“Is that Vladimir Putin in the waiting room?” and other dynamic moments that can be part of the Climate Action Simulation…
We are the Living Lab, a Russia-based change agency specializing in interactive education on topics of climate change and sustainability. We all – Anastasia Laukkanen, Anna Sycheva, Alyona Yuzefovich – have a background in science and/or system thinking, so naturally En-ROADS was just a perfect fit. Such a perfect fit that in 6 months we played 15 games – first with Russian audiences, but lately – with “players” from Europe, the US, India, and Oceania.
We probably don’t need to explain here that the Climate Action Simulation role-play game is a fantastic tool (and we almost always do games rather then workshops). It is informative, engaging and inspiring. Having played with both business and academia, some of the best feedback we had was: “What we – individually and as a team – understood about climate and how everything is interconnected, we wouldn’t be able to get from any reports” (this was from a CC head of marketing department of a big international company).
But what’s best about it is that it is fun. Or too fun, as a Russian participant said “The game is great. I learnt a lot. Facilitators were too entertaining though, don’t forget how serious the issue is.”
And it IS entertaining to participate and to host it. Here are some modifications we introduced to the game design that you could try (all of them are for the online games, but could be used offline as well).
3 rounds of negotiations
We added a third round of negotiations very soon after starting to use the game. One of the very first participants familiar with the theory of game dynamics suggested it and we never got back to using 2 rounds, even if we had little time. Third round helps participants not to give up to the “common goal” of 1.5 degree, they know they still have time to protect their interests and fight more for it. And the fun part – people really getting into their roles – comes right with it.
When there are many people playing the game, we add extra rooms during the 2nd and 3rd round. Extra rooms are “lobby,” “bar next door,” “corridors,” and “smoking room”. If there is crowd in some room, one participant can always say “Hey, let’s go talk business in the lobby, I have an offer for you!”. And it always sparks jokes (“We have been to your bar. Vodka is cheap and sandwiches are not fresh!”).
We have also created “central office” room for facilitators. Once a “world leader” came to us to try to lobby us: “Hey, I just came to offer, could we be last in the list of speakers?”.
We encourage people not only to represent their sector with costumes and virtual backgrounds, but to pick a name and/or a company to identify with. And we give an example – the UN General Secretary is not only a title – she is Antonina Guterres. We call out Mr. Musk and Miss Thunberg, And very soon the heads of Gazprom, Rusal, and Nornikel are in the room, some of them cheekily putting green virtual backgrounds as an ultimate greenwashing move. The best is to find Vladimir Putin in the “waiting room” looking to join the game.
We played with the most diverse international community together with Climate Interactive, but it is also interesting to notice some of the patterns that happen specifically with the Russian participants.
There were so many games where carbon price was never touched. It could be not mentioned at all or – in some cases – put at $50 and soon brought back to zero. It is connected with the Russian energy mix as carbon price would influence it a lot, but mainly, we believe, that this policy is still little understood. What is it, why is it important, and what are consequences except the rise of energy price – are questions that needs to be explained more.
Conventional energy conservatism
Many scenarios end up with oil and coal in the ground, but often without directly touching these levers. We noticed that many participants avoid taxing or limiting conventional energy sources knowing how much Russian economy depends on them. Without proper energy transition such limit could end up in a lot of social turbulence, so participants try to reach the 1.5 goal using any other levers available.
Who is the main guy in the room
It could be an international pattern, but we noticed that during negotiation rounds whoever plays roles of world leaders and heads of conventional energy inevitably turns into “big guys in suits”. They rarely go to other sectors to negotiate, as “everybody should come to us, shouldn’t they?”, as they explain to us. They listen to offers and suggestions, but they may break their promises after. Or they say “We are big bad guys, why would we negotiate?”, when we try to encourage them to leave their rooms. It is really interesting to see the same dynamics from game to game, regardless who exactly get this role.
Do you play the game a lot in your practice? What are your modifications? What are your insights about different audiences? How is it going for you? Looking forward to be in touch.
Your Russian team,
Anastasia Laukkanen, Anna Sycheva, Alyona Yuzefovich
Living Lab change agency