Facilitation handbook - a tabletop exercise on resilience to global catastrophic risks

· 3 min read

Strengthening science-policy capacity to mitigate Global Catastrophic Risks (GCRs) is difficult. As GCRs have not happened in the recent past, policy actors struggle to conceive of them and their consequences. As researchers are not regularly involved in policy processes, they struggle to align their research directions and timelines with policy needs.

Therefore, there is a need for an efficient way to get people to think outside of their usual frames of reference, and for delineating possible behavioral and institutional changes to mitigate GCRs. This tabletop exercise, for now called TTX-P, was designed to be such an efficient tool.

TTX-P focuses on the general science-policy and decision-making problems that hinder GCR reduction. While its scenarios focus on specific GCRs, such as engineered pandemics, the key lessons are generally applicable in the everyday work of policymakers and researchers. At the core of TTX-P lies the coordination of a response to a cascade of shocks. The focus is on a group of different actors - governments, international organizations, civil society, science, and the private sector - within a challenging, fast-paced international context. The scenario and the actions are hypothetical but reflect real-world constraints and dynamics. The exercise is immersive (participants take on roles). A debriefing at the end is used to let participants reflect on their experiences, share learnings, and discover additional resources on what they encountered during the exercise. The exercise lasts 3-4 hours. 

What will participants learn?

  1. Understand global catastrophic risks: Participants will learn how GCRs can emerge and the type of effect cascades they can create.
  2. Explore solutions to build resilience: Participants will learn about the difficulty of governing issues in an isolated manner, the need and difficulty of global coordination, as well as how to allocate resources to prevention, mitigation and recovery.
  3. Learn skills and tools for science-informed decision-making: Participants will discover concepts, tools, and resources to make informed decisions and communicate effectively in the face of uncertainty.

TTX-P is different from usual tabletop exercises on preparedness. Some table-top exercises are used to generate policy recommendations (e.g. NTI exercise) while others focus on stress-testing emergency plans. Yet other tabletop exercises focus on decision-making in the face of a single, isolated shock (where other policy problems are neglected). Some tabletop exercises neglect political dynamics. And yet other table-top exercises solely focus on science-policy relationships. In reality, when a shock happens, other policy problems continue (and are often exacerbated), and science-policy dialogues are not the norm. Instead, swift response under time constraints, information overload, and conflicting goals characterize public decision-making. TTX-P simulates this reality to extract maximally useful learnings in the debriefing.

Download the full handbook here and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to deploy the exercise.