Role play brings policy-making to life for youth leaders in Mongolia

Through a series of policy workshops in Mongolia, young political party supporters receive hands-on experience to work together and develop policy options for a range of scenarios.

At a recent policy workshop in Ulaanbaatar city, Khovd and Uvs province, there was barely a smartphone in sight as participants found themselves immersed in role-play scenarios, tackling policy problems at national and local levels.

They discussed how policy makers could address the impacts of the massive extractive sector, improve public awareness on health and agriculture, and boost road safety in the rapidly developing country, among other challenges.

The event in Ulaanbaatar city was the seventh in a series held since May 2017 by the Mongolian People’s Party and Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Mongolia. The workshops aim to provide a hands-on learning environment in which young party supporters work together and develop policy options to respond to a range of scenarios.

The target is not senior or mid-level party officials, but rather young supporters and members of the party’s student and youth organizations, and in the later workshops also young members of trade unions. Each workshop in general has four parts: policy-making and analysis, political party and ideology, simulation exercise, and local problems.

The scenarios held the attention of the participants throughout. Most have been involved with politics at some level, but mostly for campaigning during elections. These are every three or four years, and do not include any training or explanation of policies or political ideologies. Although most participants were familiar with the nationalist ideology of the ruling party, it was useful and new to them to hear about the range of ideologies from the left to the right of the political spectrum.

“This type policy workshop is much needed for young party affiliates, many of whom would participate in policy-making processes at different levels and settings.”

The role-playing scenarios were all based on real data and topical problems, and covered the following exercises: Community Benefit Agreement (CBA), the Tavan Tolgoi Mine, Windfall Profit Tax (WPT), and Political Party Scenarios.

The CBA exercise was based on the Oyu Tolgoi mine case. Participants took on the roles of the national government, the mining company, the local authority, and local herders, to iron out an agreement to bring win-win solutions for all parties. 

Tavan Tolgoi, the country’s largest coal mine, has been the source of many social and environmental problems, especially the thousands of trucks carrying coal through the area. Participants playing the parts of national government, mining companies, informal drivers, and the local community worked together to resolve major challenges. 

The WPT exercise saw legislators formulate policies while negotiating with three major groups: civil society, mining companies, and bureaucracies.

These role-playing exercises gave participants an insight into the most complicated policy problems and the chance to practice their policy-making skills.  

The final session was the most appealing one for participants. In groups, they were tasked with taking snapshots of local problems and developing policy options, following which they received immediate feedback from the guest experts.   

In our last workshop in Khovd province, groups identified four policy problems that could be tackled by the youth groups themselves in real life.

The first group focused on the lack of awareness of anthrax outbreak. The province is experiencing the disease with the second-highest mortality rate among conditions that affect cows, but residents are unaware of its impacts and not taking any serious preventive measures. The second group argued that new apartment complexes are not complying with public housing standards to include a playground. The third explained the potential danger of a newly built road near the secondary school because of the lack of road markings, curbs, and speed bumps. The final group pointed out the littering problem in the provincial centre.

After identifying these problems, all groups developed the policy solutions following the guided steps of the policy development. At the end, groups presented their solutions to the panel of experts, in our case, Niels Hegewisch from Germany and Julian Dierkes from Canada. The groups were curious how similar issues are addressed in their respective countries.

Although we did not have time for teams to finalize their policy options, it was clear from our observations that the exercise directed their attention to common policy issues, which they can address locally and provide examples for their peers across the country.  

At the end of the seventh workshop, we confidently claim that this type policy workshop is much needed for young party affiliates, many of whom would participate in policy-making processes at different levels and settings. But they need to be coached, challenged, and inspired to identify policy problems and to learn collectively to find solutions.

The youth leaders of Mongolia seem to relish the challenge. Not only did they neglect their social media for the duration of the exercise, many drove hundreds of miles to attend. And four participants from Darkhan have already requested a similar event to be held in that city, the country’s third-largest.


Mendee Jargalsaikhan is Director of the Mongolian Institute for Innovative Policy and doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia. For more information on the policy workshop for youth in Mongolia and the work by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in the country contact the staff at the FES Mongolia office and follow the office facebook page for daily updates. 

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