Last week, I attended the Adaptation Future 2016 conference in Rotterdam. It was the 4th edition of this global conference sponsored by the European Commission and the Dutch Presidency of the EU. The conference gathered around 1600 people from more than 100 Countries and there were 160 sessions over three days (10-13 May). On May 11th, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gave a plenary speech calling for breaking down the barriers blocking access to finance for the poor to adapt to climate change. I was invited to give two presentations over the Scenario Exploration System . The first one was a 5-minute pitch for the SES in the special session “Climate Change as an Innovation Driver” organised by Royal Haskoning DHV, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the University of Manchester.
SES as a tool to help people adaptating to climate change
The SES had been selected as one of three innovative developments to help communities, cities and infrastructures adapt to climate change. The concept of the special session was to give the innovators an opportunity to pitch their ideas to an interested crowd which would then challenge them and provide feedback. Three ‘dragons’ (people instructed to be critical) had been designated to mount a challenge. This was then followed by a break-out session in which the audience spilt itself up between the three innovative development presented for a more in-depth discussion. The questions that I received focussed mostly on who do we target, what skills players (and game masters) need to have, whether several objectives can be reached with the SES and, as often, whether we plan to have an online version. Overall, the feedback was positive as many people are in search of ways to think long-term and to engage with a broad range of stakeholders and the SES was perceived to be a practical way to achieve both. The regret was that the SES only engages with 5 players at a time. In fairness, the SES was not designed to engage with large numbers of people, but rather to immerse participants into in-depth future thinking.
Policy impacts of the game
The second presentation was a 15 minute presentation in the session “Science-Policy Interfaces for Adaptation”. Again, the SES attracted most questions and most interest among the four talks of the session. A lot of interest emerged around the policy impact that we have had. Our experience, having played with over 130 people, was very helpful in responding to all questions. People were interested in knowing how game results could be harvested and used, whether we could perform quantitative analyses of results, whether other languages than English could be accommodated, etc. One participant shared a negative experience with a serious game saying that the fact of calling it a game made some people refuse to play as they only wanted to engage in serious work. This is a concern we also share in the policy-making world. At the end of the session, most of the discussion revolved around the difficulties to overcome in providing scientific evidence to policy makers as two presentations reported on evidence of these difficulties and the other two (including the SES) on new approaches to overcome them.
Overall, the experience confirmed our feeling that the SES is a tool which is attractive to a very broad public, especially people interested in forward-looking strategic development and practical outcomes. However, we need to pursue our efforts to find specific applications to broaden the appeal of the SES and increase our ability to convince more people to use it.