What is Ethnopoly?

What is Ethnopoly?

Can the topic of integration be fun? Yes, Ethnopoly gives the proof that it’s possible! The monopoly board is exchanged with the whole city as a playing area. The apartment of Mrs. Di Pietro is replacing “London Mayfair” as a real estate field. During one day, children and youth are travelling across their city and visit people who have their roots in different cultures. Like that, they get to know their “neighbours”, not only their stories or interesting information about their old home country, but also their view on the Swiss society. As in every game, the players can collect points or loose them, depending on how cleverly they move across the playing board and solves the different puzzles and questions. At the end of the day, the moment of truth will approach: Who managed best to collect the points?
But much more important than victory is the positive memories that remain for all the participants. These emotions are the best ground for a constructive, future oriented dialogue.


The Pedagogical Concept of Ethnopoly

Ethnopoly is based on the pedagogic concepts of non formal education and informal learning. In a setting that different than the participant’s everyday life room is given to self-directed experience oriented learning.

Migration and cultural differences often have negative connotations. We hear and read about violence, racism and delinquency. Ethnopoly dissociates itself from the prevalent “spot it – stop it” mentality. The game rather focuses on emotions and positive images and experiences. In that way it is possible to keep the memories in a sustainable way. Tolerance, respect, openness and self assurance concerning the own culture do not just remain words, they are filled with concrete content.

Ethnopoly does not deny existing challenges and problems related to the cooperation of people from different cultures. Living together peacefully is not an easy thing and it needs the effort and compromises of all sides. Integration is a dialogue in which rules and values are negotiated. However, this is only possible if people communicate and talk together. Ethnopoly offers these opportunities to meet and exchange.

Ethnopoly is not about passing knowledge about cultures. It is with full intention that the meetings are short and only scratch on the surface. The intention is rather to give the opportunity to experience diversity and to create an awareness for different ways of life. Visiting people in their own home also show the contradictions related to live a different culture in the Swiss context. It becomes clear that behaviour of human beings can rarely be explained only by cultural backgrounds, but that every being is a patch work of different compromises and combinations of various elements.

This positive, resource oriented approach of Ethnopoly is best expressed by its motto: Ethnopoly – Meet the cultures, it is fun!


The Rules of the Game

The concept of Ethnopoly is very flexible and can easily be adapted to different realities. Therefore, in the past project, the rules were a little bit different in every edition. The following 3 examples give an idea of the range of flexibility. However, further adaptations of the rules are possible and even encouraged.

Example 1: Rules with shares

Ethnopoly was organized in Schaffhausen by the neighbourhood center “Birch” as well as by different people from “Impuls days against violence and racism”.

To find enough participants, the project did not try to cooperate with institutions, but directly to attract single youth and children (voluntary participation). There was however a cooperation with youth organisations (YMCA, Scouts), parishes, neigbourhood centers as well as schools, which spread the news about Ethnopoly among their children and youngsters.

In Schaffhausen, around 150 children participated in Ethnopoly and around half of them were less than 12 years old and therefore accompanied by an adult.

Besides the individual hosts the participants could also do so called free tasks: In the departure area the groups could work on small tasks related with culture and integration. Like that they could get extra points.

The rules of the game were inspired by the classic board game Monopoly, from which Ethnopoly also got its name. The groups had to decide after every visit, if they wanted to buy a so called integration share. This is similar to Monopoly, where you can buy land, build houses or hotels. If other groups visited the same “field” later on in the game, they had to pay a rent in the game currency “Ethnos”. Winner of the game was the group who managed to collect the biggest amount of Ethnos at the end of the day.

Example 2: Cooperation with schools

About 500 pupils gathered on the “Bundesplatz” in order not to miss the starting shot of Ethnopoly in Bern. There the youngsters – all of them between 13 and 16 years, were grouped in teams of 4. They received a city ticket for one day, a map and a list of 70 different places (families or institutions) among which they could choose freely their visits.

Every visit was rewarded with a basic premium of points, but the groups had the possibility to earn some extra points, too. The whole game was guided by a call center: After every visit, the teams had to call a special number. The agent in the center entered their data in the central Ethnoply computer programme, which calculated directly the points the group had achieved.
In the weeks after the game, a team of Ethnoply volunteers visited every school class and gave three lessons on the topic of integration. The points, which the pupils collected during the game, were calculated into real money. With this fund, the class was encouraged and coached to organise their own little integration project.

Example 3: integration in the neighbourhood

Ethnopoly in Plan-les-Ouates (suburbs of Geneva) was planned and organised by students of a 10th class (orientation year). For them, the game was a project task for which they had, aside the organisation of the game, to fulfill various other jobs like for example to produce a documentary movie and to design the flyers and posters.

Besides the school class of the orientation year, which was in charge of the organisation, many different associations and institutions of the neigbourhood were involved actively from the beginning. That also helped for the budget as the municipality was ready to cover a big share of the budget.

During the D-day, around 250 pupils aged between 9 and 11 years gathered in front of the school building. They were split into teams of 6 and every group was accompanied by 1 adult. The game took place in the neighbourhood only around the school building and all the hosts could be reached by foot. Contrary to other editions of the game, the groups could not freely choose their visits, but they had to follow a pre-defined route and there were no points and no competition.

In the evening, the game transformed into a big neigbourhood party with different cultural shows and food specialities from all over the world.