Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

Dissolving Disasters


This physical participatory activity aims to support experiential learning and dialogue on the concept of “resilience”. Players become donors or subsistence farmers and face changing risks. They must make individual and collective decisions, with consequences. Rich discussions emerge, and there will be winners and losers.


Learning Outcomes

Communication skills, decision making under uncertainty, role of donors in humanitarian and development work

Facilitator skill level

4 out of 5 stars

Intended audience

Community members /donors/ disaster managers/ volunteers/ branch officers etc.

Number of players

10 to 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 protection against too much rain)
- Bucket: 1 (to indicate protection against too little rain)
- Truncated cone: 1 (to represent rains under climate change)
- Frisbee: 1 (can be any object that acts as a coin to flip)
- Normal Beans: 10 “normal” beans per player (big beans are better for gameplay)
- Special Beans: 1 red token per player
- String: about 20 feet
- Blank sheets of paper: 6
- Prizes: for winning farmer, for winning donor, and for winning village
- Printouts: Player sheets (1 per player), Game assistant sheets (1 each), and Facilitator’s sheet.

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

Play space requirements

An open, rectangular space that can accommodate all participants walk about the room


1. Villages: Lay the string on the floor along the middle of the room, parallel to one of the sides – thus dividing the room in two long rectangular sectors. Each sector of the room constitutes a village. The string represents a river that farmers cannot cross: it is a national border – therefore the neighbouring villages are in different countries.
2. Umbrella and bucket: Place them at opposite sides of the room, near the end of the string dividing the room in half. Within each village, the area near the umbrella represents “flood protection” (farmers standing there do not lose beans in case of floods), the area near the bucket represents “drought protection” (farmers standing there do not lose beans in case of droughts), and the central area represents “no disaster protection”.
3. Blank sheets of paper: Each village gets 3. Place each sheet on the floor within a village, one for “flood protection”, one for “drought protection”, and one for “no disaster protection”
4. Two bowls with special beans: Each bowl should contain half of all the special beans (for example, for 24 players, each bowl must contain 12 special beans). These bowls will be given to players taking the role of donors.
5. Three bowls with normal beans: give each game assistant a bowl with normal beans, as well as a game assistant sheet. One assistant is in charge of the “flood protections” area of both villages, another is in charge of the “drought protection” area. The “no disaster protection” area is covered by a third assistant, or by the facilitator.
6. Two villages: split players into two teams (ideally each subgroup should be similar in terms of gender, hierarchy, discipline, etc). Each team occupies one of the villages. Choose a name for each village. Give one normal bean and a player sheet to each farmer.
7. Select donors: 2 players in each village are “hired” by donor (selected by facilitator, or by team). Donors leave the village, go to the side, and receive the bowl of special beans.

Game Play

1) Remind farmers of their choices (Go towards umbrella for “flood protection”, towards bucket for “drought protection”, and to center for “no disaster protection”)
2) Players make decisions (donors about whether and where to place special beans, and farmers about whether to seek disaster protection and taking special beans)
3) Countdown
4) “Stop!”
5) Collection of upfront payment (1 bean) for those who sought flood or drought protection 
6) Roll of the die
7) Game assistants give or take beans according to farmers’ choice and roll of the die
8) Throughout the round facilitator can share remarks about observed behaviour
9) Next round begins

At the start of the 2nd round, introduce new conditions affecting player decisions
At the third or fourth round, introduce climate change. Show new device for random generation of disasters or not (in the case of truncated cone: “drought” if small base on the floor; “flood” if small base on the floor; no disaster otherwise).

See Facilitation Guide for step-by-step facilitation guidance.


Donors cannot converse with farmers until beginning of fifth turn.
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.


“Dissolving Disasters” 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. The donor role can be removed from this game as well.


This game was designed for the Rockefeller Foundation Workshop Series on Resilience, held in New York City during July and August 2011. 

This game was developed with support from the American Red Cross (International Services Team), and from a research grant to the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre from the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN Action Lab Innovation Fund).