Political modeling, simulation (role-play) in St.Petersburg

The effectiveness of businesslike role-playing games, modeling the activities of leading international organizations (such as the United Nations, the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States), is widely recognized in the process of active learning and enjoys great interest among schoolchildren and students around the world. "Models," as these student conferences are shortly called, arose with the participation of the United Nations in the 1950s and passed as youth socializing games in various countries of the world, including the USSR. Realizing the attractiveness of the game reality for schoolchildren and students, the author team revised and expanded the scenarios of the traditional role-playing game "Model UN" so as to supplement the game component with educational and pedagogical competencies.

The first conference “Model UN” with the educational and methodical focus was held in 2004 within the walls of the St.-Petersburg State University. The original scenario was aimed at solving several key tasks:

• teaching students the procedures and rules of decision-making,

• teaching the concept of competencies of individual bodies,

• educational work related to the formation of students' understanding of the rules of conduct, responsibility for the work of their team,

• development of professional leadership skills, negotiation skills and teamwork.

A mandatory element is the use of foreign languages during the game. The Model UN gathered more than 300 participants since the first year; starting from 2004, it began to claim the status of the second in the Russian Federation and the only one model where the focus is on education rather than entertainment and play. Several factors contributed to the recognition of the conference: while preserving the format and name of the “Model UN”, the author team of organizers supplemented and modified the traditional rules of the game. Each year the scenario is supplemented by original plot twists, making students to be distracted from the usual process of the game, switch to the format of special sessions. In 2006, for example, the institution of quality control of the work of the participants of the game was introduced by the "national governments": students should now play the roles given to them not only in terms of their understanding of roles, but also under the control of the real foreign policy of the country they represent in the game. "Throw-in" of emergency information has been used in the game since 2008: students who play employees of certain bodies are invited to hold an emergency meeting due to the reports prepared by the organizers on the beginning of armed conflicts. The annual games have been supplemented by a special institute of "mass media" since 2007. Junior journalists are now able to practice in interviewing, preparing materials, page making and publication of newspapers in real time.

The modeling conferences of the European Union began to be held in 2006 at the St. Petersburg State University by the original rules developed by the authors. The main emphasis was placed on studying the practice of multilateral "basket" negotiations that are typical for the institutions of the European Union. “Model EU " is aimed at senior students and involves students in the master's degree programs in the standard-setting process. The revolutionary component that made a special contribution to the development of the methodological base for the development of students' professional skills is the institution of lobbyists proposed by the authors; lobbyists’ tasks are much broader than tasks of traditional players. Representatives of interest groups in the rank of ambassadors of states, business emissaries, employees of transnational corporations and public associations complement the political space of the game. In addition, the gaming institute of the European Parliament conducts elections of its President based on a system of European parties. The scenario is constructed in such a way that absolutely any participant can be on the post of the President: it all depends on his/her skills and ability to convince his/her colleagues. These approaches are unique for the entire world community of specialists in political game modeling, since for the first time in practice it was possible to preserve the main features of the original decision-making process and simulate them within the framework of the game reality.

In 2014, as an experiment, the author team launched the CIS Model project, which aims to popularize and compare the principles of decision-making in the CIS, the UN and the EU. Author team plans to develop this direction further taking into account the growing importance of Eurasian integration structures for Russia's foreign policy. The modeling of cooperation bodies in the CIS space / Eurasian Economic Union is unique at the moment. Within the framework of this direction, the team of authors received a grant - Jean Monnet project in 2017 to model the negotiations between the EU and the EAEU.

The game adaptation of decision-making scenarios has already received a serious recognition: letters from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's apparatus, governmental telegrams from the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, letters and requests from the European Commission and the apparatus of the chairmanship countries of the Council of the European Union were sent to the participants, as well as from heads of the units of the Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS countries. Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Administration of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, other high-ranking officials of the Russian Federation attended the opening of the meetings in different years.

An innovative contribution to the system of training of professional skills (in particular, skills to manage the audience, participate in negotiations, conduct debates in a foreign language and resolve conflicts between participants while preserving the effective work of the team) is the original authorial methodology for monitoring the achievement of goals. Key players of businesslike games receive special assignments describing their individual and group purposes. Adherence to these goals means individual and collective success, but the original arrangement of goals, adaptation to reach a compromise allow participants not only to gain additional points, but also in practice to touch the art of achieving hidden benefits for the state or one’s own organization. It is no accident that many participants of the past St. Petersburg businesslike games work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, in the United Nations and in business structures today. For today, it is difficult to name at least one university of St. Petersburg, which students did not participate in at least one businesslike game, developed by the author team.

Separately, attention should be paid to the influence of the system of businesslike games on the achievement of educational tasks, which the university faces. Due to the multi-level rotation of the participants, the preservation of the dossier and the continuity of the "generation of modelers", the author team individually determines the roles for each participant for each conference. Thus, yesterday's student anarchist and ruffian tomorrow will turn out to be on a responsible gaming position and due to responsibility of the scenario time frame obliged to show loyalty to his/her institution and collective. Understanding of responsibility, a strong desire to prove oneself and to work successfully allow students to be encouraged to study the topics of the agenda independently, comply with the code of conduct and follow the code of mutual respect.

Since 2004, St. Petersburg Student Games have become the calling card of St. Petersburg for many students from other cities of Russia and countries of the world. Many participants, who learned about SPbSU on the days of the games, subsequently came to St. Petersburg as applicants for the Master Degree Programmes and postgraduate programmes. Frequently, teachers who sought to become familiar with the rules and organize similar games on the basis of their universities came as special "observers" with the students in the delegation of participants from other cities. During the years of work, the author team repeatedly shared their developments with colleagues from other universities and other cities of Russia.

The Organizing Committee of the Game is always glad to see new participants: unique opportunities for development and self-expression, and use of one’s own strengths in the sphere of politics and public activity are provided for students on the basis of the St. Petersburg State University. We are glad that the holding of political models contributes to this process.

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