Playtime! Teaching the pros (and cons)

Our programme's Global Summit brought together more than 50 ILM practitioners to explore the inner workings of an integrated approach to landscapes management. But how to bring everyone to a common understanding of these principles?

A game, of course!

Claude A. Garcia, professor of international forest management, led an unconventional session: a strategy game that simulated the oil palm supply chain in Cameroon. Everybody in the room had to set aside their usual roles and imagine themselves as stakeholders in this landscape, so as to better understand the effects of decisions, values and choices, including economic constraints and consequences, on ecosystems.

The system is complex, and decisions are made at all levels, with far-reaching and often-unforeseen consequences for other people, the economy and the environment.

Claude garcia

The session proved how strategy games such as these can be an innovative approach to help stakeholders better anticipate losses, benefits, and the importance of collective actions.

Critically, these games do not define how to win. Rather, players determine how they wish to act within the common landscape and decide what winning means to them:

  • Collaborate with industry?
  • Form a cooperative group?
  • Collaborate for collective benefit?
  • Dominate the market and prosper?

As we moved through successive growing seasons and the pressure intensified, we were challenged to think about:

  • What guided your choices?
  • What were the common constraints: information, time, resources?
  • What were our emotions, outcomes and turning points?
  • And finally: what were our lessons for an integrated landscapes approach?

The game emphasized painful choices that manifest in the real world – how social dynamics translate to ecological dynamics – and the results were powerful! People with years of experience seemed to reach new conclusions and see things differently, creating an impact that no policy brief or report could have done.