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Squared 2016 02 10 tk scool 0525 010
A three lesson exercise for learning negotiation skills

The conflict resolution simulation

Marker Tampere, Finland
Conflicts can be resolved by teaching negotiation skills to young people. The Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) is an organisation founded by President and Peace Nobelist Martti Ahtisaari. It strives to resolve world conflicts and wishes to teach the skills required for resolving conflicts to youth.

What is it all about?

“Schools want to have a better understanding of conflict prevention and solution. Through the simulation, students get to practice solving conflicts through dialogue. The same practices that can be used to create dialogue in school also work in international crises. The roleplay aims to show that all conflicts can be solved peacefully if you have the will and the skills.”

Suvi Tuuli, CMI

Conflicts chip away at the foundation of society: poverty and corruption increases, refugee streams grow, and political disputes and confrontations become more common. The conflicts of today cannot be solved through aggression – sustainable peace will always be created through political negotiations and dialogue.

Conflicts have become more and more complex: they are rooted in various political interests that touch numerous different parties and the consequences often spread over national borders. Each context and conflict is unique: each dispute has its own history, root causes, and dynamics.

The Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) is a Finnish conflict resolution organisation that seeks solutions to world conflicts through dialogue and mediation. This is the core skillset of the CMI and it is known to be the most efficient way to solve conflicts. As an independent party, the CMI can promote unofficial processes of peace mediation and dialogue.

Trust is built through dialogue between different sides of the conflict. Dialogue offers a way to build trust between the conflicting parties by bringing them together as equals in a safe environment and with a mediator or mediators who are viewed as impartial. Once mutual trust has been reached, it is time to search for solutions that all parties can commit to.

In this simulation exercise, participants get to experience a realistic conflict situation in a tense community and practice solving the conflict with dialogue.

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Intended Outcomes
13 - 18
Age Group
Resources Needed
Three classes, time to read the material in detail
HundrED Criteria
This simulation teaches students the value of dialogue and is based on the specialist experience of a peace organisation.
Conflict resolution skills will take you far in life, because the same principles of dialogue will help you put yourself in another person’s position in the future.
The clear, ready-to-use material can be applied to different areas as these skills are relevant for everyone in the world. The roles might have to be modified to suit the surrounding society.

How do you implement it?


Teacher preparation 30–45 min

The teacher will act as the facilitator of this exercise and will ensure that the simulation progresses smoothly and in a structured manner.

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Everyone participating in the exercise must understand the instructions fully before the exercise is begun and follow the instructions during the exercise.

The best learning results are achieved with a physical space that allows participants to immerse themselves in their roles. The story starts on a city street outside of school, so the exercise can be organised in the school yard or you can stage the classroom with appropriate details: the school gate, the sidewalk, the bus stop, and so on.

Hand out the general instructions to everyone (Handout 1, p. 3).


Assigning roles and preparation for them 60min

You can ask students to familiarize themselves with the role during class or at home.

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There are nine roles in the material and because classrooms have different numbers of students you will probably have to have several people play the same role. This can lead to interesting interaction between different interpretations of the same role.

Teacher: Figure out or discuss with the students how the roles should be divided. Hand out a role description to each participant accordingly. Note: The role “young fundamentalist muslim” can be modified, if the topic seems to be too sensitive for the students.

Role 1:  Syrian mother who is now a refugee

Role 2: Young Islamic fundamentalist

Role 3: Teacher

Role 4: Far right activist

Role 5: Teenage refugee from Syria

Role 6: Aid worker

Role 7: Child who is native to the country

Role 8: Reporter

Role 9: Local politician

On page 15 you will find instructions on how to develop the roles of the teacher, aid worker and reporter.


Simulation 45 min

The first scene happens on a sidewalk outside of the school just as the school day is ending and students are leaving through the school gate.

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“Somebody is gluing posters warning against the dangers of Islam in front of the school. A young passer-by tries to rip down the posters and defend Islam, which sparks an argument with the person putting up the posters.

When students and parents arrive on the sidewalk, the argument grows. The situation aggravates in the small group and soon people start shouting over each other. A teacher comes to see what is going on and soon ends up participating in the fight.

Once the altercation has continued for a few minutes and emotions start to boil over, the person gluing the posters and the first passer-by decide to leave the scene, shouting insults at each other as they leave.”                   

After this first scene it is up to the group how the simulation will proceed. The input of every participant, both as an individual and a group member, will affect the outcome of the exercise, i.e. if a solution can be found or not.

Students may move around like they would in a real city area. You can walk away from the crowd and seek a more peaceful setting for discussion, arrange meetings with others, or use the phone or the internet to communicate.


Debriefing and final discussion 45min

It is important to debrief all participants immediately after the exercise ends, so that it is clear to everyone that the exercise has ended, and students can return to being themselves and continue their relationships as they were before.

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There are many activities that can be used for debriefing. You can, for example, ask the participants to make a circle and pretend to shake their characters off. Or you could ask each participant to introduce themselves with their own name on their turn.

In the final discussion, you can use these questions to get the group talking:

  • Feelings: How did you feel? What was difficult/easy?

  • Outcome: Did you find a solution? What kind of solutions did you find?

  • Process: What kind of behavior proved to be effective or ineffective to solve the argument, and why? What did the people who started mediating the dialogue think?

Detailed instructions and a description of a good debriefing can be found on page 16.


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