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Posted - 10/11/2014
Games for the Caribbean Climate: Promoting Interactive, Systems-Based Approaches for Climate Change Adaptation in the Caribbean
Public awareness of climate change is reaching new highs, and the Caribbean is just one of many areas around the world that has its eyes on the future. As a result, understanding climate risks and helping communities reduce their vulnerability to future climate change is a priority for a number of organizations in the region. Thanks to funding from Invoking the Pause, the University of Miami’s School of Communication (UM), the IFRC Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center (CADRIM), and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), were able to introduce an innovative approach to reach stakeholders in the Caribbean with climate-related games.                                                                                        

In June 2014, members from UM and RCCC traveled to Barbados to conduct a hands on climate games workshop with representatives from local and regional humanitarian and climate organizations including CADRIM.

Invoking the Pause grant partner Lien Tran, Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, has previously worked with members of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre on game-based approaches to communicate climate change adaptation. Previous projects include Humans vs. Mosquitoes, a simple tabletop and field game originally created to teach African schoolchildren about risks and prevention of vector-borne diseases, and a World Bank project for Tanzanian farmers to learn about the climate change adaptation measures built into a productive social safety net program funded by the Bank. While the RCCC has been using climate games and system simulation games steadily across Africa and Asia, it has identified but not yet had the capacity to introduce these game-based communication tools in the Caribbean.

With Invoking the Pause funding, Lien Tran coordinated a two-day climate games workshop in Barbados with local support from Reynette Royer of CADRIM and the Barbados Red Cross. Lien along with Mini Saraswati (RCCC) and Clay Ewing (University of Miami) traveled to Barbados to facilitate the “Let’s Adapt: Games for Climate Change Resiliency” workshop held at the Barbados Red Cross from June 19-20, 2014.

“Let’s Adapt” connected 18 community members, Red Cross volunteers, disaster management practitioners, and game designers to participate in the following: explaining systems thinking and the benefits of climate game communication tools through examples; playing existing climate games; adapting these games’ content to the Caribbean cultural and climate context; prototyping new games inspired by the priorities of the organizations in attendance; introducing other interactive methods for climate adaptation (including web apps and crowd-sourced data collection); and generating ideas for climate games and other interactive tools. Specifically, workshop participants played Paying for Predictions and Match It and also played and began adapting Humans vs. Mosquitoes and Let’s Get Ready (based on Ready).

The Caribbean has a mix of ‘very high human development’ to ‘low human development’-ranked countries (as reflected in the Human Development Index) also with a notable susceptibility to natural disasters. Stronger hurricanes, sea level rise, dengue outbreaks and other threats related to climate change threat have become a common concern. There has been a concerted effort by several government and non-government institutions to increase climate change awareness highlighting specific regional and national vulnerabilities that can hinder development gains yet, still, there are limited resources that clearly communicate the pressing concerns and call to action at the community level.

Games are uniquely well-suited to help understand and address humanitarian and development work in a new climate. Like climate change adaptation, well-designed games involve decisions with consequences. Games enable us to think about global environmental and social change and to explore in a rational yet sensory and creative way the sometimes surprising or counter-intuitive outcomes of individual and collective decisions.  This can include consequences for us, our community, other close and/or distant stakeholders (now or in the remote future), or even for the structure of the system itself. Games can support design and implementation of forecast-based risk management initiatives, grounded in a holistic comprehension of our vulnerabilities, as well as emerging opportunities for climate-compatible development.

Participants from the Barbados Red Cross, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology (CIMH), Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRT), and the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) along with the University of Miami, CADRIM, and Climate Centre teams all had positive experiences at the workshop, with unanticipated findings and strong intentions for future collaborations and exploring new opportunities together. We look forward to sharing more details about the workshop’s outcomes in our next update.

For more information, please visit the Let’s Adapt workshop EventBrite page or the Climate Centre’s dedicated games website for details on some of the aforementioned games. Please feel free to contact Lien Tran at for any questions or inquiries regarding this initiative.