Can we upgrade our foreign policy toolbox by gathering the views of involved citizens, technological innovators and experts from other disciplines? Can ideas that come out of their everyday experience influence foreign-policy-makers? How can we convey the complexities of German foreign policy? The Open Situation Room (OSR) is a pilot project for exploring these questions.
The OSR can be understood as a contemporary interpretation of the ‘Situation Room’ that US President John F. Kennedy created for discussing acute crisis situations – in 1962. While that situation room was used for gathering government experts, our Open Situation Room brings together experts and practitioners who may come from other fields. In this way, the OSR supplements the classical crisis meeting by providing representatives of other disciplines and viewpoints with a forum to discuss German foreign policy challenges.
The OSR is all about participation: 30 people with the broadest possible personal and professional backgrounds are invited to each session. Participants may be neighbourhood social workers or professors emeriti, craftspeople or software developers. Added to them is a high-ranking representative of the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) who presents a challenge to be solved. In a moderated brainstorming session that makes use of various discussion formats, participants freely make suggestions about how to resolve foreign policy dilemmas. Nicola Forster and Annkatrin Kaiser moderate the session. As many solutions as possible are generated in about three hours, and ideas are pooled, filtered and prioritized. Finally, the participants and the AA representative discuss their reasons for and thoughts about the feasibility of the proposals.