Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)
Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)
Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)
Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)
Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)
Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)
Participants of the CRISP simulation game in Berlin, 9 November 2017 (Foto: ifa/Renner)

Beneath the Mask

A review by Farhan Jamalvy. CrossCulture Programme Fellow 2017

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth," observed Oscar Wilde. In a way, simulation games do just that. They hypothesize a scenario and create "masked personas" for conflict transformation. The interns of ifa’s CrossCulture Programme (CCP) assumed altered identities in such a simulation game designed by CRISP (Crisis Simulation for Peace e.V.) - a Berlin-based NGO - on November 9, 2017.

Change of roles

Twenty-four fellows from 18 countries and four different continents assumed responsibilities for the future of a fictional Mediterranean island named Transolvia. The aim was to promote stability and democracy in the young country. The great diplomatic questions were: How can different interests be heard, moderated and pragmatically resolved in a democratic way? How can the interests of a multi-faceted civil society in particular be articulated? Which coalitions can achieve as many goals as possible?

The trick, however, was to find answers to those questions with reversed roles. That included names, personal ideologies, political affiliations, creeds and even gender that were randomly reassigned.

Once the new roles were accepted and reality re-adjusted, a young man would comfortably introduce himself as a middle-aged woman, or a young woman would pass off as an authentic man without having to change their attire or physical appearances.

Clash of interests

Players were then split into three groups comprising international donor agencies, Transolvian state actors and the national press—each pushing forward with their reforms.   

The EU Funding Commission pledges 100 million Euros in aid for the development of Transolvia. To ensure transparency, the Commission establishes a Trust for Democracy and tasks local stakeholders with aligning their interests and reaching common ground for the distribution of allocated funds. But then, there is another force to reckon with BASTA — an anti-government social reform movement led by the dissident youth of the country.

Hence, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet and the Opposition Parties initiate a dialogue and negotiate a deal. On the other hand, the civil society struggles to draft a new framework to formalize and regulate NGOs operating in the country. In contrast, BASTA and other dissident voices continue holding protests and demonstrations in the streets.

The "Darun News Network" catches up on the latest developments, and broadcasts live news shows every top of the hour. EU advisors, top politicians, opposition leaders and BASTA rebels are regularly invited to the studio and interviewed for all sides of the story.

Between joy and grief

The stakeholders submit written proposals with the Trust for Democracy which evaluates the documents and inks its verdict. The Day of Judgment arrives and the Commission announces its decision at the much-awaited press conference with all stakeholders in attendance.

It is declared that almost half of the 100 million Euros will be spent on infrastructure, and the rest will be divided among the health, education and social sector. It turns out that the division of allocation does not fare well with local stakeholders, and leaves the civil society disappointed.

The bells chime. Participants take off their "invisible" masks and return to their original selves. A post-participatory session was organised to gather feedback and evaluate the results of the simulation game.

A color-coded method of sharing one’s thoughts and opinion came into play. Over 80% of the participants said they enjoyed the game and would do so gladly again.

About the Author

Farhan Jamalvy, CrossCulture Fellow 2017 (Foto: ifa/Kuhnle)

Since 2015, Farhan Jamalvy is the head of Karachi Film School in Pakistan. Before, he has been working for more than 15 years as a journalist, scriptwriter and film producer. During his CrossCulture internship in 2017 he works at the Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF. His goal is to broaden his knowledge as an independent producer and improve aswell as a film instructor.

Impressions of the Simulation Game

Sahar Abi-Rafeh, Lebanon (Foto: ifa/Kuhnle)

"The simulation game was such a realistic and enlightening experience. The problems in Transolvia reflected very well the situation of my home country Lebanon; thus it was easy to relate to the country and to my role. The best part for me was to see how the civil society worked together in order to force a change in the legislation. This scene was an eye opener regarding the positive role of the civil society and the effect of such a collaboration once dealing with the government."

Sahar Abi-Rafeh, Lebanon

Athmane Bessalem, Algeria (Foto: ifa/Kuhnle)

"The game had developed a great sense of reflexion and diplomacy among the group, and helped to discover new skills in many fields: communications, projects proposal, constructive criticism and active listening. The coherence of the facts given in the game were so realistic, due to their lucidity and consistency with the political realities we live and face in our daily life as young activists. This led every one of us to a full engagement in the game. The most important point, however, is that the game helped us to see many things from different perspectives from where we used to see it."

Athmane Bessalem, Algeria


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