Experiencing resource scarcity by playing a serious Game simulating Nexus conflicts and synergies is a great way of incorporating Nexus thinking, something the Nexus Regional Dialogues project team experienced hands-on. Despite knowing that collaboration enhances the chance of resource security in a transboundary context, applying that knowledge in the simulation turned out to be more difficult than expected. On February, the 18th, the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme Team was able to play the game, facilitated by Amanda Anthony from Systems Solutions. The game exposed the Regional Dialogues Managers and the Global Nexus Secretariat Members to real-world problems on Nexus challenges in transboundary water management. As seen with the Nexus Simulation Game in Central Asia, the board game is a great way to deepen Nexus thinking and make it easier to access and assess the role of the various stakeholders involved and their perspectives – especially given the complexity of the issue.
The game was developed by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Centre for System Solution and realistically reproduces the complex matrix of inputs, outputs and effects also occurring in the real world when working with the Nexus. Trade-offs like in this case were perfectly illustrated by the game – and might therefore be better recognized and acknowledged by the participants when dealing with real-life situations like these. Participants reflected on the importance of negotiation, power balances, and the central role of sustainability in finding compromise between different sectors and countries. Compromise was not just seen as negative, but actually led to a sustainable solution that benefitted all interests in the long run and efficiency in the use of resources.
“Although I work on the Nexus approach every day, it was surprisingly difficult to take decisions which do not harm the country or the own resource security at the cost of ecosystem destruction. Playing that game sensitises all participants for sure, even the ones who think they have incorporated Nexus thinking. It shows very realistically that decision-making is complex and needs a learning process which depends on all stakeholders.” - Maria Ana Rodriguez, Global Nexus Secretariat
The Nexus Regional Dialogue team was split into two groups, each participant took over the role of representing ministerial members of an upstream and a downstream country respectively, and two persons on behalf of a development bank and an NGO. Thus, every player had his specific role to play-representing the Water, Energy and Food sectors – which provided for lively discussion and internal debate about how to use resources. Each round of the serious game consists of three phases, running in cycles: first, a rainy season, followed by a dry season that will each test the participants cooperation and planning capabilities, followed by a third round, where investments into different technological upgrades can be made. Financial resources are limited, and therefore each investment had to be carefully negotiated with the representative of the Development Bank – and naturally led to a lot of discussion between the team members and their respective obligations, whether it was towards water, food or energy security.
“Even experienced Nexus experts can learn from their own behaviour during the game. It enhances the understanding of why specific stakeholders act in a certain way.” - Jakob Seidler, Global Nexus Secretariat
How the serious game has the potential to mainstream Nexus and to make decision-makers understand the resource and supply conflicts
Despite the fact that experts of the Nexus Regional Dialogue Program were playing, it turned out to be more difficult than expected to settle on collaboration and resource protection. Vivid discussions and trade-offs in water, food and energy security in the context of environmental protection caused disagreements between the upstream and downstream countries. Irrational decision-making on a non-transboundary level due to time pressure and personal disagreements lead to frustration and unexpected effects in the neighbouring country as well as a reduced willingness for cooperation later on in the game. This showed that ensuring resource security of water, food and energy comes at a cost, which needs to be borne by all countries.
“It was a great experience. In only a few hours and in an exciting environment, the Nexus game lets you experience and appreciate the challenges, trade-offs, synergies, potential conflicts, but most of all the benefits of making decisions under a Nexus approach.”
- Antonio Levy, NRD Latin America and the Caribbean
Amanda Anthony, who facilitated the serious game for the NRD Team, states that it was especially designed for decision-makers on the ground. To get an insight on why and how it was developed, watch the video below. The next day was dedicated to a “train the trainer” workshop, were the members of the NRD got acquainted on how to moderate the game.
Further Information and Contact
Stephanie Bilgram, Nexus Regional Dialogus Programme