Johanna Reynolds took the time to sit down with Matt Stevens, LLST’s Director and design lead. They chat about Matt’s history, why he formed LLST, and why simulations are important.
Lessons Learned Simulations & Training (LLST) was founded in 2018 after you spent more than 10 years working with refugee and migrants, primarily in the Middle East. Tell us a bit about the work that you did there.
Yes, I spent quite a few years in the Middle East. I was quite lucky, because almost all of the work I did there allowed me to spend time getting to know refugees and local residents well. That’s not the usual experience humanitarian workers have! I served as a Project Director, then Country Director for a small INGO in Amman, Jordan, primarily managing an online higher education project for refugees and Jordanians. It was a great office to work in—I interacted directly with our students every day, learning about the difficulties and rewards they experienced in their lives. There were lots of interesting reasons why people came to our program—very rarely for the reasons we expected. It was always a challenge to flex the “humanitarian system” in ways to adapt our projects to deliver what people actually wanted.
During the recent delivery of “The Day My Life Froze” at York University, LLST was privileged to be supported by Nicole Vassiliou, a volunteer with the Centre for Refugee Studies Student Caucus. Nicole is a Masters student at the Department of International Development at York University. She carried out her Masters research with refugees in Greece while completing an internship at a local NGO. Her thesis, titled Living on the Margins & Picking up the Pieces: NGO Response to the Greek Economic Crisis, Austerity Measures & Social Assistance, focuses on the effects of austerity measures, social assistance, civil society, tourism, culture, behavioral economics, capabilities theories, and future possibilities.
In addition to her great help, Nicole was able to participate in much of the training and simulation. She was kind enough to prepare a short reflection on her experience.
“The Day My Life Froze” training and simulation was a fantastic way to understand the intentions, behaviours and motivations or different stakeholders within the context of urbanized refugees and humanitarian aid. As a second year Masters student I participated in the two day program and feel that I have gained much knowledge and understanding regarding the social issues that refugees and different stakeholders face.
As previously alluded to, on Nov. 22-23, I had the good fortune to attend a workshop entitled ‘Serious Games for Policy Analysis and Capacity-Building,’ delivered by Prof. Rex Brynen (McGill, PAXsims) via the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Professional Training and Development centre.