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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 information from legal documents. (Rather than using the legal documents associated with our simulation policy case which I would prefer they find themselves, I like to bring up something like rent control laws and show them how they could figure out how to take action against their landlord if their apartment is freezing or rat infested.) After the first class of the semester where the simulation is introduced and briefly explained I have found the students are always anxious to know the policy case being used for the simulation and to be assigned to their political party or government. I do both of these by the second class and tell the students I expect them to start watching the media and browsing the websites or newspapers for their government’s party ideology and overall orientation toward policy. Some students will of course leave their research until quite close to the assignment but the point is really to help relax the students who are anxious about doing well on the simulation. To get this organized you need to compute the government or party composition for your simulation. In a federation, of course, the central and regional government units will be set but if your class size is smaller than the number of government units you will need to decide a reasonable weighting which will keep the simulation as realistic as possible. Here, if need be, you can drop governments where their central issues and responses to this particular policy will likely be very similar to that of each other. If your class size is larger than the number of governments in the federation you can assign the First ministers positions first, then add on the other representatives who are not constitutionally part of the federation but have other claims to representation, for example Aboriginal governments, municipal governments, women’s and multicultural representatives, and so on. You need to be careful here, however, not to upset the power dynamics of the actual formal governments in the federation who will be the real policy makers - this reality needs to be retained. The other useful addition for a larger class is to have the First ministers backed by either sectoral ministers or sectoral deputy ministers, or both. By including the Ministers responsible for your policy case, the students get the additional benefit of experiencing the power relationship between the first ministers and the ministers. By including the DMs of the sector, students get the additional benefit of experiencing the politics/administration dynamic. For a simulation which duplicates a legislative assembly or committee reality, the actual party composition needs to be reproduced to match the percentage in the actual institution. I have found this does not always have to be exact but the power balance has to be retained and if you intend to have voting on your policy output you need to be conscious of adding extra players, for example an Aboriginal government representative or a party such as the Green party which fails to win a seat in Parliament but which has considerable popular vote. Too many added representatives can distort the simulation vote further away from reality than you might wish (although you can have them abstain from voting). It is also important to think through the repercussions of this weighting if you do not want your negotiations and simulation to become too predictable. For example if in reality you have a strong majority government in power, they may not need to win any votes in the negotiation phase since they can simply out-vote everyone 9

Authors: O'Reilly, Patricia.
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Patricia O’Reilly, APSA, TLC, Feb 23, 2008
information from legal documents. (Rather than using the legal documents associated with our
simulation policy case which I would prefer they find themselves, I like to bring up something
like rent control laws and show them how they could figure out how to take action against their
landlord if their apartment is freezing or rat infested.)
After the first class of the semester where the simulation is introduced and briefly explained I
have found the students are always anxious to know the policy case being used for the simulation
and to be assigned to their political party or government. I do both of these by the second class
and tell the students I expect them to start watching the media and browsing the websites or
newspapers for their government’s party ideology and overall orientation toward policy. Some
students will of course leave their research until quite close to the assignment but the point is
really to help relax the students who are anxious about doing well on the simulation. To get this
organized you need to compute the government or party composition for your simulation. In a
federation, of course, the central and regional government units will be set but if your class size
is smaller than the number of government units you will need to decide a reasonable weighting
which will keep the simulation as realistic as possible. Here, if need be, you can drop
governments where their central issues and responses to this particular policy will likely be very
similar to that of each other. If your class size is larger than the number of governments in the
federation you can assign the First ministers positions first, then add on the other representatives
who are not constitutionally part of the federation but have other claims to representation, for
example Aboriginal governments, municipal governments, women’s and multicultural
representatives, and so on. You need to be careful here, however, not to upset the power
dynamics of the actual formal governments in the federation who will be the real policy makers -
this reality needs to be retained. The other useful addition for a larger class is to have the First
ministers backed by either sectoral ministers or sectoral deputy ministers, or both. By including
the Ministers responsible for your policy case, the students get the additional benefit of
experiencing the power relationship between the first ministers and the ministers. By including
the DMs of the sector, students get the additional benefit of experiencing the
politics/administration dynamic.
For a simulation which duplicates a legislative assembly or committee reality, the actual party
composition needs to be reproduced to match the percentage in the actual institution. I have
found this does not always have to be exact but the power balance has to be retained and if you
intend to have voting on your policy output you need to be conscious of adding extra players, for
example an Aboriginal government representative or a party such as the Green party which fails
to win a seat in Parliament but which has considerable popular vote. Too many added
representatives can distort the simulation vote further away from reality than you might wish
(although you can have them abstain from voting). It is also important to think through the
repercussions of this weighting if you do not want your negotiations and simulation to become
too predictable. For example if in reality you have a strong majority government in power, they
may not need to win any votes in the negotiation phase since they can simply out-vote everyone
9


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