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Finding the Balance in Public Policy Simulations and Role Playing
Unformatted Document Text:  Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008 process where I might take the leader aside and suggest she or he may wish to be rather more forceful, given the strong character they are playing and the position they hold at or near the top of the political hierarchy in real life. The danger here is that you do not want the student to begin to dominate the simulation processes to a degree that shuts out the participation of the other students in the group. Again, it is a matter of striking the right balance. SIMULATION STAGE, PART I: INTER-GROUP NEGOTIATION SESSION (WEEK 2) This class is dedicated to the first phase of the role playing where a negotiation process takes place among the groups and various actors (some of whom in a small class will be individuals representing a group). This class provides the students with an opportunity to play out some of the pre-meeting political dynamics which often occur prior to the major policy meeting. Behind all of these formal institutional meetings are a series of informal negotiations among the players. Engaging in role playing at this stage of the process provides the students with both more political acumen and a “dry run” for the simulated policy meeting. Since the negotiation phase is less formal than the meeting phase, it helps ease the students into the role playing without having the instructor and the whole class hearing their every word. The purpose here is to try and have each of the groups win votes for their preferred policy triage. The governing party group will be looking for backers for the triage for which they will be pushing during the simulation policy meeting. Other groups will be deciding whether or not to back those in power as well as which groups or individuals they might be able to bring on board in order to oppose the governing party during the policy meeting. One student had this to say about the negotiation stage, “After the negotiation session, I felt as if I had had an opportunity to air my concerns to my constituents. There was a feeling of progress made and a general understanding of what issues were to come forward (in the simulation meeting the following week). This negotiation session was important as it helped to shape the simulation meeting. Although we left with nothing concrete (decided), all of the parties at least were on the same page… During the negotiation session I learned that listening to key stakeholders was important… The session taught me that parties that are not in power tend to feel alienated and unheard. The official opposition is the least able to steer the agenda but when you are a member of the smaller party you will try to band together with other parties that are in the same situation.” At this stage I sometimes move the students to in a more informal setting if it is available so that they get a better sense of the informal, quasi- social atmosphere of the real-life negotiations, which in many cases actually take place in a bar or pub the night before the formal policy meeting. I have used this setting and it works wonderfully but I am always a bit anxious about it. (I make a point of telling them that coffee and nonalcoholic drinks will be served, but I do not make their choice for them, so I also make a point of saying I assume none of them are driving home unless they have been drinking non-alcoholic drinks. I have wondered whether I ought to have them sign a memorandum of agreement.) Unfortunately whenever I have chosen to have them stay in one of our over-lit fluorescent classrooms and proceed with the negotiation process in one large room, the mood has been less than impressive. A pub with dim lighting and little 13

Authors: O'Reilly, Patricia.
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Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008
process where I might take the leader aside and suggest she or he may wish to be rather more
forceful, given the strong character they are playing and the position they hold at or near the top
of the political hierarchy in real life. The danger here is that you do not want the student to begin
to dominate the simulation processes to a degree that shuts out the participation of the other
students in the group. Again, it is a matter of striking the right balance.
SIMULATION STAGE, PART I: INTER-GROUP NEGOTIATION SESSION (WEEK 2)
This class is dedicated to the first phase of the role playing where a negotiation process takes
place among the groups and various actors (some of whom in a small class will be individuals
representing a group). This class provides the students with an opportunity to play out some of
the pre-meeting political dynamics which often occur prior to the major policy meeting. Behind
all of these formal institutional meetings are a series of informal negotiations among the players.
Engaging in role playing at this stage of the process provides the students with both more
political acumen and a “dry run” for the simulated policy meeting. Since the negotiation phase is
less formal than the meeting phase, it helps ease the students into the role playing without having
the instructor and the whole class hearing their every word. The purpose here is to try and have
each of the groups win votes for their preferred policy triage. The governing party group will be
looking for backers for the triage for which they will be pushing during the simulation policy
meeting. Other groups will be deciding whether or not to back those in power as well as which
groups or individuals they might be able to bring on board in order to oppose the governing party
during the policy meeting. One student had this to say about the negotiation stage, “After the
negotiation session, I felt as if I had had an opportunity to air my concerns to my constituents.
There was a feeling of progress made and a general understanding of what issues were to come
forward (in the simulation meeting the following week). This negotiation session was important
as it helped to shape the simulation meeting. Although we left with nothing concrete (decided),
all of the parties at least were on the same page… During the negotiation session I learned that
listening to key stakeholders was important… The session taught me that parties that are not in
power tend to feel alienated and unheard. The official opposition is the least able to steer the
agenda but when you are a member of the smaller party you will try to band together with other
parties that are in the same situation.”
At this stage I sometimes move the students to in a more informal setting if it is available so that
they get a better sense of the informal, quasi- social atmosphere of the real-life negotiations,
which in many cases actually take place in a bar or pub the night before the formal policy
meeting. I have used this setting and it works wonderfully but I am always a bit anxious about it.
(I make a point of telling them that coffee and nonalcoholic drinks will be served, but I do not
make their choice for them, so I also make a point of saying I assume none of them are driving
home unless they have been drinking non-alcoholic drinks. I have wondered whether I ought to
have them sign a memorandum of agreement.) Unfortunately whenever I have chosen to have
them stay in one of our over-lit fluorescent classrooms and proceed with the negotiation process
in one large room, the mood has been less than impressive. A pub with dim lighting and little
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