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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, The Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Taiwan, UK, USA, Vietnam.
The following is a sampling of the companies, UN agencies, NGOs, educational institutions that have participated in our simulations in Davos in recent years.
Agility, Asia Pacific Region
Al-Ghurair Group of Companies
Arup Group, United Kingdom
Banque Cantonale Vaudoise
Camfed International UK
Carnegie Mellon University
Central Bank of France
Civicus, World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Clinton Global Initiative
Council of Women World Leaders, USA
Eurocash SA Poland
Girls Not Brides
Global Redesign Initiative
Habitat for Humanity, USA
Harvard Kennedy School
Haykal Group United Arab Emirates
HSBC Bank plc
Int Fed Red Cross and Red Crescent
International Business Leaders Forum
International Justice Mission
Invest in France Agency
Islamic Relief Worldwide
KPMG Asia Pacific
London Business School United Kingdom
Marks and Spencer
McKinsey & Company
Médecins Sans Frontières
Multichoice, South Africa
National Council Swiss Parliament
Newmark Knight Frank
Newmont Mining Corporation
Nirav Modi Foundation
Overseas Development Institute
Peremba Group of Companies
Saïd Business School
Save the Children
Sekunjalo Investments Ltd South Africa
Swiss American Chamber of Commerce
Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd Switzerland
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
The Rockefeller Foundation
The World Bank
The Wyss Foundation
UBS Group AG
United Nations General Assembly
United Nations Global Compact
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation
University of Cape Town
University of Zurich
Westpac Banking Corporation Australia
Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN-Africa)
World Vision International
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, undertakes Crossroads’ refugee simulation in Davos