Open Situation Rooms

Creating fresh ideas in a participative design thinking workshop format.

The idea behind the Open Situation Room builds on the political “Situation Room” where crisis management teams of one government convene to give advice for urgent foreign policy issues. The Open Situation Room expands this idea by adding a more diverse selection of participants and a creative problem-solving approach to arrive at new perspectives and new possible solutions.

The original Open Situation Room was created by Nicola Forster as part of the “Project Review 2014 —A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy” and further developed in collaboration with the Mercator Foundation and the German Foreign Office.”

One of the aims of the Open Situation Room is to support ministries to increase civil society participation in foreign policy and to expand on the methods available to policy-makers today. Several ministries and international organizations are now experimenting with this workshop format to achieve this goal. Former clients include the World Bank, the German Foreign Office, DGAP, Goethe Institut, ICRC, Swissnex, The Global Diplomacy Lab, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the Lab of La République en Marche or Le Temps.

The Open Situation Room is structured around a two-to-three-hour working session, a design thinking workshop rather than a conference. During this time, top-level decision makers and experts engage and explore a topic with participants selected from distinct disciplinary backgrounds. Architects, social entrepreneurs, medical doctors, designers, NGO representatives and others work together with policy experts and diplomats under time pressure to generate new possible approaches to address complex policy challenges.

Previous OSRs have developed ideas on using new technology for diplomacy and parliamentary work; coping with migration flows; or ways to engage cultural actors in policy. Typically, a high-ranking decision-maker and topic expert provides a short introduction and important background information that leads to a specific question. The multi-disciplinary participants assume the role of advisors who bring their experience and backgrounds to the fore to produce new actionable ideas for the decision maker. They do so while working under realistic policy conditions and great time pressure. These ideas are then sorted, filtered and bundled before they are presented to the decision maker. The interdisciplinary make-up of the group and the stimulating work environment of the OSR encourage the development of new ideas and perspectives, producing valuable impulses for the decision maker that can lead to a significant reframing of the actual question. The synergies in the room at times even reshape the relationships among participants and lead to new future collaborations around the topic.

Interested in running an OSR with your organization? We can support you with the concept and moderation/facilitation of the event. Please get in touch with Nicola Forster!