The Gender and Climate Game
A participatory activity to support experiential learning and dialogue on the differential vulnerability of women and men facing climate variability and change. Players first take on the role of subsistence farmers facing changing risks -- then ‘walk in the shoes’ of a specific gender role. Experiencing the consequences of individual and collective decisions, rich discussions emerge, as do winners and losers.
Why This Game?
To learn about communication skills, decision making under uncertainty, role of gender in humanitarian and development planning
Facilitator Skill Level
4 out of 5
Community members/donors/disaster managers/ volunteers/ branch officers etc
Number of Players: 10 – 40 players
Time Needed for gameplay/discussion
60 to 120 minutes (depending on experience of facilitator, group size, and desired level of discussion during gameplay)
- Die: 1 (to represent rains - preferably bigger than a fist so people can see number from afar)
- Umbrella: 1 (to indicate rice sales area to reduce risks from too much rain)
- Bucket: 1 (to indicate cassava sales area to reduce risks from too little rain)
- Truncated cone: 1 (to represent rainfall uncertainty under climate change. Use veterinary cone)
- Frisbee: 1 (or any object that acts as a coin to flip)
- Bowls (to hold beans): 5
- Beans: enough for 4 beans per player (big beans are better for gameplay)
- String: about 20 feet –enough to divide play area longitudinally
- Bracelets: for half of the total number of participants (e.g. if 20 players, have 10 bracelets)
- Optional: Necklaces for up to half of the players
- Prizes: for winning farmer, and for winning village
- Optional: powerpoint projection, audio equipment for amplifying facilitator with large groups
Game Facilitator: 1
Game assistants: 2 for up to 15 players, 3 assistants if more players
An open, rectangular space that can accommodate all participants walking about
Villages: Lay the string on the floor down the middle of the room, dividing the room into two roughly equal long rectangular areas: each constitutes a village. The string represents a river that farmers cannot cross: so the neighboring villages may not share beans.
Umbrella and Bucket: Place them at opposite ends of the two parallel villages, near the end of the string dividing the space in half. Within each village, the area near the umbrella represents “flood protection” where farmers go ‘to buy rice’ (farmers standing there do not lose beans in case of floods), the area near the bucket represents “drought protection” where farmers go ‘to buy cassava’ (farmers standing there do not lose beans in case of droughts), and the central area represents “no disaster protection”, where farmers choosing to plant maize must stand.
Three bowls of beans: give each game assistant a bowl of beans. One assistant is in charge of the “rice sales” area for both villages, another is in charge of the “cassava sales” area. The “maize growing” area in the center of the villages is covered by a third assistant, or by the facilitator.
Two Villages: split players into two teams (ideally each subgroup should be of similar composition in terms of balancing gender, hierarchy, discipline, etc). Each team occupies one of the villages. Choose a name for each village. Give 2 beans to each farmer at start of game.
How To Win This Game
The player with the most beans at the end of the game is the individual winner. The village that has lost the fewest number of farmers to the city is the winning village. Observation and comment are invited on whether the men or women farmers fared better in the winning village and overall. Prizes are awarded to winners. These incentives create trade-offs between collaboration and competition, as well complex feedbacks and thresholds that enable rich discussions involving key resilience concepts.
- Start by giving sufficient time for farmers in each village to have a meaningful conversation (their last one) with each other. Then:
- Players make individual decisions
- Collection of upfront payment (1 bean) for those who sought flood or drought risk reduction
- Roll of the die
- Game assistants give or take beans according to farmers’ planting choice and roll of the die
- Throughout the round facilitator may comment about observed behavior
Next round begins
At the second or third turn it can be a good idea to introduce an external force that changes conditions for gameplay and therefore can influence decisions
At the third or fourth turn it is time to introduce climate change. Show truncated cone: “drought” if small base on the floor; “flood” if small base on the floor; normal rains and no disaster if it rolls on its side).
At the 4th or 5th turn where players have had a chance to become familiarized with the sequence of the game and its dynamics, introduce the Gender Dimension.
See Facilitation Guideline for more information.
Players may discuss individual and collective strategies with their team, but decisions must be individual.
Players must make decisions before countdown, there will be roll of the die, and outcomes depending on player choices and random rains.
At the time the countdown is over, players must be stay standing
“The Gender and Climate Game” is a game deliberately designed with system flexibility, in order to enable people and organizations to explore possible modifications to game rules and narrative aimed at better capturing aspects of the relationships between context, decisions and consequences.