JSCSC Building at the centre of the UK Defence Academy estate, Shrivenham
Transforming Training and Education
In May 2011, we designed an exercise to challenge 180 British Army majors to move out of their comfort zone and see the world through the eyes of humanitarians who were being faced with making tough decisions in one of the same theatres they were operating in.
With a minimal briefing, they divided into small teams, and used the same process that guided a team of aid workers in their thinking on a particular dilemma in Afghanistan (TEAMWIN Decision-Navigator). Momentarily, the military officers were able to suspend their way of looking at the world, and evaluate a problem using key humanitarian reference points, such as Humanity, Impartiality and Independence. One officer’s response to the exercise was that: “there’s no easy answer, but we still need to make a decision”. Another observed that “there is no clear “owner” of the ground on which we operate – whether it be defined as the ‘battle space’ or indeed ‘humanitarian space’”. The officer thought he had invented a term that is already in common use by humanitarian agencies. This simple exercise seemed to accomplish in half a day what rotations of six or twelve month deployments did not achieve in the faulty and even hostile relations between the aid community and NATO forces in the Middle East.
In August 2014, we designed a two-day programme for the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA) in Lebanon to equip key personnel from across the country to lead effective humanitarian responses. We used D-NAV to break down the daunting nature of the specific problem they face in the Syrian refugee crisis, and examined two detailed case studies relating to shelter (whether to provide it to those with Limited Legal Status in Informal Settlements) and medical supplies (how to manage the issue of perceived inequalities between the treatment of Syrian Refugees and Lebanese communities requiring chronic medication).
The collaborative nature of the decision exercises pushed participants to debate difficult issues and share experiences. They were pleased with the rigour that the process brought to their discussion, guiding them to both a decision and implementation strategy, where roles were clearly delineated. Participants claimed in the anonymous feedback that they would (1) feel more confident in explaining their thinking to the various stakeholders involved, and (2) be able to archive it and return to the rationale when a new crisis emerges due to the electronic record. They were therefore able to see the benefits of capturing “institutional memory” and learning from past practice – something humanitarians continue to struggle with.