After two years of pausing in-person exercises, the Forage Center held a multiday training simulation at Arcadia University in partnership with their International Peace and Conflict Resolution program. Ten Arcadia graduate students attended the immersive simulation, designed to test participants’ ability to apply humanitarian principles in unfamiliar contexts.
Participants were provided pre-deployment materials welcoming them to the Forage Corps, a fictional humanitarian aid organization, and detailed historical and geographical information on the fictional country Costero, whose history of colonization had led to present-day cultural tensions. Costero had experienced a natural disaster beyond the ability of local or national government to manage and was requesting humanitarian aid.
In the simulation, the participants “deployed” to Costero as new Forage Corps staff members and were exposed to the challenges of responding to a disaster while maintaining an awareness of local context and working with difficult community partners. After entering the country through a specially arranged security check, unfriendly officers of the Costeran National Police grilled the participants about their mandate and humanitarian knowledge. They participated in several hours of in-country training before conducting a series of meetings with various community stakeholders.
The new Forage Corps members quickly learned that not everyone was grateful for their assistance, and they had to prove their capabilities to build trust with the various community stakeholders. They impressed the community partners so much during their first round of meetings that the stakeholders added more demanding requests, which tested the Forage Corps members’ ability to maintain independence, operate with impartiality, and above all, be guided in all aspects by humanity.
The simulation participants navigated difficult situations with high levels of stress and lack of sleep. Faced with decisions about how to manage jaded country staff, political insecurity, and overbearing security forces, they worked toward the overall goal of assessing the current needs of the population and reporting their findings and recommendations back to their country director. The students at Arcadia did an excellent job, and the Forage Center is looking forward to continuing to work with Arcadia University to support its programming.
“It was good to get back to face-to-face experiences and learning," commented Forage Center president David J. Smith. “Students learn best when they are immersed in experiential activities dealing with ‘pressure cooker’ situations.”
The Forage Center is hoping to host another graduate-level exercise at its 40-acre site in Western Maryland in June 2022, pandemic permitting. If you are interested in participating, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.