When the Children and Youth Office of the City of Iserlohn sent confirmation that they wanted us to design an empowerment workshop, the great moment had arrived: over the past 14 years, planpolitik has collaborated with as many as 250 different clients – in the meantime, the number has grown by a few more. As the very first client, the Evangelische Akademie Loccum will always have a special place in the company’s history. Over the years, a wide network of partners has emerged, including foundations and NGOs as well as parliaments and political parties, small civil society initiatives as well as businesses. Our aim in all the events and projects we create for and with our partners is that they should help to better understand political processes and strengthen our democracy by bringing people of all ages into exchange about how we can tackle social challenges together.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to all the great people with whom we have had the opportunity to work with as planpolitik, for the trust they have placed in us and for their consistently challenging and inspiring assignments.
A beautiful olive grove between Ephesos and Izmir was the setting in which we said “Welcome to Global Playgrounds” at the beginning of October – unfortunately, for the last time. Initiated by German-Turkish Youth Bridge, the project brought together young professionals from Germany and Turkey in its fourth edition to discuss and test the use of games in the work with young refugees. What is so special about these games? They were all created in the course of the project with the aim to build bridges between young people who are unable to communicate purely linguistically. Sometimes it’s just about having fun, sometimes it’s about getting to know each other, sometimes it’s about taking your first steps in learning a new language. At the end of the six-day workshop, the participants had developed workshop concepts (including the games) for multipliers, which will be published in a handbook at the beginning of 2020 and can be used free of charge.
In addition to this, the exchange between the participants, all of them experts in refugee work, was of course at the heart of the six-day meeting. Deep into the night the participants sat together to learn more about the other country and the situation of refugees there, to think of possible future projects, to enjoy the magic of the olive groves and to hear a donkey call from time to time.
Our blended simulation games, i.e. the combination of online negotiations and a concluding event in real life, are now part of the regular curriculum at many universities, often as part of a master’s programme. We continue to develop and expand the Senaryon engine, which is used to run all our digital formats and therefore includes our online simulation games as well. During the last few weeks, students at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) and at the Centre international de formation européenne (CIFE), Nice, have had the pleasure of getting to know a new feature: using the new task system, lecturers can give the students tailor-made assignments during the negotiations, e.g. to reflect on processes and contents of the simulation game or to carry out further research. Within a given time period, the participants complete the assignments and thus complete their coursework for that particular module. This makes reflection essays superfluous, as that part of the learning process is now integrated into the game.
The students’ enthusiasm for blended simulation games has been unabated for almost six years now. Already during the first online simulation we noticed that the students were full of energy and invested a much more than the required minimum of hours into the negotiation of a compromise. To our delight, the participants immersed themselves deeply in the topic and at the end of the game emerged with enormous expertise in the topic addressed in the game. In the coming weeks, our colleagues will see the level of expertise in the current negotiations at the final summits of the simulation games in Frankfurt (Oder) and Nice.
For some time now we have been wondering what it would be like to convey the content of a simulation game – i.e. scenario, role profiles and game rules – not by written text, but by video. Time and again, we meet people at events who, for various reasons, find having to read a text an obstacle when preparing for a simulation game.
At the end of last year, the Youth Migration Service at schools in the Berlin district of Reinickendorf asked us to develop a low-threshold modular workshop on the topic of “Justice and Participation” for young people – and finally there was a concrete reason to put our vision into practice. In close cooperation with filmmaker Björn Schürmann, we developed a concept, a screenplay and finally 11 short video sequences with scenarios and role profiles – brought to life on screen by two professional actors. When the videos were used for the first time, we saw that our idea was a success: the introduction to the simulation game “The usual suspects” (on the question of how a group of young people can solve a problem fairly and deal with racist prejudices) ran smoothly thanks to the preparatory videos that the participants watched on their smartphones. The lively discussion and creative search for solutions in the following simulation showed that the method is indeed suitable for every person – as long as the way into the game is paved and corresponds to the possibilities of the target group. The potential of the video format is far from exhausted and we look forward to saying “lights, camera, action” many more times in the future.
How do I get involved in politics and society? What is a political campaign and how do I start my own movement? At the end of July, we discussed these and many other exciting questions with 16 highly motivated students at the summer academy of the “Grips gewinnt” scholarship programme of the Joachim Herz Foundation. For the third time now, planpolitik took part in a Grips Summer Academy – this time with a campaign training revolving around this year’s topic “Energy in Politics and Society”.
Under the banner #nutzdeineenergie (#useyourenergy), four creative political campaigns on topics that are close to the students’ hearts were developed in our policy workshop over six days: LGBTIQ rights, equal rights on the labour market, sustainable consumption and a ban on arms exports.
The campaign teams used flyers, posters, surveys and interviews to draw attention to the topics and created awareness via an Instagram account. As part of our campaign training, they were introduced to Design Thinking as a method for finding creative ideas, helping them define goals and target groups for their campaign and develop a social media strategy. At the end of the summer academy, moderation training also focused on the question of how decisions within the campaign team can be made with as much participation as possible. We witnessed a lot of energy being channeled – and we are already looking forward to the next summer with the “Grips kids”!
Sea rescue on the Mediterranean, sexual harassment at the workplace, right-wing extremist ideas in volunteer work and corporate responsibility in the textile industry – the topics of the simulation games that we held over three days at the end of June at Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Dortmund were more “now” than ever. All simulation games were developed for the human rights initiative #freiundgleich (#freeandequal) of the Protestant Church. They allow the participants to take different perspectives on the same core question: to what extent is Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “All human beings are free and born equal in dignity and rights” – actually the basis of all interaction in our world?
For our team, Kirchentag assignments are always special. The scale of the event alone is unique – the lively, bustling venues, the number of participants, their age range and willingness to enter lively discussions, the peaceful, concentrated and soulful atmosphere. Not least thanks to the support of the venue management (aka a bunch of extremely resourceful scouts), the three days whizzed by without any problems. Thus we were able to get a total of almost 800 people into what were often unfamiliar roles and subsequently into the discussion of the questions raised. The fact that human rights are currently not always in good shape was the basic tenor of many discussions. But the motivation and concrete ideas of the participants also showed that even today countless people are working to change social and political grievances for the better. Always with the aim that at some point all people will be able to live #freeandequal.
We proudly present: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – short: SDGs – as a game set! More than a year ago, the German agency Engagement Global commissioned us to develop a board game on the global sustainability goals. It was not the easiest task to convey the complexity of the 17 SDGs with their 169 subgoals at a playfully interactive level. After countless tests in our office and with the actual target group – Bundeswehr officers – the result is now available: our board game “Together for the Future”.
In the game, 4-5 players become heads of state, trying on the one hand to do as much as possible for the development of their own countries, but on the other hand having to work together as a community so that all countries meet the set development goals – otherwise everyone loses in the end.
Following more than ten runs of the beta version as well as one of the final version at Engagement Global Leipzig we had wholly positive feedback. For us, one of the highest forms of praise is the frequently asked question: Where can I buy the game? However, for now, the game will not be available on the market. The 200 game sets that we produced will go to the various branches of Engagement Global and its headquarter in Bonn. They will initially be used for work with the Bundeswehr. However, the target group is easily expandable. In principle, the game is aimed at all those who are not yet experts in international development cooperation but would like to become more familiar with the SDGs and understand the pitfalls of their implementation.
And on it goes: the next planpolitik generation is about to gain a new member. Helen Böhmler’s maternity leave starts in mid-September to allow her to prepare for the birth of her first child. Of course Helen is virtually irreplaceable – but we have found the ideal solution for Europe: Our colleague Alex Kuschel, a certified expert on Europe, will move positions and as part of our “Team EU” dedicate himself to his pet topic from October. Nice for Europe – and a pity for the “Democracy and society” department, where Alex has worked so far. But even there, for the time being, everything will be fine, as Karina Frank – full of energy after her well-deserved holiday – will start her autumn with an increased number of work hours. Where Helen will carry on after her return in spring 2020 will become apparent nearer the time.
Last year, our cabinet table was within sight of the original. Right in front of the Federal Chancellery stood a transparent tent containing a replica of the original cabinet table. This year, the Bürger*innenfest (Citizens’ Fete) for the anniversary of the German reunification will take place in Kiel. So, this time the table will be set up directly on the shore of Kiel Fjord. There will be ten rounds of simulation games, each for up to 80 participants aged 15 and above. The focus this year is on the 70th anniversary of the Federal Republic of Germany’s constitution (Grundgesetz), with three out of four simulation games dealing with possible amendments to the constitution. For the first time, these simulation games will be supplemented by online elements, with participants using their smartphones. And let’s see which surprise guests drop by this time – last year we had exciting discussions with the ministers Franziska Giffey and Hubertus Heil. Registration is free of charge at this page.
Asia – here we go!
Events all over Asia have lined up in recent weeks like a pearl necklace. Fittingly, the series kicked off directly on the Pearl River: In Guangzhou, southern China, the simulation game “Bringing peace to Fontania” took place at the end of July as part of the Global Politics Seasonal School of the Center for Global Politics of the FU Berlin. In the simulation, the participants recreate the first months of the Syrian conflict using a fictitious scenario and place particular focus on the role and influence of international actors.
Almost simultaneously, three colleagues met with representatives of the German-Turkish Youth Bridge and our Turkish partner organisations in Izmir. Over two intensive days the final edition of our project “Global Playgrounds” was conceived, which for six days in October will bring together 20 young German and Turkish multipliers from the field of refugee work.
In mid-August, two colleagues each boarded planes to Uzbekistan and Indonesia respectively on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. At the Academy for State Building in Tashkent, 40 lecturers from various Uzbek universities took part in a methods training. Our colleagues were able to see that the political opening and reform process, which last year could only be perceived as a gentle breeze, has now noticeably picked up speed. At the same time in Indonesia, two simulation games that we developed for the local branch of the Ebert Foundation enjoyed their world premiere: a total of over 100 participants from ministries, universities and NGOs learned multilateral negotiations within the framework of a fictitious ASEAN, negotiating UN sustainability goals and better protection against climate-related natural disasters. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and motivation of the participants as well as the hospitality we experienced. Terima Kasih!
Our Asian summer ended with the Global Politics Seasonal School in Amman – as in China, perfectly organized by program manager Lydia Tetzner (Thanks for everything ♥). Once again, the simulation game “Bringing Peace to Fontania” was on the agenda – and in a country that is more directly affected by the war in Syria than many others, it triggered a lively discussion about the possibilities, limits and interests of international actors in an originally domestic conflict.