Roll the Dice. Bringing Intercultural Simulations Online

Roll the Dice [Alex Chambers via unsplash]
Image: Alex Chambers via unsplash.com

Intercultural simulations are engaging and effective activities in workshops and trainings. How can we bring intercultural simulations online? Based on the card game BARNGA, this blog post shows a simulation exercise that can be played online to understand better the dynamics of intercultural encounters.

“Roll the Dice. Bringing Intercultural Simulations Online” is part of a series of blog posts about online facilitation tools. Other blog posts focus on online icebreaking games, energizers and on group- and team-building (coming soon!).

One of the most popular intercultural simulations out there is BARNGA by Sivasailam Thiagarajan (*amazon affiliate link, available also on the thiagi.com website). In the beginning of going online, seeing BARNGA online was a wishful thinking. Now there is already an online version ready to implement into your online events, but there circulated also a dice-version of BARNGA, by Anne Sophie Winkelmann, that looked promising to adjust and try it out online (links at the bottom of this post).

Why intercultural simulations?

Simulations are training activities that reduce the complexity of reality (without simplifying it!) and therefore allow participants experience themselves interacting with others and learn from that experience. Simulations are an effective method that allows participants:

  • experiencing and reflecting on emotions in interactions,
  • experiencing and reflecting one’s one behaviours and attitudes, and
  • learning from this experience and drawing conclusions for future encounters.

And they are fun!

Finally, simulations have also so effective, because they have a long-lasting effect on participants. Even long after the simulation activity, when participants go abroad, they come back to it realising often “That is exactly like in the game!”.

Roll the Dice. How to play it?

Roll the Dice” is a virtual simulation based on the BARNGA card game.

Roll the Dice [Alex Ambedo via unsplash]

Aims

  • introduce participants to the topic of intercultural encounters,
  • raising awareness for the dynamics of an intercultural situation/encounter,
  • raising awareness for possible irritations in intercultural situations and helpful strategies.

Duration

  • 45-60 minutes

Materials

  • Roll the Dice (game instructions) and an online dice

Setting

  • online meeting room and breakout rooms

The online setting

  • Gambling tables = breakout rooms
  • Player/gamblers = 3-5 player per table/room
  • In each room there is one player “rolling” the dice and one person writing down the points
  • Online dice (for example: https://freeonlinedice.com) The player who rolls dice is sharing his/her screen.
  • Zoom Screen Settings: gallery view, side-by-side mode with chat open
  • Upload the game instructions for each group to google drive and create separate sharing links

Step-by-step

After introducing the game and going through the instructions (see below), assign the group to breakout rooms (3-5 participants) and open the rooms. If someone does not want to play, ask them to stay in the main meeting room.

Roll the Dice - Instructions [Riho Kroll via unsplash]
Image: Riho Kroll via unsplash.com

Now the simulation can start:

“Training phase” (4-5 minutes)

  • Providing a link with instructions how to play.
  • Players are getting familiar with rules and start trying out the game.

First game round (4-5 minutes)

  • The groups start playing, now all the points count.
  • ! Restrict access to the game instructions during this phase !

Second game round (4-5 minutes)

  • One player leaves the room, another one joins (Move the players from each breakout room to another); the group continues playing.

Third, forth (and event. fifth) game round

  • Another players leaves/joins the game at the gambling table.
Roll the Dice - Sample Game Instructions [Riho Kroll via unsplash]
Image: Riho Kroll via unsplash.com

Reflection

The very “basic version” of debriefing is following exploring emotions, (spontaneous) reactions (in the first moment of meeting the unknown) and strategies (after starting to deal with the new, unknown situation):

  • How did you feel?
  • What were your spontaneous reactions (thoughts, feelings, actions)?
  • What strategies did you use to deal with the situation?

And a transfer-question (according to the context of your online training), for example:

  • How does this simulation experience compare to (your) experience in real life?
  • How is it similar? How is it different?

Variations

  • Verbal or non-verbal: In an online environment there is no way to control, if participants follow it or not. So, don’t try. Invite them to try it out non-verbally as a challange, an opportunity. We tried out both versions. So far, I cannot say which is better.
  • Focus on power: The task to roll the dice is a very strong position. You could give the power to roll the dice to one person (like suggested), or have everyone share their screen, when it is their turn. However, if you mix it in one game, this might tune off the other rules.

Experience

Roll the Dice has been developed and tested with friends, trainers and colleagues from Universities . Here are some of our reflections:

  • Setting up the game, technically and pedagogically, is quite a challenge. I would recommend that this activity is facilitated by two trainers.
  • In order to keep the game flow, I would start with two rules that are different. If you have more experience with the game, you can introduce more. A third one to experiment with could be different order of players (A to Z, Z to A).
  • Giving the task to roll the dice to one person makes this game more fluent and participants have a better chance to get into this experience. However, this tasks gives one person a very strong position of power. And therefore mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion go viral. This has to be treated carefully and reflected during debriefing.
  • We tried out this simulation various times. Our impression is, that the this game escalates quite fast even if you minimize the alterations of the rules and chaos and confusion may quickly accelerate. And being in the virtual environment might increase the feeling of being lost. Be also sure, to conduct a proper debriefing that also acknowledges the emotions experienced during this simulation.
  • Taking the difficulties of communication online, I would recommend to use the chat for the reflection to encrease the engagement into the debriefing.

Last, but not least

Download: Roll the Dice - Activity description and group instructions (24 downloads)

And, what will be your experience with this simulation?


Sources

This online simulation is inspired by BARNGA (Thiagi, 1980, *amazon affiliate link). Meanwhile, a group of designers, writers and developers – The Barnga Project created an online version.

The dice-version of BARNGA I got to know from Anne Sophie Winkelmann. It is published in English and German in the project documentation Soundz of Berlin. A description and application of the activity in the context of diversity trainings you may find in More that Culture by Anne Sophie Winkelmann and Create your Space by Karin Reindlmeier.

Roll the Dice has been developed and tested with friends and colleagues from KIIK (Cologne), Między Innymi (Poland) and Among Others (Poland, Ireland, Latvia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey). Thanks a lot for your contribution!

Additional resources

Berliner Arbeitskreis für politische Bildung e.V. (w.Y.): Soundz of Berlin. Documentation about an international youth project on Diversity and against Discrimination. Experiences, Outcomes and Methods für international youth work. www.bapob.de [EN/DE]

Karin Reindlmeier, Reindlmeier (2010): Create your space. Impulse für eine diversitätsbewusste internationale Jugendarbeit. Eine Handreichung für Teamer/innen der internationalen Jugendarbeit; transfer e.V. / Forscher-Praktiker Dialog, p.41 [DE]


More Online Facilitation Tools

“Roll the Dice. Bringing Intercultural Simulations Online” is part of a series of blog posts on online facilitation tools. My other tools recommendations for online workshops and trainings are here:

*I use affiliate links on my website. I may get a commission if you decide to purchase an book from amazon. I only recommend products and services that I use or have used. Your purchase helps support my work and maintain this website. Thank you very much for your support. Michael Kimmig

Michael Kimmig

trainer | coach | life-long learner

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