“Basin Winner”: A Sustainable Education Board Game
By Zhiqiang Chen 18 October, 2019
River management may be difficult but it can actually be tons of fun - find out more from Greencity's Chen
With the advancement of integrated river basin management in recent years, China’s water environment has been greatly improved. At the same time, we have also observed that many engineering solutions have reached their physical limits to further improve the health of aquatic ecosystems.
More and more administrators realise that we need more systematic problem analysis, broader participation, and better governance. As water is a shared resource, every person and organisation is a user of water resources, a producer & an emitter of pollutants, who can also be a problem solver.
To encourage participation in watershed protection, it is necessary to create a collaboration platform
In order to raise people’s awareness in basin management, encourage them to participate in specific watershed protection actions, and cooperate synergistically to address problems of basins’ ecological environment, it is necessary to abandon the mindset of solely relying on the government and create a collaboration platform for interested parties to participate.
Yet, organising interested parties to participate is not an easy task…
…’Basin Winner’ was thus designed to allow participants to role-play as different parties
However, organising interested parties to jointly participate in river basin management is not an easy task. Therefore, instead of adopting the traditional one-way education, we design an innovative board game to allow participants to role-play as different parties. We hope that participants can enhance their knowledge, willingness and capability through this game to participate in real-life basin management.
Development of the board game was funded by the SEE Pearl River Project Centre. From October 2017 to September 2018, experts from Guangzhou Qingcheng Environmental Culture Development Centre (Greencity), Alliance for Water Stewardship Asia Pacific (AWS AP), and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) designed and developed the “Basin Winner – an Education Board Game” and its associated educational programs.
As an innovative and experiential teaching method, the “Basin Winner” can strengthen participants’ management capabilities and sharpen their environmental senses.
Increasing fun of learning through role-play, negotiation & competition
9 players (max. player in one table) will be randomly assigned a role from nine specific characters among three stakeholder types: the government, the business and the civil society – each has different interests in relation to water. If more people are playing, several tables representing different parts – upstream, mid-stream and downstream of a large basin can play at the same time.
One not only has to pursue the highest score for oneself but also consider the balanced development of the river basin
For every round, each player is allowed to propose one project or event with cards in their hand. They then have to explain the rationale, rally support from other players, and finally make joint decisions on every proposal, thereby gaining or losing points associated with that proposed project. During the course of the game, one not only has to pursue the highest score for oneself but also consider the balanced development of the river basin.
Economic, social & environmental impacts need to be considered & balanced
To make the game more realistic, during the development phase, the team reviewed past media news and government plans in order to design three set of real-cases event cards for upstream, middle-stream and downstream as well as another set of news cards that represents natural events/national-level policies. The team then sent out a comprehensive questionnaire to a number of catchment experts and asked them to decide the score for each event or news, which reflects the events’ impacts to the economy, society and environment.
The team reviewed news & government plans in order to design real-cases event cards & natural events/national-level policies news cards
Through discussing and debating about each event and its potential impacts (score), participants can better understand the perspective of different players, as well as the trade-offs the group needed to make in order to balance the sustainable development of the entire river basin and interests of different stakeholders.
Practical applications in areas such as university education & public environmental education
On November 23 2018, Greencity brought the “Basin Winner” game to Guangzhou University. More than forty students majored in environmental engineering played the board game during their class. Students were grouped into 3 groups and played 3 rounds in total. During the 2 hours, more than 120 event cards were played and discussed, with the upstream table won the final highest score.
“Basin Winner” has been applied in uni’s, corporate & NGO staff training & more
Students’ feedbacks showed that the game helps them to better understand watershed management, related knowledge and the challenges of collaboration. Up to now, “Basin Winner” has been applied in university, large corporate staff training, students summer camp, NGO training sessions, fundraising activities and exhibition. Through the training program – “train the trainer” (TOT), a group of personnel and institutions are now capable of carrying out activities.
As part of corporate volunteer activities and various environmental protection-related activities, we are seeing more and more opportunities for the board game to be widely applied.
Future plan to develop online version
Currently, the first official version of the “Basin Winner” has been completed with related game props being produced. Through more and more applications, we and our partners will continue to improve the content and rules. We also plan to develop a Wechat applet for scoring, as well as an online version of the board game in the future, so that more people can play the game and learn together.
Also plans to develop a Wechat applet for scoring, as well as an online version of the board game in the future
With the knowledge and practical experiences gained from playing the game, more individuals will understand sustainable catchment management and be willing to contribute to a shared water future for people and the environment.
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