Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 27/01/2009

country X

In a few weeks I will be traveling to Canberra to work with AusAID.  There I will be running a group of up to twenty participants through two days of Carana.  The idea is to not only introduce them to this teaching tool we have developed, but to get their creative juices flowing – AusAID would like to develop their own fictional country for use in their training course.  I really can’t think of a better way to get people energized and motivated about writing their own simulation exercise than running them through one.  At the end of every run of Carana, we get lots of comments, emails and even stopped in the halls to chat about the simulation – all resulting in lots of suggestions for how to improve it.  I’m pretty sure that the AusAID folks will be itching to come up with their own fictional country after two days of Carana.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with for what is tentatively being called “Country X”.

bringing the 8th continent to Africa and the Middle-East

Next week I will be helping to teach our core operations course on working in fragile and conflict-affected states at a regional training in Tunis for the Middle-East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa regions of the Bank.  In the course we will be running Carana for the sixth time for an expected 28 participants, meaning we’ll have another three teams of Carana spinning off into their own universes.  I will update here with some brief observations on the experience and outcomes. 


Sample of a badge given to participants in the Carana simulation

Sample of a badge given to participants in the Carana simulation

Carana is a fictional country on the 8th continent developed originally by the UNDP for their training exercises and now the country used in our simulation exercise for post-conflict recovery planning.  We use the simulation in our core course on working in fragile and conflict-affected states and have enjoyed great success with it.

In the Carana simulation, 7 to 10 participants take on the roles of President, Prime Minister, Special Representative of the Secretary General, World Bank Country Manager, Union Leader and other ministers and international organization representatives.  With fewer than 10 participants, we drop the Prime Minister, Union Leader and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG) successively.

Each role is given different information about the condition and needs of Carana and the participants must work together to create an action plan for Carana’s recovery, including choosing from among more than 50 actions, determining what the size and composition of the combined army will look like, setting priorities when everything seems important and getting all this within their aid envelope.   All of this happens in about 16 hours over the four day course.  We challenge the participants with incomplete information, every one starts with a piece of the puzzle, but we never given them incentives to lie or withhold information from each other – it turns out it is difficult enough communicating and prioritizing in the limited time they have without us pitting the participants against each other (no matter how much more realistic it might be).

The simulation is used to teach the basic risks associated with post-conflict recovery planning, to give the course participants an opportunity to employ their knowledge gained from the operations course and to provide a sandbox where participants can safely experiment and discuss hypotheticals about what would and wouldn’t work in post-conflict recovery.

It is very engaging for the participants and great fun to run, we usually have three concurrent Caranas running simultaneously during the course – accommodating up to 30 participants.  To me, one of the most fascinating elements of the exercise is seeing how differently each Carana turns out after starting at essentially identical starting points.  There is no better reminder that we work in a social science than seeing how who is involved determines what happens.

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