Mar 30, 2020

Impro-drama Play: Negotiating a Set of Pension System Reforms

At the CEF’s workshop on “Managing Financing and Costing of Pension System Reforms” we introduced a new learning format to boost the experience of our participants. We named this learning format Impro-drama play or more specifically Negotiating a set of pension system reforms.

This format teaches each player how to connect the topic of the game (the so-called technical knowledge) with complex interpersonal relationships (the so-called soft skills), which are so important when enforcing new ideas in institutions and wider. One learns how to work with a certain concrete goal – as a motivator in the process – while taking into account the roles, goals and arguments of other players roles. In this context, the most important things are the content of the play, addressing a certain topic at the right level of technical knowledge, and the scenario, as realistic as possible, giving the framework of the play, while leaving enough space for improvisation.

The scenario of the play was well in advance designed in close cooperation between the CEF team and experts Mr. Janez Šušteršič, Ms. Saša Jazbec and Mr. Aljuš Perinač. The roles were carefully distributed among the participants in line with their real work positions. Based on this, we arranged five groups: the representatives of the government, trade unions, business associations, parliamentarians and the public. Their feedback after the event was impressive.

Mr. Dragomir Draganov, Director at National Social Security Institute of Bulgaria, who was the representative of the Government, Prime Minister in the play:

I was amazed how complicated pension reform sequencing might be. Before the workshop, I had the impression that I am more or less aware of the main phases of pension policy formulation. Now, thanks to my participation in the workshop, I know that this process is much more complicated.

The workshop gave me the insight that expert knowledge and data-driven evidence are sometimes not sufficient to convince stakeholders and the general public that a given idea has more advantages than disadvantages, even if that is the truth. Given the area of my professional activity (social security analysis), I know now that proper communication and dissemination in some context might be even more important than reliable and impartial research methods. This is something that I cannot easily accept but clearly must take into account. And if policy analysis is supposed to provide insight that can improve the decision-making process, it becomes increasingly important not only what researchers say, but also how and when they say it. This was a key lesson for me.

Thanks to the workshop, I now feel much more confident that I can contribute, as a team member, to finding practical solutions to complex problems in unfamiliar environments. Moreover, the workshop illuminated some areas where I need to improve my competences and skills in future. In that sense, I am really pleased that I had the chance to take part in it.

Ms. Jehona Ramadani, Head of Unit on Mandatory and Voluntary Fully Funded Pension Insurance at the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of North Macedonia, who was representing trade unions:

At the beginning, the whole concept seemed somewhat challenging and I had my doubts but afterwards I really enjoyed in the drama play. Since the participants were coming mainly from government institutions, being in the team of trade union representatives or parliament members enabled to depart from the usual way of thinking and to see things from a different perspective. I would like to emphasize one document, the Active Aging Strategy, bearing in mind that the population is ageing and the countries should pay more attention to developing and implementing this kind of strategies.

The event was very useful from the point of view of learning more about managing pension system, the costs of the pension system, long-term projections, experiences and challenges of other countries in managing the costs of the pension system, and so on.

This learning event taught me that we should always rely on good projections and analyses when presenting a new model or a reform in the pension system that requires new ways of financing. In addition, it is important to have good presentation and negotiation skills to advocate the new model or reform. Last but not least, it pays off to also think of alternative solutions.

Mr. Marko Potočnik, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Finance of Slovenia, who represented business associations:

This learning event was a great chance to find out my strengths and weaknesses. The group exercise gave me self-confidence in matters that I knew I was good at and reminded me where I need to improve. But above all: it was so much fun!!! I believe that this experience will help me react more adequately in similar future situations.

Mr. Jure Vozelj, Secretary at the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, who represented parliamentarians:

Practical simulation of negotiations for a set of pension system measures was a truly entertaining, interactive and informative way of learning about the dynamics and complexity of situation when one has to undertake a pension system reform. It pushed the participants to thoroughly think about the pension system itself and the measures that a government has at its disposal in order to modify the system, while also keeping public finances healthy. It really was a great way to learn and upgrade theoretical and practical skills in the field of pension systems.

Mr. Nenad Rakić, Macroeconomic Analysist of the Pension System at the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs of Serbia, representing parliamentarians:

It was not the first time for me to participate in a group exercise of this kind and I also had experience in real negotiations, so I had certain knowledge of what was expected from us and how it would look like. However, I had never before participated in such a multinational group, with people hardly knowing each other. So, I was curious to find out how it would affect and shape the process of reaching the goal of the game, since you never know how participants could react.

With this in mind, it came as a surprise how positively we all welcomed the exercise, and how we really got into our roles and managed to reach the goal much easier than expected. It was a real pleasure to be a part of such a group. When thinking of improving my own skills, I was truly inspired by our colleague who played the role of the Prime Minister: he managed the whole process and finally made the agreement. He demonstrated a lot of calmness, patience and understanding for different positions while constantly pushing things forward. Since my temper differs a bit, it was a great opportunity to learn from such a successful approach.

We want to thank again all the participants for their active engagement. It was truly a great step forward in designing our face-to-face learning events.

This learning initiative was delivered as part of the EU funded multi-country three-year project “Strengthening line ministries’ capacities to assess fiscal implications of structural reforms” (see more at, implemented by the CEF. Complementary funding was provided by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Slovakia.