New approaches to promoting flexible and forward-looking decision making: insights from complexity science, climate change adaptation and ‘serious gaming’
Policy-makers are often tasked with making difficult decisions in the face of an uncertain future outlook. Will infrastructural investments still be relevant in 25 years? What new markets are likely to emerge in the medium term? How will a gradual increase in average temperatures over the coming decades affect livelihood security?
Though largely context specific, these are but three examples of the types of forward-looking questions that should be asked of many longer-term policies or plans. Despite this need, the development and humanitarian sectors continue to face criticisms over their relative rigidity and short-termism with regards to project funding and delivery. Recent emphasis on promoting a ‘resilience approach’ to programming has resulted in calls for more longer-term objectives and deliverables, greater flexibility in planning processes, as well as better collaboration and coordination amongst key development actors.
Drawing on insights from complexity science, this paper describes what processes are needed to promote Flexible and Forward-looking Decision Making (FFDM). More specifically, the paper proposes a coupled game and reflection based approach. This looks to capitalise on the ability of serious games to encourage experiential learning, as well as ensuring that enough time is provided to reflect on how key components of the game relate to the ‘real-world’. It also allows participants to identify their own routes forward for improving decision-making processes.
This paper lays the groundwork for the second phase of research under the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (ACCRA). ACCRA will be researching the principles outlined within, as well as trialling three separate coupled game-and reflection events across its core countries, namely Ethiopia, Uganda and Mozambique.