ITCM Game of Floods Overview

Date: October 10, 2017
Location: Brimley, Michigan (at Bay Mills Community College)
Facilitator: Great Lakes Integrated Sciences & Assessments (GLISA)
Players: Representatives of Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan member Tribes (8 Tribes)
Materials: Laminated game boards and cards, dry erase markers to draw on map

Game Overview and Participant Feedback

On the second day of the Climate Adaptation Workshop, hosted by the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) and GLISA in October 2017, attendees participated in the Game of Floods scenario planning game. The facilitator of the event was GLISA Climatologist, Omar Gates, who was given training for the game prior to the event (from ASAP Executive Director Beth Gibbons’ Facilitator Workshop of the game). Two other GLISA team members, Frank Marsik and Jenna Jorns, were auxiliary to the facilitator in guiding the groups through the exercise. Participants were split into two groups of 9 people due to the number of available roles.

The facilitator gave a brief introduction to the game using the slides provided by USDN, and the groups were each given supplies for the game. This was the afternoon activity for a day focused on extreme precipitation events and their impacts on Tribal reservations and lands. To frame the game for this audience, Gates advised that the game be used as an example of how any community could address flooding, regardless of the community being on a coast or inland. The players choose to envision a river or lake flooding in the community (instead of sea level rise), to make the scenario more realistic to the Great Lakes region. In order to keep the budget and scenarios fair between the teams, the “mayor” of each group came up to the front of the room to select the cards for their team. The cards were face down, so neither representative could see the cards value (e.g., $5 million to $50 million). Ironically, both teams received the same budget of $5 million dollars and were briefed afterwards that there were higher amounts available.

Once the facilitator went over the slides before each activity, the participants worked among themselves to go through each activity. While participants worked through the tasks, the facilitators answered questions and clarified the activities. The groups were also able to draw on the board with dry-erase markers because the play boards were laminated before the workshop. This proved to be useful for participants because it helped them draw out the solutions and visualize how the community would be impacted. The activities ran a little over the time limit, but each team was able to successfully complete the game and present their results to everyone.

After the groups shared their choices with the larger group, the facilitator asked if and how this was useful to their day-to-day work in their communities. Some of the participants said it would be great to have the map customized for their own Tribe’s reservation. However, one participant said that having the game being played at a specific reservation may cause tension among players who have a strong belief in how different parts of the land may function. One suggestion was to have other Tribal members and staff play the game for land that is similar to their own (i.e., another Tribe’s reservation or a general reservation map with common asset types) to eliminate the possible tensions. Both teams agreed that having a low budget was a more helpful exercise, forcing them to advocated and discuss the value of different actions, rather than having a higher budget and being able to fund almost everything.

Overall the Game of Floods was a good experience for the workshop attendees as well as GLISA’s team members who were present. The following list includes additional, informal feedback received from the players:

  • For players with roles advocating for assets that were not threatened under their team’s scenario, they felt little incentive to stay engaged. They suggested removing roles in this position after the scenarios are chosen.
  • Several players thought this exercise would be great to bring back to their own communities, as a low-stakes way to introduce topics that are often sensitive. To do this, they expressed interest in a ‘Tribes’ version of the game with a map of a typical reservation’s assets in an inland area (with a river or lake to simulate flooding due to extreme precipitation).
  • Participants enjoyed having roles different from their own ‘real life’ roles, to have a different perspective to advocate for.
  • Participants found it valuable to weigh the costs of different adaptation actions all at once with a specific budget, rather than choosing solutions piecemeal as problems come up.
  • One player suggested having the low income housing in the floodplain for most scenarios, since environmental racism and justice is a daily issue for Tribes. If it’s not a part of the scenario, they felt the game was unrealistic for the challenges Tribes face in a changing climate.
  • One participant suggested adding an uncertainty factor to the scenarios, with a range of flooding instead of a set amount to add another dimension to the conversation.