Flood Resilience in Practice the potential for gaming

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

In June 2017 at the 11th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA11) Practical Action and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Environment and Disaster Management (EDM) program collaborated to present a session on Community Based Adaptation exploring with practitioners the linkage between flood risk and healthy ecosystems, using a game.

This game builds on Practical Action’s extensive experience in flood risk management, early warning systems, and participatory flood resilience building, combined with WWF’s expertise on the ecosystem and nature-based approaches. The session was well aligned with the conferences objective to harness natural resources and ecosystems for adaptation, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable those least responsible for the global challenge of climate change.

To introduce the session Anita Van Breda from WWF, introduced the Flood Green Guide. A guide developed in partnership with USAID Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to support using natural and nature-based methods for flood risk management.

We had a total of 59 people plus rapporteurs and facilitators at our session. This group was very diverse so to ensure each game group was made up of a mix of experienced and less experienced practitioners we undertook a few ice breaker activities. The final activity asked them to line up from least to most experience in regards to climate change adaptation based on the number of years they have been working in the field, they then numbered off from 1 to 5 to create five groups made up of experienced and less experienced members.

The aim of the game is, of course, to win by gaining the highest score. To achieve a high score the group need to reduce losses from flood events and manage the river basin for the triple objectives of social, environmental and economic wellbeing. However, as well as having fun, and 98% of the participants reported that they had fun, we are also trying to impart some key lessons. By playing the game participants learn how to integrate social, environmental and economic considerations into disaster recovery, reconstruction, and risk reduction programs, specifically;

  • How natural capital and ecosystem services combined with more traditional approaches can build resilience to floods.
  • How to make the difficult trade-off decisions between different mitigation options, hard infrastructure versus soft ecosystem-based approaches and the implausibility of a one size fits all approach
  • How to build the soft capacities and skills needed by stakeholders to enable them to do this.
  • Highlight the diversity of actors and the challenge of bringing these actors together as a single river basin management institution, the idea of the river basin commission.

Each group of 9 to 10 people was asked to form a river basin commission and to decide among the groups the role they would play. Ideally, the group should be made up of a mix of government, private sector, and communities, with representation across these broad groups including upstream, urban and downstream communities, national and local government, etc. The groups then elected a chairperson and a treasurer. The commission was then asked to make plans and implement these in rounds based on a map detailing a hypothetical river basin. As background, they are informed that the river basin is highly susceptible to floods due to maritime location, mountainous watershed, and high precipitation levels.

The game is played in rounds representing a year, which includes the commission planning their annual activities based on their available budget, implementation of the plan, the arrival of the annual flood and responding to the consequences of the flood event.

We were only able to play two rounds but provided enough time for a question and answer session at the end. One participant raised a very valid question on the validity of game playing to influence policy and practice. Game playing can provide multiple benefits in the challenging international development process. Firstly by playing a game such as this you can bring together diverse stakeholders who often do not work together. Role playing different roles allows local stakeholders to view problems from an alternative perspective. Most importantly allows different stakeholders to explore critical issues in a natural environment, this not only promotes understanding of different perspectives but can also aid in defusing future conflict.

Following good development practices we asked all participants to fill in an evaluation form. Overall they enjoyed playing the game and found the interactive learning approach refreshing. They provided some excellent feedback on how to improve the game, such as thinking about upstream downstream linkages more, make the scoring system simpler, and provide fewer options for flood actions. Many participants commented on the economic centric decision making, although they recognised that this is a common problem. One key learning from the CBA conference is that if we continue with economic decision making then the social and environmental costs will continue to be overlooked. All participants enjoyed the participatory nature of the game, the fact that they were involved and were able to engage with their colleagues in developing their annual plan. This facilitated sharing of knowledge and experience and contribute to collaborative learning.

Keep following the Practical Action colleagues at the conference and come back for a daily update.

@Chris_P_Hen, @RiganAliKhan, @Sunilnpl, @gehedragurung and @ColinMcQuistan

For more on the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Environment and Disaster Management (EDM) program: http://envirodm.org/

The 11th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA11) https://www.iied.org/11th-international-conference-community-based-adaptation-cba11

Colin is currently working as Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction senior adviser at Practical Action.

You can contact him at  Colin.McQuistan@practicalaction.org.uk

This blog was first published in https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/flood-resilience-in-practice-the-potential-for-gaming/

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