A simulation is an activity that attempts to replicate the dynamics of a complex situation in which people or processes interact with each other. Simulations are similar to role plays in that the participants learn by doing and experiencing. The main difference is that, in simulation, they remain themselves and do not take on new or assigned roles. A simulation may be used to examine how people or processes might react if certain events or constraints were allowed to happen. The main benefit of a simulation is that it provides the opportunity to experience a situation and participants’ reactions. Although the processes are designed to be as close as possible to the real thing, they are still controlled within the exercise. In some simulations, experimentation is encouraged. As with role plays, the success of a simulation will depend largely on the quality of preparation.

The main steps to consider are:

• The simulation requires clear focus: What is the situation to be recreated by the simulation? What processes are involved in this situation? What is the simulation designed to illustrate?

• The function of each of the groups or individuals within the simulation must be identified. The greater degree of description, the closer the simulation may come to represent reality but the lower the scope for creativity and inventiveness by participants developing the role.

Examples where simulations might be used effectively

• When examining a complex situation involving a number of different individuals or agencies, for example, a discussion about the best interests of a particular child or group of children from the perspective of different individuals or agencies.