Topics in Global Policy: International Humanitarian Crisis Simulation

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Topics in Global Policy: International Humanitarian Crisis Simulation

PA 5890
Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Fall 2015
Learn about the work of humanitarian professionals through innovative crisis simulation activities. Course sponsored by the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Medicine Global Health, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, School of Public Health, Journalism and Mass Communications, Geographic Information Systems, and a large group of government and nongovernment partner organizations.

Sherry Gray Office hours by appointment

HHH 232, 612-626-5674

This course will allow students to participate in an intensive experiential educational activity organized by faculty in Department of Medicine Global Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, and with assistance from faculty in many units at the University of Minnesota, including School of Public Health, School of Architecture, Journalism and Mass Communications, MGIS, and College of Veterinary Medicine and together with numerous other partners, including: Hennepin County Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota National Guard, the University of Iowa; Case Western Reserve; New American Alliance for Development; and the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN). For more information about this project:
Course will include a pre-simulation in-class meeting in late August or first week of September (dates/times to be determined in mid-August), a 3 day event that includes a one-day workshop on SPHERE standards and a 48-hour crisis simulation, a post-simulation class meeting (within two weeks of the simulation), and a final reflection paper.  


International Humanitarian Crisis Simulation (participation in the entire simulation, including workshop, is required for course credit)
September 11-13 2015

(This overnight event starts at 8am with registration on Friday and ends at 6pm on Sunday)

A day-long workshop introducing key areas of the SPERE standards will be held Friday, September 11 followed immediately by a 48-hour crisis simulation (starts late afternoon following workshop) which will be carried out using a field exercise format. The simulation is an active learning field exercise that will challenge students to utilize effective communication, coordination and leadership skills while enmeshed crisis scenario that will involve active team work, intense interaction with role-players and on-the-spot decision-making in a way that closely resembles international disaster responses.
Students should come prepared to be outdoors for most or all of the simulation, in any weather. Overnight accommodation will be provided in rustic cabins or, if preferred, in student-supplied tents. Students unable to camp can stay in a local hotel or commute from the Twin Cities, but note that many teams may be working late evenings or early mornings. Food will be provided for the duration of the simulation (3 meals). Students with special diets should bring their own rations for the duration, although non-meat options will be available. Transportation will be arranged by carpooling among participants. More details will be provided during pre-simulation class meetings.
The simulation be held at Phillippo Scout Reservation, Cannon Falls, MN

(Approximately 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities).

Learning Objectives

  • Work with team to respond appropriately to population’s needs during crisis

  • Present relevant team findings to host nation and international aid officials and potential donors

  • Reflect on student’s own performance as well as the performance of student’s teammates

  • Experience first-hand ethical, accountability and effective implementation components of common good practice and minimum standards involved in humanitarian programs, including SPERE standards

  • Learn complexities involved by using resources efficiently and effectively for humanitarian-based outcomes

  • Enhance collaborative skills, coordinating people and organizations at times of heightened complexity and risk

  • Operate safely and securely in a pressured and changing environment

  • Enhance personal management and leadership skills

  • Learn the common duties and challenges of a career in humanitarian crisis response


Please note copyright issues that are listed on organization websites for appropriate use of all downloaded material. Some readings are posted on course Moodle.
Required before Simulation
Sphere Handbook
Recommended Students Review before Simulation
James, E., 2008. Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs. Rugby: Practical Action. (Chapters 2, 4, 7, 15, 17 and 20 in particular recommended for simulation review.)


Anderson, M., 2004. The Do No Harm Handbook. Cambridge, Local Capacities for Peace Project. Review available here:


All In Diary


USAID/OFDA Field Operations Guide


USAID/OFDA Proposal Guidelines


UNHCR Handbook for Emergencies


UNICEF Emergency Field Handbook

 Recommended Reading (some readings below available through Moodle)

Anderson, M., 2004. The Do No Harm Handbook. Cambridge, Local Capacities for Peace Project.

Anderson, Scott, 2000 The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero. Anchor.
Barnett, M., and Weiss, T., eds. 2008. Humanitarianism in Question: Politics, Power, Ethics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Barnett, M., 2011. Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Bolletino, V., 2006. Designing Security. Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. Cambridge: Harvard
Brinkerhoff, J., 2002. Government-Nonprofit Partnership: A Defining Framework. Public

Administration and Development. 22, pp. 19-30.
Fast, L., 2007. Characteristics, Context and Risk: NGO Insecurity in Conflict Zones. Disasters. 31(2), pp. 130-154.
Frerks, G., al. al., 2006. Principles and Pragmatism: Civil-Military Action in Afghanistan and Liberia. Utrecht: Cordaid.
James, E., 2008. Managing Humanitarian Relief: An Operational Guide for NGOs. Rugby: Practical Action.
Macrae, J., and Harmer, A., 2004. “Beyond the continuum: An overview of the changing role of aid policy in protracted crises.” HPG Research Briefing No. 16. London: ODI.
Humanitarian Accountability Project-International, 2008. The Humanitarian Accountability Report 2008. Geneva, HAP-I
Slim, H., and Bonwick, A., 2005. Protection: An ALNAP guide for humanitarian agencies. London: ALNAP.
ICISS. 2001. The Responsibility to Protect. Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. New York, UN. Just read the Executive Summary and skim the rest.
Tong, Jacqui. 2004. “Questionable Accountability MSF and Sphere.” Disasters. Vol. 28(2) pp. 176-169.
Course Assessment (student grades)
Grades in this course will be S/N, satisfactory or unsatisfactory and based primarily on the quality of the team project for the simulation and an individual reflection paper. Other assessments will derive from faculty advisor assessment of the quality of students’ participation in class discussions and of each student's individual contributions to the simulation team effort. Each student will be involved in the evaluation process through self-evaluation and evaluation of teammates.
Attendance at all course and team meetings and completion of all assignments by deadline is both assumed and required. Throughout the simulation, all team members are expected to participate equitably in planning and executing the project, preparing for and attending meetings, and preparing deliverables and presenting findings.
At HHH students are not hesitant to identify teammates who have failed to show initiative or complete assignments and simulation partners can be equally forthcoming. The most common problem within teams that leads to significant variation in assessments is the failure by individuals to do their fair share of the work. This problem generally stems from different priorities and commitment to the class and the project. Sometimes, individuals who have been pegged as free-riders by their teammates or simulation partners have complained that they didn’t realize their team members felt they weren’t doing their fair share of the work. This is not an excuse that will mitigate adverse effects on a student's grade.
Simulation Confidentiality Policy
For the simulation, the organizers request you bring cell phones, but not laptops.  Please let your family, friends, and contacts know that you will be deeply involved in more than two days of simulation, much of this time out of normal contact range with persons outside the simulation. 
Note: Do not email/tweet to anyone or post online details, photos or videos of the simulation during the event. It is expected that participants will be fully engaged in the simulation for the duration.
Information about sharing of information after this event will be given later in this project. 
Unless you are a designated reporter for this activity or requested to share materials with the Crisis Simulation team, all photos and videos are for personal use only.
Course Policies

Student Conduct Code:

The University of Minnesota seeks an environment that promotes academic achievement and integrity, that is protective of free inquiry, and that serves the educational mission of the University. Similarly, the University seeks a community that is free from violence, threats, and intimidation; that is respectful of the rights, opportunities, and welfare of students, faculty, staff, and guests of the University; and that does not threaten the physical or mental health or safety of members of the University community.
As a student at the University you are expected adhere to Board of Regents Policy: Student Conduct Code. To review the Student Conduct Code, please see:

Note that the conduct code specifically addresses disruptive classroom conduct, which means "engaging in behavior that substantially or repeatedly interrupts either the instructor's ability to teach or student learning. The classroom extends to any setting where a student is engaged in work toward academic credit or satisfaction of program-based requirements or related activities."

Use of Personal Electronic Devices in the Classroom:i

Using personal electronic devices in the classroom setting can hinder instruction and learning, not only for the student using the device but also for other students in the class. To this end, the University establishes the right of each faculty member to determine if and how personal electronic devices are allowed to be used in the classroom. For complete information, please reference:

Scholastic Dishonesty:

You are expected to do your own academic work and cite sources as necessary. Failing to do so is scholastic dishonesty. Scholastic dishonesty means plagiarizing; cheating on assignments or examinations; engaging in unauthorized collaboration on academic work; taking, acquiring, or using test materials without faculty permission; submitting false or incomplete records of academic achievement; acting alone or in cooperation with another to falsify records or to obtain dishonestly grades, honors, awards, or professional endorsement; altering, forging, or misusing a University academic record; or fabricating or falsifying data, research procedures, or data analysis. (Student Conduct Code: If it is determined that a student has cheated, he or she may be given an "F" or an "N" for the course, and may face additional sanctions from the University. For additional information, please see:

The Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity has compiled a useful list of Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to scholastic dishonesty: If you have additional questions, please clarify with your instructor for the course. Your instructor can respond to your specific questions regarding what would constitute scholastic dishonesty in the context of a particular class-e.g., whether collaboration on assignments is permitted, requirements and methods for citing sources, if electronic aids are permitted or prohibited during an exam.

Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences:ii

Students will not be penalized for absence during the semester due to unavoidable or legitimate circumstances. Such circumstances include verified illness, participation in intercollegiate athletic events, subpoenas, jury duty, military service, bereavement, and religious observances. Such circumstances do not include voting in local, state, or national elections. For complete information, please see:

Appropriate Student Use of Class Notes and Course Materials:iii

Taking notes is a means of recording information but more importantly of personally absorbing and integrating the educational experience. However, broadly disseminating class notes beyond the classroom community or accepting compensation for taking and distributing classroom notes undermines instructor interests in their intellectual work product while not substantially furthering instructor and student interests in effective learning. Such actions violate shared norms and standards of the academic community. For additional information, please see:

Grading and Transcripts:

For additional information, please refer to:

Sexual Harassment

"Sexual harassment" means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment in any University activity or program. Such behavior is not acceptable in the University setting. For additional information, please consult Board of Regents Policy:

Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action:

The University will provide equal access to and opportunity in its programs and facilities, without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. For more information, please consult Board of Regents Policy:

Disability Accommodations:

Students of all abilities are encouraged to join the simulation and class. In compliance with the University of Minnesota policy, we will provide appropriate academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities for all activities. Please provide any accommodations paperwork to the professor as soon as available.
Persons with disabilities (revealed or unrevealed) are welcome to participate in the simulation. The simulation will be held outdoors and accessible camping and personal care facilities are not be available, but information on nearby hotels and other possible accommodations will be provided upon request. Please note that electricity is very limited at the simulation site and the area is not well lit. Clean well water is provided by pump and all toilets are vault.
Students should prepare for long days outdoors in a state park-like setting. Food will be served three times a day and on an irregular schedule. Vegetarian food will be available, but students with special diets are encouraged to bring supplemental food. Students needing food at certain scheduled times should provide their own.
There is significant walking in the simulation on grassy paths and natural surfaces and in any kind of weather.iv Students unable to walk long distances or over uneven surfaces should discuss options with course faculty in advance.
Because of the complexity of this event, event organizers request information on needs (or questions about possible accommodations) as soon as possible before the event (one week minimum if possible).
Please note that the limitation of accommodation for everyone in a humanitarian crisis is an issue that can be addressed as part of the simulation as well.
The University of Minnesota is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. Disability Services (DS) is the campus office that collaborates with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations. If you have, or think you may have, a disability (e.g., mental health, attentional, learning, chronic health, sensory, or physical), please contact DS at 612-626-1333 to arrange a confidential discussion regarding equitable access and reasonable accommodations. If you are registered with DS and have a current letter requesting reasonable accommodations, please contact your instructor as early in the semester as possible to discuss how the accommodations will be applied in the course. For more information, please see the DS website,

Mental Health and Stress Management:v

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance and may reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via the Student Mental Health Website:

Please note that the simulation mimics situations that may recall traumatic or stressful real-life events and it is normal and expected that students will react with strong emotion. Please feel free to discuss these issues before, during or after the simulation with the course instructor.

Academic Freedom and Responsibility, for courses that involve students in research:

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of the University. Within the scope and content of the course as defined by the instructor, it includes the freedom to discuss relevant matters in the classroom and conduct relevant research. Along with this freedom comes responsibility. Students are encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth. Students are free to take reasoned exception to the views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled.* When conducting research, pertinent institutional approvals must be obtained and the research must be consistent with University policies.
Reports of concerns about academic freedom are taken seriously, and there are individuals and offices available for help. Contact the instructor, your adviser, the associate dean of the college, or the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the Office of the Provost.
* Language adapted from the American Association of University Professors "Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students".
Religious conflicts:

Students may ask for reasonable and timely accommodations for religious observances. Please let the instructors know before the simulation of any particular needs, particularly regarding diet, personal space and quiet time.


Plagiarism and cheating are absolutely unacceptable and will be pursued to the fullest extent of the University’s policies. Providing proper citations in writing is both necessary and expected. If there are any questions about what constitutes correct citations, it is the student’s responsibility to ask the faculty advisor prior to submitting the assignment. Violations will result in (1) a failing grade for the assignment and possibly for the entire course and (2) a report being filed with the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI). The faculty advisor for this course may make use of anti-plagiarism software both to detect and to confirm suspected plagiarized writing. Please consult the following University resources for further information on plagiarism: and

i Please note that there are specific requirements about using electronic and media devices during this event.

ii Students missing the simulation cannot receive a completed grade for this course.

iii Simulation participants may be asked to keep details of the event confidential, to avoid ruining the experience for future crisis simulation participants.

iv Simulation has been held in heavy rain, drizzle, hot and humid sunny days, and chilly nights.

v Trauma counseling may be available about part of this event; details to be discussed during simulation preparation.

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