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A gamified experience at COP26 for climate-resilient transformation

A gamified experience at COP26 for climate-resilient transformation

With mounting pressure on countries to cut down carbon emissions at rapid and ambitious rates, much of the focus at COP26 has been around climate mitigation and adaptation. However, there is a third Transformative Approach which was the focus for ACIAR – Australian centre for International Agricultural Research at their COP26 event last week.

In the face of ongoing climate disruptions, ACIAR wanted to enable organisations with choices and practical pathways to steer an agricultural system towards transformation.

Climate-resilient transformation of food and livelihood systems is a goal that drives many initiatives. But what actually is transformation? What does it look like in terms of on-the-ground, practical actions? ​

The event was dedicated to agricultural transformation in a climate adaptation context, emphasising practical steps that can be taken to help real people in real livelihood and production systems on a pathway to transformation. Instead of taking a standard approach of a series of webinars, expert panels etc., ACIAR wanted to provide a more immersive experience.

Targeted at senior researchers, policy makers and funding organisations working in the agriculture or global development sectors, the challenge was how to effectively communicate scientific concepts about climate change and agricultural transformation in a simple to understand, engaging and memorable format.

ThinkPlace worked closely with ACIAR over several weeks to develop a gamified event experience.

ACIAR at COP26 Event

In a span of six weeks, the ThinkPlace team rapidly familiarised themselves on key concepts by researching scientific journal papers and conducting interviews with scientists. Given the global and high-profile nature of COP26, the event needed to allow for both virtual and in-person attendance and have a maximum gameplay of 30 minutes. 

Using ThinkPlace’s expertise in behavioural and social psychology, and our world-leading gamification capability, we designed and refined the win state, game mechanics and dynamics, rewards, and theme of the game.

The central theme of the game revolved around

Transformation sound too abstract – let’s change that.

Through co-design session with ACIAR, we conducted multiple rounds of playtesting to refine the game, also producing accompanying slides and facilitator training.

ACIAR COP26 Gameboard prototypeACIAR COP26 Gameboard prototype ThinkPlace

Our early prototyping in action

Equipped with cutting-edge insights from Australian research and innovation in international development, the game participants played in teams to steer a coastal food system through the disruptions of climate change. They had to make practical decisions about how to spend their finite resources across multiple harvest cycles to best build their system’s resilience against a series of unknown climate events.

Participants could see the consequences of their decisions played out and finish by reflecting on what works – and what doesn’t – on the path to climate resilient transformation. ​

ACIAR COP26 Gamified Experience

ACIAR COP26 Gameboard in action

To provoke and inform gameplay the session was kicked off with some inspiration from Dr Veronica Doerr, Research Program Manager for Climate Change at ACIAR, before presenting a showcase of leading Australian innovations in the agricultural transformation space from the following Australian researchers: ​

  • James Butler, CSIRO ​
  • Minh Nguyen, CSIRO ​
  • Michaela Cosijn, CSIRO ​
  • Dorin Gupta, University of Melbourne ​
  • Christine King, University of the Sunshine Coast ​

Hosted on large digital whiteboard in teams of 6-8 people, the dynamic and interactive experience provided a unique forum to collaborate, network and dialogue with diverse contemporaries interested in agricultural transformation. ​

The ACIAR COP26 event was successfully delivered with positive feedback from participants all over the world, including Australia, Scotland, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Phillipines, India, Vietnam, Egypt, Myanmar, and Laos.

Leveraging upon ThinkPlace’s global presence, we had facilitators from all around our global studios. The extensive digital whiteboard was expertly navigated by the ThinkPlace facilitators to duplicate multiple game boards and accommodate large participants numbers.

ThinkPlace Facilitators for ACIAR COP26 Gamified Event

ThinkPlace facilitators across global locations and timezones supported this global event

Through a post-event survey, we learnt that over 90% participants agreed that the gamified experience allowed them to truly understand what transformative approaches looked like in practice. It made us reflect that traditional delivery methods like webinars or panel talks may not have had the same impact.

"This session did a great job at peeling back the onion that is transformation and what it looks like. It showed what those unexpected events could be that move us forward or back. As we played the game, I could see the research behind the game. The thought leadership that went into it was great, kudos to the team. My deepest thanks for this session," said Rebecca Carter, Deputy Director, Climate Resilience Practice at World Resources Institute.  

Some of the other participants went on to say,

"I have never played such an engaging game; it was really good and informative!"


"(There were) deeper concepts emerging as you are playing."

"The event got me thinking critically about how agricultural transformation can be made in order to mitigate the impact, also the transformation may take time and resources."

"It is a very memorable experience for me to be able to join, share and collaborate with great minds in ACIAR. Looking forward to working for ACIAR projects soon and help make a significant difference."


Are you interested to know more about this game? Or thinking about designing your own interactive and gamified event?  Get in touch with our expert team at ThinkPlace. We would love to hear from you.

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