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Let the games for social change commence!

Posted on August 10, 2014

Six months of hard work and planning was all worth it. Sinem, Stuart, Narin and I sat exhausted in the pub at the end of a fantastic day of designing, discussing and playing games for social change, with a wonderful group of social leaders.

The ‘inaugaral” leadership games took place at an iconic site – Gilwell Park, home of the scout movement, and home to games and play as a source of personal development for nearly 100 years.

The scouts’ Steve Peck told us “On the surface the Scouts is all about games, but underneath that there’s a lot going on. The key thing in starting with games is to create a safe space where no one feels threatened”. Soon he set 20 of us hauling a large rope around a tree and attempting to negotiate ourselves into tying a group “reef” knot.

Ex-Raleigh International volunteer Narin Cakir led a game used by many NGOs to simulate the inherent unfairness of international trade. Our “countries” competed with whatever natural resources we had, including papers, scissors and rulers.

Then onto the green fields to play football, with blindfolds and balls embedded with bells provided by the RNIB. Suddenly a game that seemed familiar was transformed into an entirely new experience of vulnerability and uncertainty.

2013 Fellow Emily Lomax split the group into two, one a group of researchers from an NGO, the other a local community they are visiting for the first time to learn all about it.  There were some surprising results about assumptions we make about other people!

So what makes for a compelling game? Julie Dawson from social venture Surf And Turf helps young people design online games ran us through the methods and recipes for success. She presented Chris Allen (from infrared5)'s seven secrets for addictive games - timing, social feedback and competition, repetition, skill, reward, exploration and 'the near miss'.

Then the challenge – could we design our own game from scratch? Split into groups, we used the formula to create experiences and scenarios to step into the shoes of teenagers facing key decisions when leaving care or council leaders facing cut-backs. We surprised ourselves! 30 minutes later we all had some powerful storyboards to build games from.

2013 Fellow Kate Swade who led one group looking at the future options for local parks went away delighted to have a skeleton plan to turn into a reality with her organisation.

Reflecting (as Clore Social Fellows like to do) on the role of games – contestants said:

“Games allow people to grow, try out new things” Dame Mary Marsh.

“I just want to be more playful as a leader” Rachel Smith, 2013 Fellow

“What I want from leaders like you all is to provide an environment where I can feel playful, feel myself, be creative and be at my best. Games are one way of doing that” Narin Cakir, Social Games organiser.

Overall, the day confirmed our original hunch that games have many roles for social leaders, from a means of relaxing or connecting to creating a different world to imagine other possibilities or challenging limitations. It also showed us that attempting to design a game is a useful experience in its own right, that it really is a potentially powerful tool for creating community and achieving social impact. Most of all, what I saw was that whatever our ages we shouldn’t ignore that inner desire and sheer joy of allowing ourselves to be playful.

Social Leadership Games 2015 anyone?

Blind football

People playing blind football

people playing blind football

Rope games

people playing rope games

people tying a knot together

Designing games

people designing games

The scout hut at Gilwell Park where the scouts movement began

image of the scouts hut where the scouts movement began

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Owen Jarvis

Owen Jarvis

Service design champion

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