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Yee San Su - Food Chain Reaction: A Global Food Security Game


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Yee San Su, Senior Research Scientist, CNA

This presentation was given at the 2016 Serious Play Conference, hosted by the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

In November 2015, 60 high-level decision makers from 15 countries participated in a two-day policy game on global food security. This talk will discuss challenges CNA addressed in designing the game, game logistics, and lessons learned (e.g., reconciling stakeholders with different goals, incorporating subject-matter experts, framing pre-game materials).

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Yee San Su - Food Chain Reaction: A Global Food Security Game

  1. 1. 1 Yee San Su and Mary “Kate” Fisher Serious Play Conference July 26, 2016 Food Chain Reaction: A Global Food Security Game Basics • Role-playing game • November 9-10, 2015 in Washington, DC • Teams representing major actors in the global food system – Brazil, China, the European Union, India, the United States, and Africa – Businesses and investors – Multilateral institutions (e.g., World Bank) • Game begins in 2020 and takes place over four rounds, covering 2020-2030 2
  2. 2. 2 Sponsors 3 Goal 4 “Food Chain Reaction is designed to help high level decision makers—across the public and private spheres—better understand the interconnectedness of the global food system and use this knowledge to ultimately reduce future global food security risks.” How do we get from this goal to a game?
  3. 3. 3 CNA 5 • 20+ years of experience designing games • Supported real-world event analysis and exercise evaluation • Previously examined connections between national security, climate change, energy security, and water security Approach 6 Philosophy is to match games to sponsor objectives, and deliver a game that is real, engaging, and enhances player decision-making Game Objectives
  4. 4. 4 What Sponsors Saw 7 ? Game Design in Context 8
  5. 5. 5 Project Management • Adapted a planning framework for large- scale exercises • Created a formal project schedule that assigned responsibility for specific tasks • Reported on the progress of individual tasks in weekly core team meetings 9 10 Who? What? Where? When? + How?
  6. 6. 6 Who? Player Criteria • Experience with and understanding of national and international-level decision making • Influence in their respective fields (current and high likelihood of sustained future influence) • Complementary expertise among the members for each team • Ability to commit to the full duration of the game • Willingness to “play” in the game and not fight the scenario (e.g., flexible attitude, interest in learning and experimenting, works well on a team) 11 6/2: First wave of invitations 8/4: Tracking RSVPs begins 10/27: Final list published Approximately 45% success rate for acceptances What? Initial Sponsor Objectives (Examples) • Derive compelling insights to share with food security thought leaders to inform food security thinking and policymaking • Identify how the public and private sectors can mitigate, manage, and intervene constructively around a major disruption • Understand how players will respond to key trigger points in a crisis • Explore climate change mitigation and adaptation to understand the benefits and trade space for both climate change mitigation and adaptation 12
  7. 7. 7 What? (continued) Getting to Scenario Elements • Elicited 14 “learning goals” that the core planning team prioritized • Evaluated situations that would provide an opportunity for players to engage in discussion around these topics • Mapped scenario elements to learning goals Priority Learning Goal Scenario Element High Supply chain bottlenecks in agricultural commodity distribution can be just as disruptive as weather-related effects • Disrupt traffic on Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to dramatically reduce U.S. exports • Lack of infrastructure hinders relief aid to some African nations High Climate change affects natural systems in multiple ways—not just heat waves and drought • Spread of Asian soybean rust in South America What? (continued) 14 Structural Elements • Commodity index pricing (All Rounds) • IPCC climate change (Round 1 and 3) • El Niño/La Niña as a global and recurring phenomena (Round 1 and 4)
  8. 8. 8 Where? 15      ? When? Game Starting Year and Duration • Climate change is a much more significant issue later in the century 16 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
  9. 9. 9 When? (continued) • Example: Growing incomes are leading to changing consumption patterns, increasing demand for grains. Food consumption patterns are shifting to higher-quality and more expensive foods such as meat and dairy. In particular, China and India are expected to continue growing their middle- class consumption levels, with China driving growth in soybean imports for animal feed use. In the next five years, annual growth in meat consumption in developing countries (1.9%) is projected at nearly three times higher than that of developed countries. 17 How? Food Security Has Many Dimensions • Agriculture • Resource scarcity • Climate change • Sustainable economic development • Trade and commodity markets • National security • Global health • Technology 18 How do we allow players to have complete freedom to come up with policy options, without “breaking” the game?
  10. 10. 10 How? (continued) 19 Human Adjudication Cell • Contained subject-matter expertise in all major categories • Received projection information (i.e., commodity pricing) and access to research documentation • Reviewed team decisions and used this to modify information contained in a premade template for the following round How? (continued) Underlying Models versus Narrative • Very difficult to use models, given the freedom afforded to players • Keep players out of the weeds • Provided narrative introductions into each round of play 20 CommodityPriceIndex
  11. 11. 11 21 How? (continued) Setting the Stage for the Game (video) 22 Let the Game Begin!
  12. 12. 12 Agenda: Day 1 23 Agenda: Day 2 24
  13. 13. 13 Facilitation 25 • Game Directors • Senior Controllers – Monitor for and/or address issues (e.g., player confusion/boredom, overemphasis on a specific issue) – Trace macro-level trends in discussion and decision making • Scribes • Adjudication Panel Keeping Players Informed 26
  14. 14. 14 When Fun Takes Over 27 Lessons Learned • Ask your sponsors about their comfort level; do they feel they have a voice in the process and know where they can contribute? • Start player selection as soon as possible; good players fill in gaps • Accept political realities and do your best to identify these risks early • Evaluate what level of detail is appropriate for the game • Don’t underestimate the resources required to facilitate, monitor, and record what transpires during game conduct • Think about portability and evaluation during design and development 28
  15. 15. 15 For More Information 29 Yee San Su Mary “Kate” Fisher