The German Defense Ministry's Living Diversity Initiative
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Holmes Report
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The German Defense Ministry's Living Diversity Initiative

Our world is growing smaller. Global markets influence domestic economic developments, international cooperation plays an important role in our daily lives, and rising numbers of people are immigrating to Western countries. Germany¡¯s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, are also affected by this development.

Paul Holmes

Our world is growing smaller. Global markets influence domestic economic developments, international cooperation plays an important role in our daily lives, and rising numbers of people are immigrating to Western countries. Germany¡¯s armed forces, the Bundeswehr, are also affected by this development.

The Bundeswehr is increasingly faced with intercultural issues, especially when it comes to cooperating with other armed forces and integrating ethnic German immigrants into the military. In a multiplier training that is new to the military, soldiers learn to exercise more tolerance and acceptance when dealing with people from other cultures.

The ¡°Living Diversity¡± initiative uses an interactive quiz show and the ¡°Coastland¡± crisis simulation exercise to promote the integration of foreigners into German society. At a total of 500 events held exclusively for the armed forces over a period of 3 years, 2 instructional teams trained 12,000
non-commissioned officers to act as multipliers. The project received funds from the Xenos program of the European Union, which supports professional activities aimed at integrating people from different cultures into the labor market and society at large.

Pleon Kohtes Klewes was commissioned to develop a campaign promoting intercultural integration. The idea was to design an internal communications strategy for conflict prevention. As part of their political education, young officers in the Bundeswehr will be trained as multipliers, taught conflict resolution skills, and shown that diversity offers more than just challenges ¨C it offers many opportunities.

There were three objectives:
¡Æ Empowering young officers as multipliers
¡Æ Soldiers are able to compromise and show tolerance
¡Æ Defusing potential conflicts

The first step in developing an innovative multiplying event was to analyze previous training methods used by the military. Pleon Kohtes Klewes also researched the general level of education in the armed forces and common training practices. In order to determine potential multipliers, the agency took a close look at military hierarchies and areas of responsibility.

The result: Non-commissioned officers in the military service have especially close contacts with low-ranking soldiers and are thus in an excellent position to foster the ideals of a diverse society, openness and tolerance. In addition, the reasons for rejecting immigrants were also examined. This revealed that many soldiers have limited job opportunities before and after they enter military service, and in some cases, this can lead to resentment against foreigners. The employment aspect made it clear that the German Labor Office would have to be integrated into the process.

As a result, Pleon Kohtes Klewes collaborated with a TV production company to develop an interactive quiz show inspired by the popular program ¡°Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?¡± Just as on television, the candidates play in teams and compete for points. At the same time, the quiz topics are economic and social in nature and deal with the integration of immigrants.

The learning goal of the game is to grasp the advantages of the internationalization of our world since 1945 and gain a wider view of the world.

A career counselor was on hand at each event to advise the soldiers on issues surrounding the labor market and career opportunities following their military service.

The agency developed the ¡°Coastland¡± crisis simulation in close cooperation with psychologists and officers. This role play is based on the following scenario: After a nuclear accident, the Germans are forced to leave their country only to find that they are rejected by the people of Coastland Island. This exercise aims to teach democratic approaches and the ability to compromise.

The hosts were selected through an assessment center. Each production team consisted of an officer, two civilian hosts, and a technical assistant who operated the computers and AV equipment.

The project was evaluated by an independent polling institute. Soldiers taking part in the training were surveyed concerning their attitudes and the targeted changes in behavior. The findings: the concept fosters a willingness to come to terms with difficult issues.

The campaign was a success: Participants rated 84 percent of the 500 events held over 3 years as ¡°good¡± or ¡°excellent.¡± The political education events were extremely popular among recruits. Soldiers now see ethnic diversity as an opportunity.

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