The Interorganizational Tabletop Exercise (ITX) is a vehicle by which the civ-mil community can converge around a common issue or challenge to better understand different approaches and coordination mechanisms as well as explore opportunities for greater information sharing and joint planning/initiatives to provide more effective assistance. Presentations, facilitated dialogue and exercise scenarios are carefully constructed to facilitate learning that leads to improved effectiveness when these same organizations find themselves sharing the space in a complex environment.
The exercise seeks to produce measurable change and impact for the community of practice. Each ITX addresses a specific theme and geographic area identified as important by all relevant actors. Regardless of the specific ITX theme, each ITX is designed to build upon previous ITX progress in improving civilian-military relations.
Unique Design: USIP and the Joint Staff (JS) J7, in collaboration with U.S. government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)/international organizations (IOs) and a geographic combatant command design and implement a civilian-led exercise. USIP engages internal and external stakeholders to identify topics of interest. Initial meetings scope objectives and the exercise format necessary to achieve maximum impact.
In the heavily populated exercise world, the ITX framework offers a number of distinctive features, including placing civilian organizations in the lead role to develop and implement an exercise that reflects their priorities—both thematic and geographic. Moreover, it creates an environment in which these diverse actors are given equal voice in the conversation so that all may benefit from the variety of experience and perspective. The discussion topics, findings and learnings from the ITX are then able to be taken forward to inform other educational and exercise opportunities. ITX duration, size, audience, level, follow-up activities, etc. are flexible depending on topic and desired outcomes and objectives.
USIP in partnership with the JS J7 has utilized the ITX framework in two previous iterations.
The 2016 ITX focused on countering violent extremism (CVE) in the Lake Chad Basin. The Civ-Mil Relations team collaborated on the design and implementation of the ITX with relevant actors from the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Defense as well as a number of NGOs and IOs.
During the ITX, these organizations wrestled with the uncertainties and ambiguities of CVE to compare understanding, share initiatives, discuss progress and shortcomings and explore the interplay of different CVE efforts to devise practical strategies to work together more effectively.
Translating discussion into action: Issues, challenges and opportunities identified by participants in the 2016 ITX were briefed to senior leaders in the concluding session of the 2016 ITX. They, in turn, tasked participating organizations (and others in the community of interest) to delve more deeply into the issues raised and propose concrete recommendations to address problems or shortcomings in a second senior leaders’ meeting in early 2017. Three interorganizational working groups formed to look at challenges surrounding policy synchronization, analytical CVE frameworks, as well as gaps in current learning and knowledge sharing.
The 2014 ITX brought together participants from over 15 U.S. government agencies, departments and bureaus as well as a number of NGOs and IOs. Its purpose was to increase understanding, cooperation, and effectiveness among organizations operating in a complex crisis environment by developing and promoting relationship building, mutual trust, and knowledge sharing. Its objectives were to develop, strengthen, and maintain relationships among organizations addressing complex crises; become familiar with different organizations’ authorities and goals; determine the potential for collective response capacity and capabilities; put forward a concept about a common, interorganizational approach to addressing complex crises; and establish a framework for future interorganizational events.
Using South Sudan and Ethiopia as case studies, the participants grappled with the following key interorganizational topics:
- Institutionalizing relationships
- Information sharing mechanisms
- Lines of authority
- Organizational priorities and navigating the response and development divide