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.
On February 23 and 24, Lessons Learned delivered our first full-scale
professional development course.
The course, titled “‘The Day My Life Froze’: Urban Refugees in the Humanitarian System”, was delivered in a promotional capacity to students of York University in Toronto, in collaboration with the Centre for Refugee Studies Student Caucus.
It has been a delightfully interesting—and busy—few weeks for Matt and the Lessons Learned team! Unfortunately, this has put us a little bit behind on our regular updates. Read on for a roundup of events past and posts to come.
Several weeks ago, Lessons Learned hosted a test of “The Day My Life Froze”, a simulation for 15-25 participants which models the dynamics of an urban refugee response in a fictional country of first asylum.
Lessons Learned is offering a pre-release delivery of the two-day professional development course “The Day My Life Froze”: Urban Refugees in the Humanitarian System for free to interested graduate and undergraduate students. The event will take place at York University in Toronto, on February 23rd and 24th.
See the Eventbrite page for more information and to secure your place, or simply use the embedded check-out window below.
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.
Proof that games have been training some of the world’s most amazing political actors for over 100 years: this week, my social media echo-chambers have been ringing with the “rediscovery” of Suffragetto, a game of activism and state violence designed by the militant British Women’s Social and Political Union circa 1908.
Militant suffragettes are pitted against a team of police officers in a quest to occupy the House of Commons while defending the famous Royal Albert Hall. While the police put women in prison, women put the police in the hospital. Players retrieve detained or injured pawns by negotiating prisoner-swaps.
There are too many great things to say about this: it is a present-day opportunity to learn about a pivotal time in the political history of British democracy, an astounding example of games as teaching tools in history, and an opportunity to cast ourselves back to the dramatic political climate of the day. And that’s just off the top of my head! Who says games can’t teach you anything?
This is the first in a Lessons Learned series on essential resources for simulation development.
Natasha Gill’s e-book, Inside the Box: Using Integrative Simulations to Teach Conflict, Negotiations and Mediation, is (in my admittedly humble opinion) very nearly a one-stop shop for educational simulation development. While Gill designs simulations specifically to teach peacebuilding negotiation skills, her method and accompanying manual can be applied to the development of simulations of other political, social, and economic scenarios as well. I have explicitly adapted Gill’s “IN-Simulation” method in the design of LLST’s upcoming sim, The Day My Life Froze: Urban Refugees in the Humanitarian System.
As a geographer, I certainly have my problems with “push-pull” models of migration. Simply put, people move for many reasons; these motivations are difficult to describe, capture, or categorize, even for the individuals who are migrating. Real trouble starts when overly simplistic models are used to inform state or UN policy on migration. Physical violence and the economics of violence are more difficult to tease apart than most formal definitions of “the refugee” tend to assume.