Our Method: Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training

Authenticity. Engagement. Relevance.

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training (NEST) stands out from other forms of scenario simulations. Participant-oriented and able to integrate sociocultural systems, the method offers greater authenticity, relevance and engagement than can be otherwise achieved. All our scenarios use the NEST-method and our training courses are inspired by its participant-centered philosophy.

What is Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training?

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training is the main method we use to design and run simulations. It produces realistic training experiences that allow high levels of creative freedom and personalisation without compromising safety or the ability to assess the participant's learning.

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training:

  • Is a method of learning-by-doing
  • Is a form of Scenario-Based Training (which has been used to train nurses, airline pilots, police and military for decades)
  • Uses techniques from the Nordic Ensemble role-play tradition (a Scandinavian art form) to enhance realism, engage the learner and make the learning process more intuitive.

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training is characterised by:

  • Group-based work
  • Intuitive learning scenarios that are as close to the real thing as possible
  • High transferability. You become prepared to use your new knowledge immediately.
  • A scenario management team that is integrated into the scenario in a natural way, allowing quick responses and less disruption
  • Simulations that are designed as redundant, resilient systems. Learners can experiment and get creative without disrupting the simulation.

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training was developed by Sara Hjalmarsson. It builds on her research from Edith Cowan University on improving modern security training.

The techniques borrowed from Nordic Ensemble

NEST is first and foremost a method for creating professional scenario-based simulations. Unfortunately, contemporary scenario-based training and simulations have limitations when it comes to realism, engagement and relevance. This can be resolved by complementing the contemporary methods with techniques and tools from other disciplines.

Those practicing Nordic Ensemble have spent the last 30 years perfecting techniques for creating realistic live-action scenarios. Although Nordic Ensemble is an art form used for entertainment purposes, they use techniques and tools that resolve the limitations of modern scenario simulations. We find the following particularly valuable and use them in our own methodology:


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training?

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training produces more realistic training experiences that allow higher levels of creative freedom and personalisation without compromising safety or learning assessment.

You get to use what you have learned immediately in a realistic environment

More intuitive and engaging learning

Learn more in less time

Real freedom to think outside the box, experiment and develop unexpected solutions.

You will be ready to use your new knowledge as soon as you step outside the classroom

What is Scenario Training?

In Scenario Training, you apply your learning to fictitious situations (scenarios).

At Scenario Sciences Sweden, we prefer to use real-life situations in our scenario training. This is the most effective form of learning because you use all your senses.

Where can I find out more about Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training?

We are currently working to make it easier to find and use the available information on Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training and professional live-action simulations. We are continuously producing fresh documentation and will soon be launching a new knowledge base that makes this information more accessible.

Nordic Ensemble Scenario Training is based on the models described in Chapter 6 and Appendix 3 of the honours thesis written by Sara Hjalmarsson in 2011. If you wish to dig deeper into the theory behind the method, the thesis is openly available online. You can download the 2-page abstract from here or the full thesis (139 pages) here.

More frequently asked questions


Sociocultural dynamics involve the complex interaction between cultural and social systems. Rule systems, direction and game elements became superfluous in Nordic Ensemble because of the extensive use of social and cultural systems in designing and running the scenarios. Working with sociocultural dynamics involves many different elements and tools. Some of these are social contracts, values, internal motivators and subcultures.

At Scenario Sciences, we feel that sociocultural dynamics are key to safe, realistic and engaging simulations. It means that we actively develop cultural and social systems as part of the scenario design process. This demands greater skill from the team, but is rewarded by improved results and motivated participants.


Within the Nordic Ensemble tradition, game elements (eg. win/loss conditions, points, scoring) and obtrusive regulation (complex rules, intrusive management, etc.) are considered to be elements of "poor design". By taking a conservative approach to these elements, the simulation becomes more engaging, authentic and intuitive. In a learning scenario, it allows the participant to better focus on the learning process.

At Scenario Sciences, we implement this approach when designing scenarios. First we consider how the environment and scenario itself can be used to manage participants (instead of forbidding participants to enter a room, we simply lock the door to that room). Secondly, we consider how sociocultural dynamics can be used to complement the environment and scenario. Thirdly, we consider simple guidelines. Only after going through these user-friendly forms of regulation do we begin to develop rules and game elements. The outcome is an intuitive scenario with game elements and obtrusive regulation reduced to a minimum.


Within the Nordic Ensemble tradition, participants tend to be intolerant of unnecessary disruptions. This means that management must be as low-profile as possible. As a result, the scenario management team is normally fully integrated into the scenario and environment. The outcome of this is a fast response time and a very resilient simulation. Participants can (and are often encouraged to) experiment freely without running the risk of disrupting the simulation. The fast response time also means that any safety or security issues can be responded to quickly and efficiently with minimum disruption. Should someone have questions, they can easily approach the scenario manager without interrupting or disturbing others.

At Scenario Sciences, we avoid the traditional top-down, highly visible form of management that is common in contemporary scenario simulations. Instead, we manage our scenarios from within, using the techniques from Nordic Ensemble. It does demand more skills from our staff, but in return, we can increase the realism beyond what has been possible previously. Yet we still retain safety, control and the ability to evaluate participants.


Nordic Ensemble strives for a high level of realism. Consequently, several design philosophies and principles have evolved for this purpose. Two of the best-known are "360°-immersion" and "What-you-see-is-what-you-get". "360°-immersion" implies that the scenario should be set in environment that feels authentic and avoids distractions. "What-you-see-is-what-you-get" implies that the environment and scenario should be as intuitive as possible (if a door is open, you should be able to walk through it).

At Scenario Sciences, we embrace a number of these design principles. We aim to make our scenarios as intuitive and authentic as possible.By avoiding unnecessary distractions, we allow our participants to focus their energy on the task at hand.


With the sociocultural system in place, the scenario has natural feedback loops that help regulate the scenario progression. This allows a simple risk assessment process to be used for determining the control mechanisms needed during the simulation itself. Scenario managers can use these control mechanisms and feedback loops more readily than a complex rule system. If something unexpected were to happen, they can still respond without disrupting the simulation.

The use of systems-based scenario progression is well-established in Nordic Ensemble, but may seem counter-intuitive to someone who is used to linear scenarios. This is because systems-based scenarios offer a higher degree of uncertainty. Working with them requires a different skillset and an interdisciplinary approach. Our staff have those skills.


Nordic Ensemble is dominated by a philosophy known as "participatory culture". It implies that participants, designers and managers create an experience together. Through their interactions, it evolves into a narrative artwork tailored to the first-person perspective. Unlike drama, the audience are at the same time the actors. Each experience is unique and can not be reproduced (participating in the role-play again will always produce a different experience). If it is observed or recorded, it is translated into another art form. Much like a language, significant elements are easily lost in such a translation. Its co-creative and co-evolutionary nature makes Nordic Ensemble a highly contemporary art form. Its Achilles' heel, however, is the inherent difficulty of accurate documentation

We share the participant-centered design tools of Nordic Ensemble. We actively consider how the participant interacts with the scenario, the environment and the scenario managers and how this produces an authentic experience that fulfills the objectives of the scenario. Unlike Nordic Ensemble, however, we make our scenarios as accessible and easy to document as possible.