How to realize the SDG’s?
A game play experience as lesson for a worried planet.
What can a bunch of students teach the world on how to save the planet and reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in time? A lot! I dare to say. Find out why.
One of our Knowmads students (Knowmads is a tiny international creative and personal business school in Amsterdam) Christoph Sohn organized a session of the 2030 SDGs game, see https://2030sdgsgame.com led by Joel Mitchell, a trained SDGs game facilitator from France who is spearheading the role out of the game in Europe.
What you need to know about the game..
Roughly before the game starts players are put in teams, that each have some projects, that can either finish social, environmental and or economic projects. With these projects either nature regenerates, society becomes more humane, or the economic profits are being made. Realizing something in one category often goes the cost of one or more of the others aspects. Joel pointed out that even though every time he played the game very different results, or as he mentioned it, worlds were realized. When you know that the end results on the World Condition Meters needed to be more than 10 for each bar, (blue: economy, green: nature, yellow: society) then both of the worlds shown in the first picture are in deep trouble.
If players would focus too much on economy, see picture, nature and society could be devastated (see results in picture on the left). Yet, others too intent in doing good, could end up saving some nature, have some society, yet a broken economy and no money to fund any further projects that would make an essential difference (see results in same picture on the right). Such a team would get stuck. The picture shows the results of these two different play throughs. Joel called both worlds result that would endanger our future.
Reasons why players might fail to make a difference and get stuck can be recognized in the real world too. Too long discussions about who is right or wrong. “Show me lots of proof before I will believe throwing endless amounts of plastic in the ocean is harmful.” People being too clingy and focussed on solving their own project, or even income. “We can’t stop this company destroying the planet, too much of our local income depends on it.” People too convinced only when there’s enough wealth for them it’s safe to move other projects more forward, thus neglecting what already could be achieved now.
How to achieve the SDGs?
Our facilitator was stunned with our results. At midterm we already had all bars on 10 and thus saved the world. What followed after made everything even better. Joel even had to put the first yellow bar magnets and the end to keep our score. So what did the Knowmads students and their friends differently? Might they be able to offer a list or prescription on how to make an effective difference?
How to make an effective difference in collaboration.
- Willingness. Focus on the willingness to make it work for the whole. Players would ask teams, what teams? (read nations). Personal goals were dropped for collective progress. Players would have little attachment to personal goals, or team identity. We would look foremost at where the most progress could be made for all. Some eye to personal gain or an exchange that would make future benefits or projects possible was totally allowed, yet with an eye to the interest of the whole, not personal gains. At every level see what you can do best that helps the most!
- Flow. Follow what has most energy or potential. We followed the energy. When trades where of, or someone offered no deal, players wouldn’t stick or discuss endlessly, but easily flow to next negotiations. This wasn’t about being right, this was about where the fastest the best result could be gotten. We were easy in leaving those, that dug in, standing and shift fast to where things progressed fast and easy. That got many in a great vibe of ‘Hey we are making a difference!’ too. A rewarding feeling that boosts moral.
- Non attachment. Let go of ego, ownership, power, profits or nations. Keep self interest just enough to stay healthy and keep an eye on having options to move forward with new projects. We always decided what would benefit all players and results the most. Nature was forbidden to fall under a certain level (3), and huge profits at the cost of nature were not done. Income to make other projects directly possible were okay; stacking of money or profit for profit sake not. We all know how the greed culture poisons everything. Due to our collaborative attitude even fanatic nature protectors would allow for some negative impact, if that made even bigger positive impact in the next turn or project possible.
- Lift each other up. Help each other whenever you can, for the sake of it. We didn’t see, nor approached each other as potential enemies, let alone competitors. We all knew, when everybody would be at their best, the whole would shine more. So nudge others when you see what they don’t. But don’t push them to agree with you. The effect among us, was we didn’t compete, trust increased immensely and everyone and the results benefitted. We found that principles had value too, like mentoring, meaning, validating others. Thus we kept spirits high.
- Play & Learn. Dare to experiment and stay playful. We kept looking on how to make it work better and faster, yet never just for pure self gain. We kept giving each other tips how to improve results, tested new kinds of actions. Around half way we even created a project market, where everyone could act on every project open on the table. Ownership of a project didn’t matter as much as one’s capability to seeing a way to complete it. Do what works and really listen to others. Maximum progress clearly beat profit maximization. We stayed playful and curious, without stress. Play is how nature invented learning, play keeps spirits up, improves trust and make participants get into flow easier.
- Stay Wakeful. Seek to understand the system ruling it all. At all times seek to see the larger system, think systems thinking. Within the larger pattern and seeing how it works do check intentions, set boundaries, but never let paranoia, distrust or competition ruin the game play. Don’t let differences get too big, or give some people too much power to influence the whole. Power corrupts, even within our group, with nothing at stake really. At the end a few people got richer than others. They started to become more picky about who they helped and who not. Slowly use of power over others sneaked in, and these people started to consider their opinions as more intelligent(“Hey I got rich, so I understand the game better.”) than those of people who actually may have been more giving to the whole in attitude than the richest.
- Build and give trust. Giving and building trust lies at the root of fast and easy progress. Integrity too is essential. Rather than fighting or even dealing with lengthy negotiations with those that went for power or wanted to pressure others in their approach, players would move on towards everything that went easier. I remember offering bad deals for myself, and or offering others bad deals. As long as it helped move things forward, quite a few people were willing to go for it. And like among equals one remembers these people and easier offers a give or take, trusting favors will be returned when possible or needed.
Note: In think when we hold these tips against the general attitude within the UN between nations we must fear the worst. Things will not move forward when people fear personal loss more than the loss of us all. I have experienced several times in my life this awesome mood of many people setting their mind towards a shared destiny. It can be electrifying in the best sense. I think getting into this mood if we want to make a difference is more important than whatever negotiations with unwilling players. Let’s go for it.
Fun fact: the game also served as a mirror to myself. I’m a giver, so ended quite poor; as in real life. And as in real life, I suddenly got help to stay in the game and even reach most of my personal game goals, I had all but forgotten. Yet I think more importantly, I played an important role in the general mood to make things work in a very playful way and collaborative way.
As co-founder of Knowmads in 2010, we worked on these kind of attitudes. I learned that personal development is more important than having all the knowledge, let alone being able to give the right answers in tests.
Now I’m co-founder of Flourish Gaia. We seek to both bring the importance of a collaborative attitude and the most urgent knowledge into educations across the world. Everyone who wants to make a difference can already start.
Flourish Gaia is an educational shift organization seeking to help everyone who worries about the climate and the world to become active within their situation. We feel that idealistic children should and can build whole careers upon that. Millions of jobs and new businesses will be needed to help transform the world towards clean, healthy and a thriving regenerated nature. For this parents needs to stop pressuring their children to ‘become the best’, at whatever ‘that’ is. Rather help your children find ways to express their true selves and let them explore how and where they feel they shine the most. We do not need more of the same, all having done the same education. New innovative minds are born by daring to be different, challenging conventions and explore alternatives beyond what we think is the norm. Our ‘norm’ has gone crazy and is destructive to life on our planet. Better support those wanting something different. They are the future. They want a future. They want a healthy living planet and they want to flourish on it. We’re here to help. You can either help us, or do the same wherever you can. Given the story above, that might make all the difference.
Floris Koot for Flourish Gaia