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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 attempt “buy ins” which they then report back to the leader. The participants also need to keep a few brief records of the negotiations in order to make use of them during the policy meeting simulation and the debriefing report. This, again, entails a certain balance. The primary focus of the student at this phase is to experience the negotiations rather than to intellectualize them. However, as one student put it, “(For the simulation), parties must have a broad knowledge of their opposition’s goals and mandates in order to succeed in their own goals and mandates.” If the students are too busy taking notes their role playing will suffer, but if they take no notes at all they may have difficulty remembering what the negotiated agreements were. I tell them to focus predominantly on the oral negotiations and only secondarily on note taking. If they are using the tables they created for the previous week’s intra-group session, they can fill these out by hand as they finish a negotiation session with one group, before they move forward to their next group. You might ask a volunteer from each group to type this table and distribute it to their group for the next week’s simulation. (Some students may well have a portable computer with them during these sessions so the tables might also be created on site.) This typed version would also give you, the instructor, an “at a glance” reference to the potential dynamics in the policy meeting simulation. SIMULATION STAGE, PART II: POLICY MEETING (WEEK 3) The simulation meeting runs according to the structure and dynamics created thus far. The groups arrive at the simulation prepared for a policy meeting which will have the lead government or party trying to get support for a list of policy proposals. It is up to the instructor as to what the output of the simulation will be. Various models are discussed in the literature but for a policy simulation it would seem preferable to be developing policy. This may be as simple as a communiqué released to the public listing the priorities of the collective (i.e., the members of the federation, the government and opposition, the all-party committee, the management committee, and so on). A “settlement” simulation, as it is called in the literature, simply needs to settle something. This may either be very specific, for example how to manage the decline in availability of physicians in a region; or it may begin quite broadly and then narrow during a simulation. For my broader political simulations I prefer to start with a general policy area such as the environment or sub-area such as climate change and let the students do the narrowing throughout the whole three week process. This is why I have the students make up a triage list in week one, ranking the policy issues arising in the policy area on which the simulation will focus. This means they have to think through the case study and dissect and weigh the various policy issues rather than having them provided by the instructor. The advantage of this is i) They are actually engaging in a policy making process,; ii) They will have better background research in preparation for the simulation; iii) There will also be more variation between the groups - a fact which enhances the quality of the simulation debates; and iv) It gives the instructor an indication of how well they have understood the politics of their group. Clearly, the instructor may wish to speak to a Conservative party group who appear in the negotiation class to have a left wing ranking of policy priorities. I find that if the instructions and assignment sequence lead them 15

Authors: O'Reilly, Patricia.
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Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008
attempt “buy ins” which they then report back to the leader. The participants also need to keep a
few brief records of the negotiations in order to make use of them during the policy meeting
simulation and the debriefing report. This, again, entails a certain balance. The primary focus of
the student at this phase is to experience the negotiations rather than to intellectualize them.
However, as one student put it, “(For the simulation), parties must have a broad knowledge of
their opposition’s goals and mandates in order to succeed in their own goals and mandates.”
If the students are too busy taking notes their role playing will suffer, but if they take no notes at
all they may have difficulty remembering what the negotiated agreements were. I tell them to
focus predominantly on the oral negotiations and only secondarily on note taking. If they are
using the tables they created for the previous week’s intra-group session, they can fill these out
by hand as they finish a negotiation session with one group, before they move forward to their
next group. You might ask a volunteer from each group to type this table and distribute it to their
group for the next week’s simulation. (Some students may well have a portable computer with
them during these sessions so the tables might also be created on site.) This typed version would
also give you, the instructor, an “at a glance” reference to the potential dynamics in the policy
meeting simulation.
SIMULATION STAGE, PART II: POLICY MEETING (WEEK 3)
The simulation meeting runs according to the structure and dynamics created thus far. The
groups arrive at the simulation prepared for a policy meeting which will have the lead
government or party trying to get support for a list of policy proposals. It is up to the instructor as
to what the output of the simulation will be. Various models are discussed in the literature but for
a policy simulation it would seem preferable to be developing policy. This may be as simple as a
communiqué released to the public listing the priorities of the collective (i.e., the members of the
federation, the government and opposition, the all-party committee, the management committee,
and so on). A “settlement” simulation, as it is called in the literature, simply needs to settle
something. This may either be very specific, for example how to manage the decline in
availability of physicians in a region; or it may begin quite broadly and then narrow during a
simulation. For my broader political simulations I prefer to start with a general policy area such
as the environment or sub-area such as climate change and let the students do the narrowing
throughout the whole three week process. This is why I have the students make up a triage list in
week one, ranking the policy issues arising in the policy area on which the simulation will focus.
This means they have to think through the case study and dissect and weigh the various policy
issues rather than having them provided by the instructor. The advantage of this is i) They are
actually engaging in a policy making process,; ii) They will have better background research in
preparation for the simulation; iii) There will also be more variation between the groups - a fact
which enhances the quality of the simulation debates; and iv) It gives the instructor an indication
of how well they have understood the politics of their group. Clearly, the instructor may wish to
speak to a Conservative party group who appear in the negotiation class to have a left wing
ranking of policy priorities. I find that if the instructions and assignment sequence lead them
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