Sunday, August 30, 2015

Resilient futures: A game of high stakes

What is a game? It can be a form of competitive activities played according to rules, or an activity for amusement or entertainment, or structured, interactive activities that require thought and adaptation as part of challenges within a learning exercise. Learning by gaming about resilience is particularly ‘high stakes’, given our current climate of uncertainty, and exposes participants to new knowledge and skills without the risk that would otherwise be taken in the field.

Having a resilient future or resilience to a disaster can be learned from typical situations in society where the outcome of one group’s choices is critically dependent on the actions of other groups. Students often lack first-hand experience of disasters or of responding to them. Their understanding of resilience in a disaster context cannot often be learned externally from a real disaster. The ‘game’ therefore offers them that opportunity.

This project is about teaching students about resilience to disasters and about how to deal with the action of others which impact on their resilience. Games are part of all human experience from simple games learned early to complex games devised with rules. Humans are used to games in their experience and many lessons are learned throughout life as part of game playing: competing, strategy making, interacting in structured ways, making decisions and problem solving.

Many students who study disaster management don't have real life experience of disasters. In a management context, they do need experience to practice based on applicable principles learned through simulated contexts. Using practice which has been captured from disaster response and management practitioners and presented in “a system dynamics” format, scenarios can be created within which students can apply learned principles and then learn decision-making processes, in the context of disasters, about disaster response management and the consequences of the decisions they made, leading to understanding the transfer of knowledge to those affected to enable resilience in specific contexts.

The “systems dynamic” model enables multiple actors to act and react in various ways, learning from experience, building knowledge of action and its effectiveness, building principles of practice to apply in as many different disaster scenarios as they can, as effects can vary in almost every disaster event. However, to build this “systems dynamic” model requires extensive levels of knowledge. This knowledge can be captured from practitioners (disaster response and relevant agencies). This knowledge can then be modelled into the system with certain rules and algorithms which allow the system to produce (generate) results according to those rules, enabling learning and re-learning as contexts and conditions change in a ‘game’ situation.

The game played by these rules can then identify students who have demonstrated the ability to learn and adapt to rules and uncertainty which was captured from real life. The skills derived from this game of high stakes learning process will equip students to be ready for a disaster Resilient Future.

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