Community Planning: Methods
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Simulation can be used to act out a real event or activity, helping both participants and observers gain information and insights prior to formulating plans. It can also be used to test draft plans.

An event or activity to be simulated is chosen. This could be a natural or human-made hazard such as an earthquake or daily life in a street or building.

People who have experienced the event or activity from a variety of perspectives are brought together for a workshop session.

People act out the event or activity as a drama, individually or in groups. Usually, a carefully structured exercise is prepared in advance by a facilitator (see sample simulation exercise).

Key information and issues arising are recorded for future use.

Recommendations are identified for future actions.
Igbalangao, Panay Island, Philippines, 1995, Nick Hall
Acting out an event

Acting out an event

Acting out an event
Local residents dramatising how they were affected by a recent typhoon during a field workshop to improve disaster management.

  • Enjoyable way of getting information that would be hard to obtain any other way.

  • Good process for team building and clarification of roles.

  • People may need time to prepare, so the method should be explained in advance

  • Allocate time for discussion after each simulation exercise to allow people to reflect on their own performance.
  • Minimal costs involved for materials, plus facilitator's fees if any.
Sample simulation exercise
  1. Determine event or activity to simulate
    Eg: A recent flood.

  2. Design the exercise
    Objectives. Process. Materials required.

  3. Assemble participants/cast of characters
    Eg: A cross-section of the local community affected in different ways by the flood, plus officials and technical experts dealing with flood relief and avoidance measures.

  4. Explain purpose
    Eg: To understand how people reacted to the recent flood in order to decide on measures to reduce the impact of future ones. (10 mins)

  5. Divide into groups
    Ask each group to prepare to act out a different aspect of the event or activity in the form of a drama. Eg: Before the flood; during the flood; after the flood. Each group also to appoint a reporter. (10 mins)

  6. Group working
    Each group prepares its drama through discussion prompted by responding to key questions. Eg: 'When and how did you know a flood was coming?' 'What did people do and when?' Reporter notes main issues arising. (60 mins)

  7. Plenary: dramas and presentation
    Each group acts out its drama followed by a presentation by the reporter summing up the main issues. General discussion. (60-90 mins)

  8. Review (perhaps later or after a break)
    Review of issues and concerns raised. Discussion on next steps. (30 mins)

    Ideal numbers: 18­24 (3 groups of 6-8)
    Running time: 140­170 mins (plus 30 mins for review)

    Note: The same exercise could be used to simulate an event that has not yet happened but might do in the future.

Thanks: Roger Bellers, Nick Hall

Last updated on: 8 July 2008