COP26: Politicians set to take part in WBS simulation game

28 October 2021

  • Emma Macdonald and Hugh Wilson to take their simulation game to Glasgow
  • The game explores future scenarios based on decisions players take
  • Financial Times says game is outstanding example of teaching sustainability
  • Government policymakers, business people and COP26 attendees will play

Two Warwick Business School academics will be hosting the Exploring Sustainable Futures Game at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26.

The game has been tailored by Warwick Business School alongside Cranfield University ahead of COP26 to be an innovative, role-playing, learning experience designed to engage participants in systematic and long-term thinking that will help them consider various methods to achieving a sustainable future by 2050.

Professors of Marketing Emma Macdonald and Hugh Wilson, of Warwick Business School and both Visiting Professors at Cranfield School of Management, will come together with Cranfield University’s team of delegates to make the game available to politicians, policymakers, business people, entrepreneurs and the wider public at COP26.

Across a 90-minute live game session, those most concerned with deciding the fate of our future will have the opportunity to play out decisions and explore their impact across multiple sectors of society including transport, energy, ecosystems, and finance, to learn how they influence the climate crisis today and over the next few decades.

Professor Macdonald, who is one of the designers of the game, said: “In a conference consisting of keynote speeches and high-stake negotiations, the Sustainable Futures Game is an opportunity for 'show not tell'.

“It provides an opportunity to engage attendees with an interactive, thought-provoking scenario-based experience that is unique and different. Participants visualise their impact on possible futures by thinking about their role within a system, the consequences of their organisation’s choices, and the possible routes to achieving sustainability that we can collectively take over the next 20 to 30 years.

“Game players and spectators will leave the Green Zone at COP26 with a greater understanding of the need for interdependence and collaboration between governments, corporations and NGOs, while appreciating the importance of their own choices today and within the system.”

During the game, players represent established businesses, policymakers, the public, entrepreneurs, and civil society organisations. Together, participants must react to economic, technological and societal changes with each decision contributing to an alternative and more sustainable future. ‘Winners’ are judged on their accumulated resources, and the nature of the world they have created through their actions.

Designed to consider the role different actors play in societal change; the interdependency between businesses, society and the world’s population; plausible futures that could unfold due to our actions; and what might have to change for sustainable development to occur, the game has become a powerful educational resource, fostering creativity and a holistic viewpoint for participants.

Professor Wilson, who teaches Creating Sustainable Organisations on the Distance Learning MBA, added: “The Sustainable Futures Game illustrates some vital lessons from a decade of research at Warwick, Cranfield and more broadly.

“First, there are multiple options for a sustainable future, so we need to mix social and environmental goals in creating the future we want. Second, transitions to sustainability can only be achieved through multi-sector collaboration, so leaders in all organisations – and we can all be leaders – need an outward focus and empathetic collaboration skills. Third, the road will be seriously rocky, so leaders also require agility and resilience.

“In a small way, the development of this game illustrates these big lessons. Universities often collaborate on research, and indeed the underlying research has involved multiple universities, NGOs, businesses and policymakers throughout Europe, with EU funding. But we are also collaborating with Cranfield and others on teaching, as we share an urgent sense of the need to equip managers with the skills they require if we are to meet the world’s deep challenges.”

The board game has been recognised by the Financial Times for being an outstanding example of teaching sustainability at Cranfield University. Earlier this year, the game was introduced to Warwick Business School’s Distance Learning MBA module Creating Sustainable Organisations, which gained an extraordinary satisfaction score among students of 98.6 per cent.

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