Teaching and learning mode

Scenarios and role plays

MSD Competency Framework

Scenarios and role plays involve giving participants a prompt, problem statement or example situation and observing them interact with the issue in real time. This may involve using actors and props that dynamically respond to participants decisions and interactions. A trainer may change the course of the scenario or role play while in progress in response to the practitioners’ approach. The goal is to, as much as possible, simulate real-life experiences.

Using this mode

Scenarios and role plays are incredibly useful in building soft skills such as communication and negotiation which can only be built through practice. They allow practitioners to consolidate their knowledge of the market systems development approach by applying it to a real example. They also give trainers the opportunity to give practitioners feedback.

Guidance for trainers

  • Provide adequate contextual and background information so that participants are able to engage with your scenario or role play. Take care to use realistic actors and situations. Ensure participants understand the exercise prior to starting
  • Design scenarios and role plays around specific learning goals. Give participants feedback with those goals in mind. Be as specific as possible when giving feedback.

Example competencies for scenarios and role plays

Knowledge Synthesis: competency A5
Prepare three different summaries (of varying quality) of the same market analysis. Ask different practitioners to present each of them. Get practitioners to give each other feedback and identify what makes a strong vs weak synthesis of information.

Decision making: competency B1
Using a workshop setting ask participants to make decisions on a strategic question or case study with little time and information. Then reveal further information after their decision that contradicts their action. Debrief and reflect on participants' reactions.

Intervention design: competency B2
Choose your own adventure style game with multiple options and outcomes. Participants are given a case study of a potential intervention. They must make decisions on intervention design – after each round of decisions they learn the consequences of their choices and have to make further decisions.

Monitoring and learning: competency B4
Get practitioners to undertake a dynamic exercise where they have to make decisions on intervention strategies in a case study or role play format. Provide them with more information in the form of observations and data once they make a decision - they must then decide on next steps. Debrief and discuss the process of pivoting, using new information to change course. Ask practitioners to identify their hypotheses throughout the process.

Donor relations & compliance: competency B5
Develop a structured role play to simulate the interactions between market actors, the programme team and the donor agency. Assign each practitioner a role from one of those groups and give people descriptions of their role and key priorities. Break the game into stages to show the different interactions between the programme team and donor during:

  1. initial research
  2. making offer to partner
  3. monitoring partnership
  4. reporting results.

Structure the interactions so the programme team interacts with market actors frequently and the donor infrequently – so that donor players are ‘surprised’ when plans change drastically from what they initially approved. Debrief at length with the team so that practitioners gain more empathy for donor constraints, pressures and access to information.

Relationship building: competency C1
Exercises that give different people roles, instructions and constraints which ultimately develop empathy across the group. For example The Last Straw board game and The City Game group role play.

Facilitation: competency C2
Provide a prompt for a situation where practitioners have to interact with a person whose behaviours are easy to judge negatively - for example predatory business behaviour or spending family money on drinking. Observe how much they are able to empathise, inquire and ask questions vs judging, jumping to conclusions and pushing.

Communication: competency C3
Get practitioners to deliver short presentations on a predefined subject or situation. Debrief and provide specific feedback on how to improve.

Influence: competency C4
Isolate a specific proposal or value proposition for practitioners to make to a market actor e.g. an input supplier to experiment with an agent-based network. Prepare a team of actors (other programme staff) to play market actors with the same business but different circumstances and personalities. Get practitioners to practice short 10-15 minute ‘pitch’ meetings. They should use different psychological tactics to get the market actor to agree to try out a new business model. Include an observer to take notes and give specific feedback on the approach to persuasion.

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