CIDES bets on sustainability
Andrés Tarté, consultant of the International Center for Sustainable Development (CIDES) of the City of Knowledge Foundation, created a board game that addresses the theme of sustainable development, called ECOPOLIS.
The game was incubated from the beginning by CIDES, then received official support for its development from the IDB and SENACYT, and is now to be launched and distributed among schools and other organizations thanks again to the support of CIDES and the Ministry of Environment (MiAmbiente), who has opted for this innovative project.
ECOPOLIS poses for its players the same challenge that humanity faces: improving the welfare of the population without triggering the consumption of natural resources and emissions that contribute to climate change. The objective of the game is to reach a place where the quality of life is very high and the consumption of natural resources is very low.
We had the opportunity to interview Andrés Tarté.
What is ECOPOLIS?
ECOPOLIS is a board game that has the same elements of the games that we all know: board, cards, dice, money, chips, etc. That’s why many think it’s like an ecological Monopoly, although this is not necessarily the case since the dynamics have nothing to do with Monopoly. ECOPOLIS is designed to raise awareness of the concepts and complexities inherent in sustainable development through game mechanics, which have been based on an analysis of real statistics from approximately 140 countries, compiled within the last 30 to 40 years. We have been able to design a mechanic that emulates the path of countries in real life when they try to navigate in the waters of development. For example, it is very evident that when countries reach their human development (education, health, income, equity), their consumption of natural resources shoots up. That is the trend that we have to reverse. We need to know how to improve human development in our societies, at the same time that we lower or stabilize the consumption of natural resources so as not to continue destroying them and exacerbating climate change.
How did the idea come about?
The idea of making a board game to be able to transmit sustainable development concepts and encourage discussion and debate came from my father, Dr. Rodrigo Tarte (RIP), who coincidentally was the founder and the great promoter of CIDES and one of the directors of the City of Knowledge Foundation in its beginnings. I remember that one day he was a little frustrated, since he dedicated his life to advocating for the environment and for sustainable development, and he felt that people did not grasp the urgency of the world’s situation. He was the one who told me to create a board game to address these complexities and that idea seemed great to me. We were throwing ideas for some time, but really nothing came out that had nothing to do with trivia questions and that was not what we wanted, because it does not put the player in the role of strategist, of decision maker. After a while, when I was recently graduated from my master’s degree and had very fresh concepts of my thesis work, I came up with the idea of ??what this game should be: something based on what is known as the Sustainability Quadrant. The Quadrant tells you that the place where you want to be is in a high human development and low consumption of resources. This became the goal of the game, the goal that the players have to achieve.
What did you do after?
As soon as I had this idea, I went to my dad and he thought it was fabulous. Then I began to develop prototypes along with the dynamics and got into a long process of what they call play testing, where I dedicated myself to improving and refining it to not only make it educational and effective, but also fun.
For what ages is it aimed at?
Initially, together with our work team, we had thought that from 14 years onwards, but then we reduced it to 12 because we realized that at a secondary level most of the youngsters perfectly grasped the concepts. And now we have realized that the new generations are really very advanced and assimilate things very quickly, so from 10 years onwards you can play the game. We have also played with younger children, who, although they do not understand all the concepts and implications, can still have fun and participate in the dynamics.
How important was the contribution of CIDES?
Without CIDES this would not be a reality. First of all, for the support I received since my father was the Director of CIDES, since he was the great champion of this initiative and who made me believe in it. In addition, the institutional contribution of CIDES has been very important because its name has given us a lot of credibility. Their organizational, administrative and brainstorming support has been fundamental, and they have included the game in workshops and courses that they organize. To say that we are working with CIDES is something that opens doors for us.
What are the future plans for this game?
Right now, thanks to the support of MiAmbiente, we are finalizing the details to make the impression. Once the first edition arrives in Panama, it will be distributed among several schools, organizations and entities that the Ministry works with. Besides, with CIDES and with the game creators Habitat Games, we are looking for other channels to distribute the game. Next plans also include the English version so we would be able to transcend the Panamanian or Latin American market, to other places like the USA and Europe, where we believe there is a lot of potential. More on the horizon we are also thinking about a digital version of the game. The game was conceived as a board game and we want to encourage face-to-face interaction, but the digital version has certain advantages such as the distribution of copies without having to incur in material resources and also allows you to establish links to explore more information and more data that feed the game through a digital platform. In addition, we have already thought about a game about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will not be a board game but a card game, and will be designed so that the general population becomes more familiar with the objectives and goals for 2030.