University of Warwick: The University of Warwick and Cranfield University join forces to bring sustainability simulation game to COP26

On 1st November, the University of Warwick and Cranfield University will come together to host the Exploring Sustainable Futures Game at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26.

The game has been tailored by Cranfield University and the University of Warwick 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 alternate methods to achieving a sustainable future by 2050.

Professor Emma Macdonald and Professor Hugh Wilson, of Warwick Business School (WBS), 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, policy makers, businesspeople, entrepreneurs and the wider public at COP26.

The board game has been recognised by the Financial Times for being an outstanding example of teaching about sustainability. 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 amongst students of 98.6%.

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, eco-systems, and finance to learn how they influence the climate crisis today and over the next few decades.

During the game, players represent established businesses, policy makers, 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.

Emma Macdonald, Professor of Marketing at WBS, The University of Warwick and one of the games’ co-designers, 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, whilst appreciating the importance of their own choices today and within the system.”

Hugh Wilson, also a WBS Professor of Marketing and leader of the Creating Sustainable Organisations modules, 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 a urgent sense of the need to equip managers with the skills they so urgently require if we are to meet the world’s deep challenges.”

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