These days, there is an app for everything – which is why, in the summer of 2015, we decided to plunge head-on into the world of app development: we created our own app for seminars and conferences. For some time, we had been searching for ways to provide participants of our events with new innovative ways to exchange opinions and positions. Why not use digital technology to gather moods, comments and evaluations online, in a secure space, far away from Facebook and Twitter.
As was to be expected, the first steps were full of bugs and “404 not found” moments, but by now the ConferenceApp is functioning smoothly. Since its first appearance at the conference “The Road to Paris” in the autumn of 2015 it has grown with every event, be it during the bpb youth conference “No Discussion” or the “European Youth Event 2016” in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Thanks to its modular software, the existing features appear in combinations tailor-made to each event, and an event interface is created. New features can be added if needed. Of course, the users do not notice any of this is going on. They simply register by accessing the ConferenceApp website via their Smartphone or tablet. September will see the app in action again: just over 120 participants at the planpolitik-organised Federal Conference of European Schools will use the app to exchange their views on the present and the future of European Schools in German Federal states.
Following an interlude at the European Department at Berlin’s Senate Chancellery, our old friend and colleague Alex Kuschel is returning to planpolitik. We have known Alex since 2011. As of now, he did join the teams “Democracy and Society” as well as “Europe”, both rather busy areas. What’s more, Christopher Haarbeck is taking six months of paternity leave from November and Alex will replace him. Alex studied European Studies in Maastricht and Frankfurt (Oder) – where else! – and won us over by being both easy-going and fiercely competent. Aside from his European expertise, we continue to be impressed by his formidable cooking skills. Welcome back!
This year’s UN climate conference takes place in Marrakesh in November. Unsurprisingly, all of Morocco currently seems to be talking about climate change and its effects. For example the Moroccan office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation which organised a five-day conference, entitled Confronting the Challenges of Climate Change, for young leaders from the MENA region. We were responsible for parts of the programme: apart from playing our tried and tested climate simulation game to simulate the upcoming UN conference, we ran an ideas workshop where the participants developed concrete ideas for projects that could help in the fight against climate change.
Communication posed a special challenge during this event. The participants came from nine different countries within the region – from Morocco to Jordan. This meant that half of them preferred to use English as a second language, while the other half spoke French. Everybody among the participants spoke Arabic, but sadly, none of us at planpolitik do! Luckily, there were interpreters continuously translating between the three different languages, creating an atmosphere almost like that of a real climate conference! All in all, it was a very successful event. We’d love to come back. Inshallah!
Our primary school project PEP (see previous newsletters) has reached its conclusion. At last we have seen the results of the study that accompanied our 14 simulation game pilots. This is not the time and place to confuse you with terminology such as Likert scales, latently modelled constructs and effect sizes. Suffice to say that the kids had fun, rated the learning effect highly and demonstrably gained knowledge about the EU and politics in general.
Prof. Monika Oberle and her team at the Chair of Political Science/Didactics of Politics at the University of Göttingen are better at explaining the results in scientific detail. You can also contact them to download the game materials (in German) or to order the physical game boxes (in German) – while stocks last. You can contact us if you would like to offer further training for teachers or a simulation game for primary school kids. We are now definitely convinced that EU simulation games for primary school pupils are great!
How are decisions made within the EU? Which interests must be considered, and which subsequent conclusions can be drawn for working on a federal state level? At the end of August, a group of highly committed managers from Thuringian state administration spent three days assessing these questions in order to get a better understanding of Europe and to be able to represent their federal state’s Europe-related interest with more focus.
After taking in some theory, the participants were plunged head first into the political process. Over the course of two simulation games, they became acquainted with the inner workings of the relationship between decision makers and lobbyists at EU level. It was the fifth time planpolitik ran this Seminar in idyllic Tambach-Dietharz, and this time the future of Europe was among the key topics: what is Brexit going to look like, and what will the consequences be for Europe, Germany and Thuringia? After three busy days, possibly the most important insight was that only those who really get their teeth into the topic of the EU understand who is responsible for which decisions – even if it is sometimes hard to grasp. But understanding this is crucial if you want to make yourself heard and influence decisions. The participants came a lot closer to reaching that goal.
For the second time, we were invited by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Poland and Warsztat Innowacji Społecznych to be part of the event „Architects of the Future“, which is not, as the name may suggest, and event for future architects, but a programme for young professionals from Central and Eastern Europe who want to see the region develop in the spirit of cooperation and solidarity. The key topic addressed in this event was the understanding and handling of conflicts.
Our contribution was a fictional version of the so-called crisis game, a game that 20 years ago planted the seed of all planpolitik activities in us. In the game, the fictional state of Rosania is governed by a corrupt cadre party. Two ethnic minorities are striving for more autonomy, one of them even demanding its own state. Radical groups are prepared to use violence to reach their objectives. It’s no easy task finding peaceful and deescalating forms of conflict management in this context.
Sadly, over the past few years, we have observed these types of phenomena in Europe once again. All the more important it is to ensure that young people learn about good ways of dealing with such developments.