Research Objectives

What Do We Aim To Achieve?

The long-term goal of this partnership is to study the impact of advanced ICT on social learning and stakeholder collaborations for sustainable water governance in Canada and elsewhere. The specific aim of this proposed research project is to study the role and value of serious games to enhance social learning and collaboration processes for sustainable water governance. Serious games are games designed to enhance deep learning about real-world challenges. Research on serious games for any purpose in any field of application is multi-disciplinary by nature.

The following research questions will be studied:

  1. How effective are existing serious games in supporting social learning, consensus building and collaboration in the context of governance of complex transboundary water systems?
  2. How can serious games be developed in the future to maximize their potential benefits in enhancing transboundary water governance?

How Will We Achieve Our Objectives?

Serious games will be played by actors stakeholders in various configurations. Several project partners (e.g. Signature Games, UNEP-DHI, Houtekamer & Van Kleef) bring into the partnership a number of existing serious games for water management (e.g. Aqua Republica, Marine Spatial Planning game, Water Game, EMOVE) through which players are tasked with taking decisions to manage a virtual watershed, in a simulation game that lets players see the impact of their actions over time and builds an understanding of the complex interactions of social, environmental and economic factors involved in managing water resources.

  • In-depth stakeholder analysis: The research will take an empirical, case study approach to explore the research agenda. The Great Lakes-St Lawrence basin has been chosen as the study area due to its complex governance issues. Through in-depth stakeholder analyses key actors and stakeholders will be identified and classified according to their role, power, interests, legitimacy and urgency.
  • Game simulation experiments: A sample of stakeholders will be selected with diverse interests to involve in a number of game- based quasi-experiments in selected pilot areas. These experiments will be facilitated in person as well as through online settings. Experiments will also involve game-play with stakeholders not traditionally participating in water resources management (e.g. youth) to assess how stakeholder engagement processes can reach such stakeholders.
  • Serious games assessment: existing serious games are assessed in terms of design principles, modes of play, and their potential impact on social learning and collaboration.
    • Learning goals and outcomes: Interviews, self-reporting exercises and surveys will be taken before and after game-play to assess learning goals and outcomes. Secondary interview after six months to establish longer term impacts of game-playing.
    • Player interactions, empathy and trust: Interaction between players participating in game-play will be analyzed using Interaction Analysis applied to recordings of the games. Empathy and trust towards the issues faced by other stakeholders will be assessed by participant surveys, using Davis’s Interpersonal Reactivity Index and an adapted version of the Organizational Trust Inventory, taken before and after game-play. Interviews conducted within six months following game-playing will assess how dynamics have been affected.
    • Social cohesion: Network Analysis, before and after game-playing, will be used to quantitatively measure the impact of the games on social cohesion. Secondary interview after six months to establish longer term impacts of game-playing.
    • Effectiveness of stakeholder collaboration: Collaboration between stakeholders will be assessed by participant surveys taken before and after game-play. In-depth interviews conducted directly following game-playing will ask participants their perception of how they perceive the collaborations effectiveness has been affected by participating in the game.
  • Lessons learned: Once analysis of existing games has taken place our team intends to identify ways in which the games might be further developed and adapted to be more effective for the context as outlined here. Opportunities will be explored to encourage the acceptance and institutionalization of game-playing as a valued and integral component of water governance.

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