Haiti Simulation After-Action Report

Martelly HaitiThis the second installment in a series of posts about the Chasing Chaos simulations that I created for a fall semester course. The final simulation was on Haiti. Students prepared by writing a briefing memo that drew from these readings:

On the day of the simulation, I provided students with this crisis scenario for which they were to find a solution:

Following the earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, approximately 1.5 million Haitians became Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who congregated in makeshift camps. The camps are located on flat areas of privately-owned and public land. Currently about 350,000 Haitians still reside in IDP camps where they lack a supply of clean water, electricity, permanent dwellings, and access to health care and education. The camps and the IDPs within them are to a large degree dependent upon supplies from international aid organizations. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to occur in one year, and candidates are declaring that the IDP camps should be closed and their residents resettled elsewhere.

I grouped students into teams with these goals to achieve during negotiations:

  • Haitian IDP camp residents
    1. Convince Haitian parliament members to keep IDP camps open
    2. Receive aid from international NGOs free of interference from Haitian and foreign government agencies
  • International NGOs:
    1. Distribute aid to IDP camp residents without interference from Haitian or U.S. government agencies
    2. Convince U.S. government agencies to help publicize NGO activities in Haiti
  • Haitian parliament members
    1. Get re-elected by gaining support of IDP camp residents
    2. Bring foreign aid under the control of the Haitian government and direct the finances of international NGO operations in Haiti
  • Haitian landowners
    1. Convince the Haitian parliament to close the IDP camps and remove camp residents
    2. Convince the Haitian parliament to pass a law that allows U.S. investors to purchase land in Haiti
  • U.S. government
    1. Convince the Haitian parliament to pass a law granting control of foreign aid to U.S. government agencies
    2. Convince the Haitian parliament to pass a law that allows U.S. investors to purchase land in Haiti

In the third and fourth Chasing Chaos simulations, teams took an instrumentalist approach by revealing all of their goals at the beginning of negotiations and working toward a unanimous agreement that would earn students the maximum number of points  (40, out of 1,000 point scale for the course grade). Before the Haiti simulation began, I rewrote the teams’ goals in a deliberate attempt to frustrate this ploy, but failed — students were still able to figure out a way to craft a single agreement that accomplished at least one of each team’s goals. During the debriefing, students stated that the artificial incentive of points made them more willing than the real-world actors they portrayed to modify their negotiating positions. I’ll speak more to this subject in a later post.

This simulation was based on work presented by Daniel Beers at a previous TLC, honed by subsequent research collaboration with him and another TLC presenter, Tina Zappile of Stockton College. This is just one of the many ways in which the TLC has been a great opportunity for me to learn about and share ideas about teaching.