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REPORT: Can games help people manage the climate risks they face? The participatory design of educational games

The humanitarian consequences of climate-related events, particularly for the world’s most vulnerable people, are alarmingly evident. Rising exposure and vulnerability, especially in developing countries, result in rising human and economic disaster impacts, magnifying the shortcomings of the prevailing “wait and see and respond” approach. Humanitarian organizations are adapting to new climate risk patterns and increasing their capacity to make decisions based on scientific climate information. In doing so, it will not be enough to simply train existing staff, or expand the staff and volunteer base: humanitarian organizations need to modify the way they function – evolving towards being knowledge-based entities that can rapidly absorb and act upon the increasingly reliable information about changing risks will be fundamental for generating better outcomes in an increasingly uncertain climate.

Given this situation, policy work on climate risk management needs to innovate and spur uptake at an unprecedented level. Anticipatory, inclusive, and participatory approaches for designing and implementing disaster risk management operations are one method that can try to transform traditional thinking across all scales. Participatory games and simulations are tools that can approximate the complexity of real life. This working paper, Can games help people manage the climate risks they face? The participatory design of educational games, will discuss how the ability of games to reflect complex systems can promote learning and dialogue on climate risk management among a range of stakeholders. The paper also discusses how engaging humanitarian and development professionals in a participatory game design process may help to elicit deeper insights among key stakeholders and interactions deemed helpful for promoting climate risk management.

This paper has been produced as part of the CDKN-funded project, Forecast-based humanitarian decisions: designing tools and processes to link knowledge with action, which seeks to embed science into humanitarian work, designing participatory games and other innovative tools for smart forecast-based decisions. The goal is to manage climate risks and promote effective responses for development and adaptation in Africa across various sectors, time scales, and spatial scales of decision.

Further reading:

Project homepage: Forecast-based humanitarian decisions: designing tools and processes to link knowledge with action
Report: Social strategy games in communicating trade-offs between mitigation and adaptation in cities
Practical game design: Iterative Game-Design in Field: Humans Vs. Mosquitoes, testing and adaptation in Kenya