Training Civil Society Leaders through Simulations

15 December 2022
By: Sivahn Sapirstein
Shatil simulations and trainings

Photo: Shatil Staff

“We’ve developed a game,” Eran Klein tells me over the phone, “a new type of training here at Shatil that challenges the assumed boundaries of learning, called simulation training.”

My name is Sivahn Sapirstein, and as part of my work as an NIF Social Justice Fellow, I have been traveling around the country to write about Shatil workshops. After hearing about a particularly successful simulation, I got in touch with Eran who runs Shatil’s simulation project, to understand what exactly it was.

Simulations are a form of roleplay learning, where Shatil experts guide NGO members through a real life scenario, such as speaking with a donor, from start to finish. This tool, while established in other areas such as medical training, is completely new to civil society in Israel.  “Simulations help people deal with the panic and uncertainty that arise naturally in unknown circumstances,” Eran explained. “Someone who has thought through all the different ways a scenario can unfold will be more calm and prepared in the moment.”

In person, the simulations really come to life. I attended one last month by the Center For Policy Change as part of their series on working with the new Knesset. After a quick overview of how simulations work, we dove into the task of developing an agenda for our “meeting with a Member of Knesset.”

A quick glance in the room that day would have revealed how much energy simulations bring to these workshops. The room was full of participants huddled in groups, animatedly discussing their practice pitch, and comparing potential strategies from their own past experiences.

For the newer members of the group, the opportunity for practical learning was even more impactful. The simulations create the space to practice different approaches in an environment where the stakes are low, and the people around you are excited to help you succeed.

Another simulation on resource development brought the reality element up a notch by bringing in real representatives of philanthropic foundations. The training focused on preparing NGOs for discussing their projects with donors. After a day immersed in brainstorming, strategizing, and honing ideas, the organizations were able to present their new program proposals to the representatives.

Following the presentation, the groups heard live feedback from the foundation representatives. They learned where their message was or wasn’t clear, and how to address any disconnect they had with donors.

When I asked what differentiated this training from others, Ma’ayan Turner, a participant that day, emphasized the importance of the hands-on element. She remarked how “the whole thing was very real, from presenting realistic ideas to real funders.” Her organization, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, is now planning on further developing the idea her group launched at the simulation.

Going forward, Shatil is looking to further develop opportunities for newcomers to civil society through simulations, to give them a head start in a fast-paced world.