Desperately Seeking Simulations

Over the past five years, I’ve used two different simulations in my Introduction to International Politics class: Statecraft and International Relations in Action. They each have their pros and cons, but I haven’t been thrilled with how either worked in my class. I think I could make International Relations in Action work with some modifications, but I like “off-the-shelf” simulations precisely because they do not require a significant amount of work.

Which leads me to a question for our loyal readers: has anyone used the Council on Foreign Relations’ Model Diplomacy simulations? On the plus side, it appears to be free for students. This is a huge advantage over Statecraft, which seems to get more expensive every few years, and IRiA, which required a book purchase (although used copies came fairly cheap). On the flip side, the roles are all domestic US actors and the focus seems to be on foreign policy decision-making. This is one of my main questions, for anyone who has used these simulations, are they useful for an Introduction to International Politics class despite the US foreign policy framework? The Case Library looks promising, but I already spend a lot of time in the class trying to get the students to think outside of the US context that I’m worried this simulation will undo that work.

So, consider this my call into the wild. Any feedback on the CFR’s Model Diplomacy simulations? I’d love to connect with anyone who has experience with them. Feel free to comment here or email me at mallendo-at-gwu-dot-edu.

3 Replies to “Desperately Seeking Simulations”

  1. We’ve started the East China Sea simulation and I will be blogging about it on this site as we make progress. We’re in no rush; I don’t have to run through it in a one month ”J” term.

    We got sidetracked a bit due to a study group that my students were invited to join that’s being run by Luis Moreno Ocampo for his Harvard Kennedy School grad students. Let’s face it, learning international criminal law from the first and former prosecutor of the ICC is like learning physics from Einstein. Anyway, I plan to get us back to the ECS simulation in the next month or so.

    One difference for us: I’ve mandated a deep dive BEFORE beginning the simulation. I/we have read what Middlebury and West Point did, and I/we didn’t feel their approach was appropriate for us. I want my students to learn from the simulation, but I want them to be well prepared before they begin the simulation. One of my students compiled six articles that they’re all required to read, all from law reviews. I want them to understand the legal positions, not just the political positions, taken by all interested parties. Also, although law can be an excuse for bad actors, it’s more often than not something that limits options — which is exactly what I want my students to learn. We combine public international law with global affairs. To us, they’re not siloed. HKS and HLS students might like to go at each other, but they should be working together. I’d go even further: It’s important to have a working knowledge and respect for both the HKS *and* HLS approaches to solving global conflicts (with a smattering — or more — of the empirical for good measure).

  2. Have not use Model Diplomacy–they look like role play based on real-world situations, so almost more of a case study approach. One a little more like Statecraft in that it is a make-believe world (based on some real world states) that I have used several times with success is the Nations Simulation. Definitely more IR than FP. I like it better than Statecraft in many ways, although it’s not quite as extensive and therefore does not address quite as many IR issues. But I like the classroom interaction better, and the learning curve is much less steep than in Statecraft–and it’s much cheaper. I had to go to Statecraft when I had a much smaller class than normal–typically I run the Nations sim with a 25-30 person class, I am not sure how it would work in a much larger class, where Statecraft may be more effective.

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