Learning Through Games in a Changing Climate

30 May 2017 - 10:00

By Shalini Rajan and Greeshma Hegde

Clockwise (R-L) : Workshop participants playing ‘Third Space’ and ‘Farming Juggle’. An improvised version of Tipping Point being tested by the participants.

A workshop on ‘Experiential Learning & Dialogue in an ASSAR context’ was held at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore (IIHS) from the 10th to the 12th of May. The three-day workshop was facilitated by Ms. Bettina Koelle of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre and had participants from IIHS, as well as ASSAR project partners from ATREE and WOTR. The workshop comprised of a combination of introductory exercises, mid-session energizers and more intense learning exercises. The introductory exercises and energizers ranged from ‘Meet My Daughter’ to the frantic ‘Mad Robot’ as well as ‘7-35’ which helped in consolidating key takeaways from the workshop or sometimes just lifting up the energy among the participants in the room. The chart below provides a synopsis of some of the objectives behind the games played over the three days:

Elevator Pitch Devising ways to convey messages to an influential stakeholder in an elevator – How well can you capture the attention of an influential authority within a couple of minutes?
Third Space Explores the challenges around collaboration during a project lifecycle, with diverse tasks and a large number of people.
Gender Walk Explores gender dynamics within a community and represents how vulnerability can be gendered. Helps in understanding how diverse stakeholders can have intersecting vulnerabilites.
Paying for Predictions Strategy reflections and collaborative effort in a disaster risk context. Involves collective and individual decision making in a speculative context.
Before the storm Tests negotiation skills with given set of options as responses to a situation. How well can you convince the powerful authority that you have the ideal solution to a given crisis?
Tipping point Explores the fragility of complex systems as well as reflecting on involving risk and use of common good, carefully balancing the mix of natural an man-made resources in a community.
Seasonal forecast Explores the dynamics of risk taking as well as strategic and collective decision making.
Climate Message Exploring options for appropriate use and means of transferring key climate messages which can often lack clarity and cause confusion, but oversimplification may also not be the most optimal solution.
Climate Negotiations Explores the challenges of negotiating while having scarce resources especially in the context of climate change, especially with the high influence of power and self-interest.

Day 1 focused on the games described above that were intended to help participants reflect on the insights and challenges pertaining to climate change and adaptation. The reflections helped in understanding how messages can be communicated through games when played with other audiences or stakeholders. The urgency and promptness to act in certain games gave visions on how the lack of time may be a hurdle to act or make rational decisions, in reality. The objective was also to understand how some of the key findings and messages from the ASSAR research across the Indian regions could be communicated to a diversity of audience through games. The following day, each regional team (ATREE, IIHS, WOTR) designed and tested games that focused on its research themes and findings speaking to audiences that each research team had identified. Participants from IIHS developed a game titled ‘Walk of Life’ along similar lines as the Gender Walk which intended to place participants in the shoes of various actors in peri-urban regions of Bangalore city, to highlight the concept of differential vulnerabilities faced in various scenarios.

The team from WOTR developed two games titled ‘Mystery Walk’ and ‘Common Bucket’. The first game was also similar to the Gender walk but would be played by actors in their own capacity (not role play) and the Common bucket game intended to bring out the challenges in maintaining inter-generational equity while using a common resource property like water.

The ATREE team developed improvised versions of ‘Farming Juggle’ and ‘Tipping Point’. The first game could be effectively used to highlight the challenges behind addressing multiple stressors in farming and the second one to highlight trade-offs between development and environmental sustainability and the challenges of maintaining system equilibrium in a changing climate scenario.

In addition to playing and developing games, the regional research teams used role play and skits as a tool to effectively convey key messages and findings pertaining to their research areas. Themes highlighted by the teams during these roleplays included climatic uncertainty, challenges of livelihood transitions, migration as well as the role and influence of state institutions. Two participants at the workshop, who are fellows from the Urban Fellows Program run at IIHS, demonstrated two games they had designed, Transit and Foul Waters, as part of the fellowship. These games explored issues on dealing multi-level stakeholders in the urban areas in terms of planning and governance.

In order to understand the challenges of game facilitation, the last day delved into designing experiential learning workshops for particular types of audience, i.e. community and municipality/ district officials. Two groups were formed and each group had to deliberate over an issue and design a workshop based on the issue for the identified audience accordingly. The groups were required to think through the flow of the workshop, ensuring it appealed to the identified audience having a good mix of games and other forms of presentation. This exercise was intriguing as it highlighted the challenges that come with facilitation of workshops and games such as dealing with people with authority, sensitive topics, power dynamics between participants and more importantly time management.

The Experiential Learning workshop triggered creative ways to drive home key research messages in a manner that is serious yet high-spirited and unpacked the potential of using games. The participants committed to further refine the games they had started to develop in the workshop and agreed to present some of them at the ASSAR Annual Meeting in Ghana in July.

Read more about the games here: