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Games for the SDGs

Games for the SDGs

Lessons from a year of using simulation games and tools to create awareness and mobilisation on the Sustainable Development Goals among young people in Namibia.


In November 2016, a small team comprising Progress Namibia, Hanns Seidel Foundation, the National Youth Council of Namibia and the Namibian Youth Coalition on Climate Change got together to run World Climate. World Climate is a simulation game developed by MIT and Climate Interactive that helps young people to understand the climate negotiation process at the UN World Climate Summit. The World Climate Summit (COP-22) was about to commence in Marrakesh, Morocco. As a way to better understand the complexities involved, as well as the consequences of decisions made at this summit by our world leaders, the World Climate game is a good tool to run for this purpose. The game was run successfully, and the team decided to develop a series of games for 2018. This series would be a way for Namibians to learn and engage with the Sustainable Development Goals.


Why Games for the SDGs? There is a lot of research that shows that simple, interactive games can help people to more easily understand complex challenges and think ‘outside the box’ to come up with possible solutions and self-action. The Sustainable Development Goals, through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which Namibia has committed to, are complex and interlinked, and require systems and critical thinking to fully understand and act upon. The Games for the SDGs use simulation, gaming and other interactive tools and methods for (mostly young) Namibians to learn about and discuss the Sustainable Development Goals freely and informally. For this, especially systems thinking is a crucial ability.

The games aim to promote the following ways of thinking:
1. ‘See the whole picture
2. Change perspectives to see new leverage points in complex systems
3. Look for interdependencies
4. Consider how mental models (a person’s beliefs, ideas, assumptions about the world) create our futures
5. Pay attention to and give voice to the long term
6. Use peripheral vision to see complex cause-and-effect relationships
7. Find where unanticipated consequences emerge
8. Focus on structure (the interrelationships within a system), not blame
9. Hold the question of paradox and controversy without trying to resolve it quickly
10. Watch for win/lose mindsets, knowing they usually make matters worse in situations of high interdependence
11. See themselves as part of, not outside of, the system’

How did we run these games?

From November 2016 until October 2017, we ran eight games, usually the last Friday of every month. Each game was usually focused on a set of goals (although the systemic nature of the SDGs meant that each of them would be covered in one way or another). Each game opened with a short presentation on the SDGs. Then the group of participants would be facilitated through a game. Afterwards, the most important session, the group would sit in a circle and the moderator would facilitate a deep dialogue, creating a safe space to speak freely and debrief the game. The following section will outline each game played.


About Simulation of the UN climate change negotiations for groups. Players take decisions on climate change issues that have direct impacts. A computer model is used to rapidly analyze the results of the negotiations. Which SDGs? Goal 13 (Climate action), Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth) Benefits Build climate change awareness Experience political dynamics that emerge in UN climate negotiations Understand trade-offs between certain types of economic growth and climate change impacts Understand the consequences (through finding out how their proposed policies impact the global system in real time - using the climate model tool) Created by MIT and Climate Interactive Type Role playing exercise with an easily usable climate model Materials needed Materials and tools available (climate model, facilitator notes, country notes, etc) link in footnote 2 Basic instructions  Each group is responsible for a negotiating party (e.g. EU, Unites States, Other developed nations, China, Developing Nations, etc)  Each group needs to negotiate for best possible outcome for its group  Each decision per group is tested on the C-roads model (computer model) Open source? Yes, a complete set of facilitation and games materials, as well as the download for the computer model, can be found here for free. Date played 06 November 2016 (in run-up to COP22) Key lessons  Game successful and recommend it as a strong awareness tool  More impact is made when (as the facilitation guide suggests) there is a role-play of privilege between the groups (e.g. like giving the developed nations better snacks, water, operating sp 

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