Gamified Sustainability Learning

26 Jul 2023
By Cady Wang, SasinSEC intern from the USA, University of Pennsylvania Picture:  Participants hailed from diverse industries, countries, and backgrounds. Source: SasinSEC. On Friday 14 July Sasin School of Management hosted a sustainability workshop on “Future Proofing Your Organizations.” During this workshop, organized by the Network of Certified 2030 SDGs Game Facilitators, sustainability leaders from multiple sectors experienced a taste of the UN Sustainable Development Goals at work in a fun way. Facilitators Martin Venzky-Stalling, Senior Advisor at the Chiang Mai University Science & Technology Park, and Dr Nuttavikhom Phanthuwongpakdee, a Thammasat University researcher, opened with an introduction to sustainability and development. They defined its intersection, sustainable development, citing the 1987 Brundtland standard, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The facilitators then provoked participants with questions such as “What are some developments with negative impacts?” and “What is the difference between change and transformation?” With the participants all hailing from diverse backgrounds, these questions led to eye-opening conversations about water quality in Laos, the tradeoffs between environment and social improvement in Mae Hong Son, and gentrification in Philadelphia. And transformation involves systemic change. Following an introduction to the SDGs, we learned the rules of the game. Participants were split into 15 groups of three people. Each group began with one goal card, five money cards, ten time cards, and two projects. As they spent their money and time to complete projects, everyone tabulated progress on a central whiteboard, the “World Condition Meter.” The results were broken down into three categories: economy, environment, and society. Like the real world, people could trade money, time, and projects to achieve goals. At the “Five year Check-in,” the economy meter had 20 markers, the environment meter had zero markers, and the society meter had five markers. In other words, the environment was being destroyed by development. This five-year check-in served as a wake-up call for many groups who had been working only in their self-interests to refocus attention on the impacts of their actions. During the second half of the game, groups began working with each other rather than against each other. The world conditions gradually improved and grew more balanced by the end of the game—a miniature concerning what can be possible. The way the game unfolded reflected real-world developments in other ways, too. Some crucial takeaways were: 1. Avoid working solely in self-interest to prevent negative impacts on the environment. 2. To foster a world where prosperity is enjoyed by all, you need to align actions and strategy with a mission driven by social impact rather than mere numbers. 3. A strong moral compass and sense of justice are essential in achieving positive change. 4. Stay interconnected with local and global current events so that you can forge partnerships which improve the world. 5. Key elements in effective leadership are identifying actions that match your mission, collaborating with diverse groups, and using your voice. 6. Recognize that while tradeoffs are bound to occur, you have the power and resources to compare their impacts. We can then opt for the least among them and make decisions aligning to sustainable values. While exercises like the 2030 UN SDGs Game can only hint at the complexity of the real world, this one is a touching introduction to sustainable development, systemic connectivity, and the power of collaboration. For more insights on sustainability, connect with the Sasin Sustainability & Entrepreneurship Center on our website  or Facebook page  
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