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.
As a result of a commission from EURO FH Hamburg, Senaryon is taking another big step forward. Over the coming 12 months we will continue to develop our online simulation game platform so that it can be integrated into the EURO FH Bachelor of International Business Administration as of summer semester 2018. Even better, students with a focus on “International economic relations and politics” will gain credit points when taking part in a two-week simulation game, making the Senaryon online game a recognised course module.
To this end, we will further develop game mechanics, adding new functions for participants and facilitators and making a connection from the simulation itself into its evaluation, where students will reflect on the learning experiences gained in the game and are able to contextualise them within the whole module. The game content, too, marks an expansion of our current online range: using the example of the development of a regulation for the reduction of traffic CO2 emissions, mechanisms and structures in lobbying within the EU can be playfully experienced.