainers and teachers from seven countries were exploring how our personal values shape our work as trainers in political education. The basis for this was the #TEVIP position paper, in which we summarized our position as a project team.
Of course things also became practical and the participants tried out many of the new simulations, role playing games and activities themselves. Finally, the participants developed their own event concepts suitable for their working context in order to use the #TEVIP methods themselves. Also, the exchange between the participants was enormously enriching thanks to a multitude of backgrounds and experiences.
We would therefore like to draw your attention to our #TEVIP closing conference in Potsdam on June 3rd, where we will present our project results and would like to exchange ideas with you. By then all developed methods will be available online on tevip.eu.
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