Forage Center Programs
The Forage Center offers experiential learning for graduate students and practitioners in fields related to humanitarian assistance, peace and conflict studies, social services, and crisis management.
Our exercises expose participants to principles and practical skills in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, crisis response, emergency planning, public health, cultural competency, community and individual mental health and wellness, and ethical responsibility in delivering aid.
The Forage Center's training scenarios challenge students and practitioners to examine issues and skills in humanitarian assistance, crisis management, and peacebuilding in the context of a "real life" storyline.
Students become new recruits to a fictional humanitarian assistance organization — the Forage Corps. Forage Corps staff are expected to uphold the four humanitarian principles represented by the global Red Cross movement, the United Nations, and other international organizations: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.
As new Forage Corps members, students prepare to deploy to Costero, a fictional country created for students to practice without potential personal biases about existing nation-states. Costero has social issues rooted in its history as a colonial holding, resulting in historical narratives of trauma for its indigenous community.
Specific scenarios vary with the objectives of the program and can relate to violence and conflict, natural disasters, and other human-made disruption. In one scenario, for example, a wildfire has created a humanitarian crisis, resulting in thousands of people being displaced from their homes and needing assistance. Students — as Forage Corps members — engage in a series of trainings, meetings, and strategy sessions to plan for a larger Forage Corps response. An extended timeline can be created for students to follow events in Costero and consider how their work will fit into a longer narrative of humanitarian assistance in the country.
Forage Center activities are designed to be combined into a series of more intensive learning sessions:
Short Training Sessions
Delivered as in-person or virtual seminars designed to provide students with competency-based training. Students may learn about negotiation techniques, communication styles, humanitarian competencies, or peacebuilding approaches. Sessions can be taught by Forage Center staff as "Forage Corps training officers" or as skillset trainings without a connection to the Forage Corps immersion scenario.
Delivered as three-hour in-person or virtual sessions in which students, acting as Forage Corps staff members, meet with role players portraying community stakeholders in Costero. Students gather information from stakeholders and engage in Forage Corps planning meetings. Students are also asked to participate in reflection sessions out of character to discuss learning objectives and lessons.
Full Immersion Scenario
Delivered as a four-day exercise in which students simulate traveling to Costero — entering through a border checkpoint, setting up a temporary Forage Corps headquarters location, meeting with stakeholders, visiting internally displaced persons camps, and planning for long-term humanitarian assistance to IDPs. Depending on whether students participated in earlier half-day exercises, the timeline may reflect change in the political situation in Costero over time or changes to the Forage Corps organizational response.
The immersion scenario is usually held at the Forage Center’s training facility in Western Maryland.
Objectives and Evaluation
Forage Center training objectives reflect the humanitarian standards and protection principles set forth by the 2018 Sphere Handbook and professional standards published by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other organizations. Exercises are designed with the needs of faculty and training staff in mind — more specifically, with an understanding that our partners often require demonstration of mastery of skills or alignment with other education and curriculum goals. Our activities are designed to encourage students and practitioners to consider how their actions form part of a larger humanitarian response, how they can empower community stakeholders, and why it is critical to consider the larger historical context of understanding crisis escalation and the sustainability of humanitarian assistance.
Learning objectives are measured directly through observational assessment by Forage Center training staff, and participants will be asked to complete self-report questionnaires to assess learning through indirect assessment data. Forage Center staff have obtained Institutional Review Board approval to collect these data to assess our own curricular design and contribute to the growing body of peer-reviewed literature covering experiential teaching and learning. If faculty members from our participating institutions would like to collaborate with Forage Center staff on a particular aspect of data analysis, these opportunities can be explored.