Our refugee colleagues often quote the old proverb: “You cannot understand a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.

This simulation aims to help participants understand some of the struggles and choices refugees face each day. The experience is designed by refugees, internally displaced persons and NGOs. After the simulation, former refugees, field workers and others will discuss options for engagement with participants.

Why a refugee simulation? (click to open/close)

We live in a world where the plight of the forcibly displaced is too often reduced to a set of statistics or data on a graph or pie chart. Our desire is to bring alive, even under limited conditions, something of the challenges and critical decisions faced by the 65.3 million people who are refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced People).

How should that need be communicated? (click to open/close)

Refugee colleagues often remind us of the old proverb: ‘I cannot understand a man until I have walked a mile in his shoes.’ They believe it important that we offer participants, if not a mile, at least a few steps in their ‘shoes’. A refugee adviser told us, ‘Before, I used to think I could never speak of my refugee years with people in the free world.  But if they have experienced this simulation, I can have that conversation with them.’Participants likewise tell us that they find the brief ‘experience’ far more powerful than watching a video or listening to a talk. They find an ‘experience’ of this lifestyle, even though simulated and limited in scope, far more powerful. As one CEO at Davos said, “It’s the difference between hearing and being.” Another added, “Reading a thousand books would not have taught me what I learned in the past hour”.

What are its goals? (click to open/close)

Three “E”s best capture the desired outcomes:

  • Education: We hope to give greater knowledge of global challenges.
  • Empathy: We hope to impact both heart and head in our participants.
  • Engagement: We explore ways, during our debrief, for participants to respond.

We also have an Engagement Team on hand to speak in greater depth with any who would like to support displaced people. In the Davos context, there is, of course, massive global reach among business and political leaders. Our goal is to help those interested to find their place in the complex quest for solutions to today’s unprecedented refugee / IDP challenge.

Do simulations suit everybody? (click to open/close)

Different people learn in different ways.  Speeches, presentations, academic papers and the like have their place in communicating global challenges.  Many participants tell us, however, that they find experiential learning more powerful than simply a cerebral process. As the proverb puts it: ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.’Participants tell us, moreover, that they find it effective in ways they did not expect. Even those who say they come to it with a measure of scepticism often leave with a very different perspective, deeply moved.

Is it realistic? Is it respectful? (click to open/close)

It is always a challenge to portray a global issue in a sensitive way, particularly in a very short time frame.  A simulation can only go so far, of course: somewhat like a live snap shot.The simulation format faces the same challenge as other forms of communication:  movies, documentaries, living museums, speeches or written papers.  All attempts to represent a deep and devastating challenge will be limited. We are acutely aware of this.

How then do we choose which issues we should focus on, and what narrative we should follow? Primarily, we ask those questions of our refugee colleagues, those who have lived it first-hand. Secondly, we liaise with NGO representatives who serve refugees in the camps and other locations where they are seeking shelter. These two groups help determine the story line and its trueness to life, the props and set that best reflect reality and the points they consider of critical importance for participants to take away.

The input of our refugee colleagues is further supported by refugees we know through our broader work, shipments we send to refugee locations, and visits we make to camps or other places of refuge.

What is the outcome? (click to open/close)

Crossroads Foundation has been running simulations like ‘A day in the life of a refugee’ weekly since 2005. We have watched people become motivated at a depth that is unprecedented, in our experience. Many corporate and political leaders who have participated have remained involved with global issues long after their simulation experience. These simulations have also birthed NGOs, projects and further engagement in the community, both adult and student.

Is this a fund-raiser? (click to open/close)

The primary goal of ‘A day in the life of a refugee’ is consciousness-raising, not fund-raising. During each debrief session, participants discuss a range of ways they can respond to global issues. Primarily, we encourage participants to consider engagement with their core competencies, utilising their company’s strengths and/or services to provide strategic solutions, that are sustainable and scalable. It would be at their discretion whether they need/choose to include a financial component. Those running ‘A day in the life of a refugee’ receive no financial remuneration. They are volunteers.

How intense is the simulation? (click to open/close)

Simulations vary but some can be very powerful. For that reason, we warn those considering an experience that they may be placed in an intense situation. We also assure them that no actual harm will come to them. In addition, we tell them that if at any point during the experience, they feel they cannot manage, they may leave immediately and we will have staff ready to speak with them, as needed. Since we began offering simulations, we have almost never found people do this, but the offer is always there.

Who is in the cast? (click to open/close)

The cast, and support team, comprises former refugees, IDPs, aid workers and further volunteers. As above, none receives a salary.

How do people respond? (click to open/close)

When we asked participants the impressions they gained of life for a refugee, they told us the following.“A profound experience that reminds us of the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people.”Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

“Beautifully done.” Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Management Ltd.

“Everyone should do this. It will change the way you see refugees.” Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

“A remarkable experience… One is moved, emotionally, out of normality, to a better understanding of the fears and dangers present for refugees.” Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute, Colombia University

“The bit of Davos I will remember for the rest of my life.” Sir John Gieve, Harvard University

“Humbling, inspiring, thought-provoking and motivating – a truly remarkable experience. Thank you!” Jane Nelson, Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative

“The simulation was as close to real as I could imagine. I now have a much greater appreciation for the needs of displaced people and will be an advocate for sending the message.” Dan Brutto, President, UPS International

“Thank you…for the very powerful experience you gave so many of us…it was very well done – unsettling, authentic, transformative.” Amy E Roth, International Justice Mission

“I don’t know how anyone could do this experience and not come out morally obligated to do something about it.” Paul Ellingstad, Director, Office of Global Social Innovation, HP

“Most impactful experience I’ve had in a long time, with real inspiration to take action. Don’t miss this!” Mack Gill, President, Global Services, Sungard

“Thank you on behalf of millions of refugees.” Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board, Nestle

“Everyone at WEF should be required to do this.” Josh Spear, Founding Partner, Undercurrent.

Where have our experiential programmes been run? (click to open/close)

Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Taiwan, UK, USA, Vietnam.

Who has done our simulations in Davos? (click to open/close)

The following is a sampling of the companies, UN agencies, NGOs, educational institutions that have participated in our simulations in Davos in recent years.

A.T. Kearney SAS France
Accenture
Accor
Agility, Asia Pacific Region
Al-Ghurair Group of Companies
AlixPartners
Arup Group, United Kingdom
Banque Cantonale Vaudoise
BF Consulting
Camfed International UK
Care International
CARE USA
Caritas Internationalis
Carnegie Mellon University
Central Bank of France
Charas LDA
Civicus, World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Clinton Global Initiative
Colliers
Council of Women World Leaders, USA
Crisis Action
Deloitte
Eurazeo
Eurocash SA Poland
Facebook
Forbes
ForbesLife
Fork Films
Georgetown University
Girls Not Brides
Global Redesign Initiative
Habitat for Humanity, USA
Harvard Kennedy School
Harvard University
Haykal Group United Arab Emirates
Hewlett-Packard
Horizon21 AG
HSBC Bank plc
INSEAD
Int Fed Red Cross and Red Crescent
International Business Leaders Forum
International Justice Mission
Invest in France Agency
Islamic Relief Worldwide
JSW Steel
KPMG Asia Pacific
KPMG International
Linklaters LLP
London Business School United Kingdom
Manpower
Marks and Spencer
Marriott International
MasterCard
McKinsey & Company
Medair
Médecins Sans Frontières
Mercy Corps
Microsoft Corporation
Millennium Promise
MSF
Multichoice, South Africa
National Council Swiss Parliament
Nestle
Neuberger Berman
Newmark Knight Frank
Newmont Mining Corporation
Nike, Inc.
Nirav Modi Foundation
Novartis
Overseas Development Institute
Oxfam
PayPal
Peremba Group of Companies
Plan International
PwC Switzerland
Qualcomm
Rabobank Group
Saïd Business School
Save the Children
Sekunjalo Investments Ltd South Africa
Skype
Sojourners
Sungard
Swiss American Chamber of Commerce
Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd Switzerland
SymbioSwiss SA
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
The Rockefeller Foundation
The World Bank
The Wyss Foundation
TNT
Transparency International
UBS Group AG
Undercurrent
UNESCO
UNHCR
Unilever
UNISDR
United Nations General Assembly
United Nations Global Compact
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation
University of Cape Town
University of Zurich
UNOCHA
UPS International
Virgin Group
Welltower
Westpac Banking Corporation Australia
Wikipedia
Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa)
World Vision International
Yahoo!
Zurich Insurance

 

 

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, undertakes Crossroads’ refugee simulation in Davos

Refugee Run

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Refugee simulations at Davos:

20172016, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Poverty simulations at Davos: 2015 , 2013

Flickr Images

Refugee simulations at Davos:

20172016, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Poverty simulations at Davos: 2015 , 2013

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Video, audio and print press from earlier years at Davos.

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Video, audio and print press from earlier years at Davos.

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