Crisis Event Simulation


In this class simulation of a crisis event, students role play as different actors of the US government. They have to collaborate with different actors to formulate an optimal response strategy that is made public in a press conference. 


(1) Learn about how the U.S government responds to a crisis event

(2) Understand the different motivations and interests of different political groups

(3) Learn to collaborate with different organizations to propose the best response strategy


After students have been introduced to the topic of bureaucracy and have learned about the different U.S government departments, they participate in this crisis event simulation to gain a deeper knowledge of the function of each institution and to experience the collaboration that goes on behind U.S policies. For this simulation, the imagined crisis event of a tsunami in Bangladesh was used. 


Before class:

  1. Students receive a handout that details the structure of the simulation and some background information on the roles that the students play (see attached).

  2. Each student is assigned a role. They should do some research on their role’s function and capabilities prior to the day of the simulation.

  3. Students do not find out about the content of the crisis until the day before the simulation.

During class: 

  • The crisis event is announced at the beginning of class. For example, a tsunami devastated Bangladesh and spiraled into India.

  • For the first 10 minutes of class, students research critical information regarding their crisis location and background conditions. They will also have to identify their assigned role’s function in the US foreign policy formulation and its capabilities. Students are permitted to use the Internet to conduct their research.

  • In the next 10 minutes, students will coordinate with related institutions. For instance, those from the Department of Defense ought to gather input from members of Joint Chiefs of Staff when considering whether a military response is wise. Similarly, the president and advisors should liaise with congresspersons from both parties.

  • Each of the institutions should discuss and reach a consensus as to the optimal response to the crisis. They have approximately 10 minutes to finalize their positions. Students should enter their positions and suggestions into a shared Google document. During the process, the President should be listening in to conversations of different groups and checking the Google doc.

  • The President, advisors, press secretary and staff take 10 minutes to adopt a final position and craft a press statement. The President can ask organizations to provide more information if needed. During this time, students not in the Executive Branch review content entered by other actors. 

  • Once the public statement is crafted, the President and press secretary have 10 minutes to outline and defend America's policy choice in a press conference. 

After Class:

  • During the section meeting following the simulation, students debrief about their experience. They will discuss the collaborations that they were involved in and the proposals that they made. 

Comments: Professor Tingley advises instructors to choose a crisis event where the solution is not evident so that there will be some tension between the different groups. He also comments that instructors should make sure that everyone understands the organization that they are part of, taking into consideration international students who may not be familiar with the American government.  

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