Information Gathering - Sargasso

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0784/Rebecca Fordham
14-year-old Ayman and his nine-year-old cousin, Mamud, lie in the medical tent of a boat arriving in the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya from the western city of Misrata. The boys were injured while playing close to an unexploded munition, which went off near them. Ayman lost both his hands and Mamud suffered burns on his face and arms.


  • Put into practice some of the principles and skills learnt in Modules 8B "Information Gathering - the Basics" & 8C "Documentation"
  • Gain a greater awareness of approaches and skills when gathering information
  • Gain an awareness of some of the challenges they may face when gathering information
Participants MRM Staff
Session Participatory Activity
Time required 3 hours 30 minutes
Introduction and interview planning - 45 minutes
Practical simulation exercise - 90 minutes
Group evaluations - 15 to 30 minutes
Plenary presentation and discussions - 45 minutes
Venue requirements Main training room (furniture may need to be moved around)
Breakout rooms or quiet areas within the venue or its grounds
Equipment None
Resource person(s) 1 person to lead coordination plus one additional person to help with the groups as required
Training materials - Scenario for Gathering Information (includes instructions) [PDF]
Sargasso Country Situation Sheet [PDF]
Characters briefings [PDF]
Planning of Interviews sheets [PDF]
- Evaluations sheets [Interviewers], [Characters], and [Plenary] [PDFs]
Documents for participants None
Access to materials All training materials are included in Folder Module 8E: Information Gathering Sargasso Simulation


This exercise will expose the participants to different scenarios by challenging them on issues like communication with different characters, presenting their role, interviewing as well as solving unexpected challenges. The participants will face different characters with different instructions, trying to make the situation more realistic and challenging. The characters will, if approached correctly, provide valuable information.

The scenario should ideally be changed to that of the country in which you are working if that is appropriate. The participants playing the different characters in the simulation, are provided with the framework for their role, but with their knowledge of the Sargasso background they are encouraged to play the role to make this more realistic (if it is adapted for the country context the characters should be adapted for that society and culture)

The simulation exercise is in 4 sections:

  1. Introduction and interview planning (45 minutes)
  2. Interviews and preparing the report (90 minutes)
  3. Group evaluations (15 minutes)
  4. Plenary session (45 minutes)

Pre-session Preparations

During the session participants will need to receive:

  • Scenario for Gathering Information (includes exercise briefing sheet)
  • Sargasso Country Situation Sheet
  • Sargasso Map
  • Planning of Interviews sheets
  • Evaluations sheets


  • Prepare one copy of each character role play
  • Identify six persons whom you think can play the roles well in the scenario or you can ask for volunteers
  • Each character will need to receive their relevant role description

Session Sequence

  1. Introduction to the Simulation exercise (15 minutes)

    Introduce the session as a follow-up to the modules on Gathering Information and Interviewing Children & Witnesses

    Explain the following:

    1. That there has been an incident in Sargasso.
    2. Provide the whole group the sheet "Scenario for Gathering Information" and discuss the exercise.
    3. Provide all participants the "Sargasso Country Situation Sheet" and the Sargasso map to ensure they understand the context.
    4. Ask for volunteers to play the six characters who will be based in the village.
    5. Divide the remaining participants into groups of four. Explain that they will be in small groups to go out as a team to gather information and determine what happened.
    6. Participants will now meet in their groups (the characters to also meet as one group).
  2. Interview planning session (30 minutes)
    1. Provide the interview groups with the sheet "Planning of interviews"
    2. Explain that they now have time to plan for the visit to the village and how they will do the interviews. Remind them:
      • They will meet different people and need to consider this in their planning.
      • Take into account lessons you have learnt in previous sessions on gathering information and interviewing.
    3. Emphasise that they need to allow time to prepare their report (15 minutes should do for this).
    4. The participants should now meet in their groups.
    5. Inform participants that on return to base they will be expected to provide a concise verbal report to the SRSG or the RC/HC or UNICEF Representative.
    6. The facilitator should now meet with the character group:
      • Determine who will be which character.
      • Provide the appropriate character role-play sheet to each person (they should only get a copy of their own character).
      • Discuss where they should locate themselves and any furniture layout or props they require.
      • Explain that they should give information if they are assured and feel confident with the interviewers. Do not make it overly difficult.

    Tip: It may be a good idea to do this session before lunch or last session in the day so participants can take longer to prepare if they wish.

    Attention: With participants who are not fluent in the language of the course, you need to ensure that they understand their roles correctly; otherwise you may lose extra time during the interviews to provide additional clarifications.

  3. Interviews and report preparation (90 minutes)
    1. Remind the groups that there is a maximum of 15 minutes per interview (to ensure all groups get a chance to meet people)
    2. They now have 90 minutes to carry out their interviews and prepare the report.
    3. The facilitator should collect their reports at the end of the session or leave with them to read out later - as you prefer.

    Tip: Time may be a challenge for the programme. It can work out well to say that there will not be a formal break but coffee/tea and snacks can be collected as they are working, during this period. This is realistic to the pressure staff would be working under, in the aftermath of a major incident.

    Attention: Monitor the time! Each interview cannot take more than 15 min. After 10 min, tell the interviewer that he/she has only 5 minutes left to conclude the interview. If by then he/she is not over, interrupt and stop the interview, since characters must be available for others to interview.

  4. Group Evaluations (15 minutes)
    1. Give half of the interview groups Evaluation sheet one and the other half Evaluation sheet two.
    2. Give the Character group the Evaluation sheet for characters.
    3. Request that they discuss and answer the questions provided, and chose one person to report back to the plenary.
    4. Inform the groups that they have 15 minutes to discuss.
  5. Plenary Session (15 minutes)

    Reporting to SRSG / RC / UNICEF Rep on the incident

    1. Note: One of the facilitators should play the role of SRSG / RC / UNICEF Rep for the first part of the plenary. Participants to provide their verbal reports.
    2. Consider if information is same for all groups.
    3. If you are getting lots of superfluous information (e.g. he said, she said, perhaps this happened or possibly this ..). Be tough but encourage them to be succinct and accurate but definitive with their information.
    4. Discuss as appropriate.
  6. Evaluation (45 minutes)
    1. Suggest that you go through the evaluation questions in turn rather than by each group. Interview group questions first. Discuss as appropriate.
    2. The Character group to answer their questions. Discuss as appropriate.
    3. Discuss overall evaluation questions about the exercise.
      • Is this exercise somewhat realistic and useful for you in your work?
      • What is useful?
      • What is not useful?

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