Imagine this: You are an executive of a global corporation and you’ve just learned that your company has been illegally dumping industrial waste and carcinogens into the local water supply. The locals are aware and outside your office, their pickets and protests are getting louder. What’s your next move?
This scenario is the situation that students participating in the first Global Crisis Simulation will soon find themselves in. A team of University of British Columbia students organized a conference in Mumbai, India to teach their peers how to become leaders who can inspire, design and implement solutions in high-stake situations. The conference, which begins February 13, combines crisis simulations with presentations and workshops from researchers and professionals from institutions like the World Economic Forum.
“The world is changing so rapidly and we are facing societal challenges that need collaboration among private, public, and non-profit sectors,” says Hassan Bhatti, the lead organizer of the conference and a fifth-year UBC physics and economics student. “The Global Crisis Simulation was envisioned with a goal of inspiring and developing young student leaders, who can engage, collaborate, and be adaptive.”
Bhatti got the idea to hold the cross-sector crisis simulation after participating in a number of model UN conferences and business case competitions. In order to more closely resemble real-world situations, the Global Crisis Simulation, supported by UBC’s offices of the President, Vice-President, Students, and Vice-President Research & International, brings together students from different fields of study.
“Most conferences I have been to are all about one topic like political science or business, but I saw how valuable it is to work with diverse people from different sectors,” says Bhatti. “That is why I thought it would be better if people from different disciplines could participate.”
For example, in the scenario where a company was polluting the water supply, business professionals would find themselves working with engineers, environmental scientists, factory workers, governments, and local indigenous groups to find a solution and sustain their business interests. The simulation helps prepare students for future leadership roles in difficult situations.
A conference abroad
Bhatti was keen to bring together students from different parts of the world and decided to hold the conference abroad, even if it meant that he and the other UBC students frequently stayed up all-night to organize a conference in India from Vancouver.
More than 130 students signed up to participate in the conference and while most are from India, there are also students from Canada, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.
“The last few weeks of preparation have been stressful and exciting at the same time,” says Kayla Fast, a conference chair who will run one of the crisis simulations. “It is really exciting to visit India for the first time and be part of something new and innovative.”
Originally from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Bhatti says he chose India because the country has an exceptionally talented pool of youngsters and a thriving debate culture. It also offered an opportunity to work with his Indian peers to showcase what they can achieve together.
“UBC is a leading global institution and when the opportunity came along to work on such an innovative idea with a great team, we jumped on it,” says Kashish Saluja, Indian team lead from St Xavier College, the conference’s partner institution.
“I’m hoping the delegates attend this conference, develop an appreciation for cross-sector collaborations, and then develop mini versions of this conference in their own colleges,” Bhatti said.