Advocacy and games evaluation in South Africa

In March 2016, Professor Lien Tran and PhD student Soroya McFarlane traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to conduct a qualitative research study on the use of creative methods of advocacy. Tran and McFarlane facilitated 9 focus groups with over 50 South African advocacy leaders, representing more than 15 human rights and health organizations.

Participants of the study either played Cops and Rubbers (a tabletop game designed by Professor Tran for Open Society Foundations [OSF]) or read OSF’s Criminalizing Condoms report. Both the report and game address the adverse effect the practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution has on sex workers’ health and human rights. Participants discussed the benefits and barriers of the game and the report within the context of standard methods of advocacy.

In addition to participating in the focus groups, the local advocacy and outreach leaders were invited to attend a training session, led by Tran, on using Cops and Rubbers as an awareness and advocacy tool to support the decriminalization of condoms. More than 20 of the representatives opted to be trained as Cops and Rubbers game facilitators for use in their community outreach around Cape Town. The Sex Worker Education & Advocacy Task Force (SWEAT), South Africa’s leading sex worker human rights organization and an OSF partner, will also use the game within their human rights zone at the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, in July 2016.

The research study and game facilitation training were funded by OSF and made possible in collaboration with SWEAT. Special thanks to Dr. Susan Morgan for her contributions as evaluation consultant.

An Evaluation of games for advocacy: A quantitative research study conducted in Cape Town, South Africa report was released in early 2017 and is available for download here.

Findings from the study will also be submitted for publication in scholarly communication journals.

Invoking the Pause: Creating Games for the Caribbean Climate

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Thanks to funding from Invoking the Pause, I was able to travel to Barbados to organize a workshop exploring communication of climate risk using game systems. As a result of this unique funding opportunity, 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 partner together for the first time and to introduce an innovative approach to reaching climate risk stakeholders in the Caribbean in June.

The following article was originally posted on UM’s School of Communication website in October 2014. For more information on the Let’s Adapt workshop, please visit the University of Miami’s Invoking the Pause grant website and the Let’s Adapt event page.

Professor Tran specializes in games designed to make a positive social impact by either making players advocate for policy reform, like the condoms as evidence of prostitution policy, or educating undocumented youth on their rights. Games are becoming increasingly more popular for organizations that have trouble explaining tough concepts (like climate change) that can have long-term consequences. 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. Professor Tran along with Reynette Royer (CADRIM), Mini Saraswati (RCCC), and UM’s Professor Clay Ewing facilitated a two-day games workshop entitled “Let’s Adapt: Games for Climate Change Resiliency” to help introduce these concepts in the Caribbean.

Workshop participants represented 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). By connecting relevant parties from Barbados and around the region on new participatory approaches to adaptation, this workshop explored how interactive resources and game-based activities can assist in the task of communicating climate change information and invoking grassroots participation within Caribbean communities.

The beginning of the workshop served as an introduction to what makes a game a game, and reasons why games provide a better alternative to learn about these tough issues as opposed to the standard PowerPoint lecture. Games can provide a flexible way for different types of audiences to learn in small doses, while providing an active learning environment where you can interact with peers. After this short game introduction, 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 an existing RCCC game called Ready). Many of the games can be played with simple materials that you can find at a grocery or convenience store, which helped reinforce the concept that you don’t need much to make a game that teaches important real-world lessons.

Participants also found the game Humans vs. Mosquitoes particularly topical as it addressed a major concern in the region: vector-borne diseases, including dengue fever and chikungunya. The general consensus was that both awareness and mitigation of these diseases is essential, especially as the prevalence has increased in the Caribbean with shifts in climate. Another benefit of playing Humans vs. Mosquitoes was to show how the same message could be translated in two formats: a gesture-based game requiring no special materials and a professionally designed and printed card game.

There were also some unexpected results in the areas of capacity development and partnerships from the workshop. The cooperation and engagement between the workshop organizers has formed an informal non-traditional partnership between UM’s School of Communication and the Red Cross’s CADRIM center, including consideration for other opportunities whereby a reciprocal internship program or similar type of activity could foster creative skills development for students based in both the United States and the Caribbean. Additionally, the extensive research and experience of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre presents exciting proposals for bi-lateral partnerships in the Caribbean related to tools development and research with institutions in the region. While the hope for the workshop was to spark interest beyond the 2-day agenda, the extent to which it has already is far beyond expectations. Professor Tran and her workshop collaborators see this workshop as the first in a series of collaborative initiatives aimed at further innovating actions to increase awareness and resilience in the Caribbean.

 

Unaccompanied immigrant minors in Miami making moves with Toma El Paso game

Back in Spring 2012, I started working on Make a Move, a game for unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIMs), youth who find themselves in the U.S. without proper documentation of legal status. I was working with a former teacher turned immigration lawyer to bridge the information gap faced by these youth due to their undocumented status. One of the first topics we identified as important for UIMs to understand was the release from detention/shelter process. At about the same time The New School started its social innovation fund called the New Challenge, which was the perfect opportunity to seek seed funding to produce and distribute Make a Move.

In the final few weeks of that spring semester a few notable things happened: I finished designing the game, which was also my culminating thesis project for my Parsons MFAD+T degree. My immigration games project (then named AmigoLegal Games) became the inaugural New Challenge grand grant winner. I was offered a full-time teaching position at the University of Miami in Florida. I (finally) graduated from The New School. In that order. When I first started this project and applied to the New Challenge, I had planned to continue working on it post-graduation from New York. Then my life took a turn and I was headed to Miami, which happens to be another haven for UIMs with its own immigration law concerns.

In my last two months in New York, a place I’d called home for 5 years, I had a lot of transitioning to do. I moved out of my awesome Brooklyn apartment, the one I thought I would live in for many more years. I went from being a graduate student to a professor. I got engaged. I was about to start a whole new life in Miami. Before I left, I committed to continuing working remotely on the immigration games project with my lawyer partner and the juvenile facilities in New York. Well, things didn’t quite work out as planned with my project partner, and I was left to re-establish the project in Miami.

It wasn’t easy, but after about a year of making connections and meeting with different groups, I finally found a solid partnership within the University of Miami family. Etiony Aldarondo from UM’s School of Education has been working with UIMs for years. He’s the faculty advisor for an amazing initiative called ICAN (Immigrant Children’s Affirmative Network), which is part of a larger entity called ICLASP (Immigrant Children’s Legal And Service Partnership). ICAN is a group of dedicated volunteers who work with the UIMs at a shelter in Miami Gardens called His House. I was fortunate to meet Etiony in August 2013, just as ICAN was reworking their UIM curriculum to switch from shorter weekly sessions to an extended 2-days-per month schedule.

Again it wasn’t easy, but I’m so appreciative to have made inroads here in Miami where I can be more involved and have more stakeholders interested in spreading the use of games to address the immigration information gap. Since that first meeting with Etiony in August, we finalized the Spanish translation for the game including its name and had immigration experts from Americans from Immigrant Justice (AIJ) play and confirm its content. Toma El Paso (Make a Move in Spanish) has been part of ICAN’s monthly curriculum since April 2014. In June, we met with the His House staff in charge of the UIMs at their shelter location, and they are very excited about using the game beyond just ICAN. We’ve now planned a game training in August 2014 with the shelter staff so that UIMs can learn and play the game throughout their stay at His House. It seems like it’s been a slow two years, but I’m super excited about the progress we’ve made in the last few months and the steps we are taking to grow. One big change to note is that I’ve renamed this game-based initiative to Amiguía Americana to convey our efforts to provide resources designed for UIMs that serve as friendly guides to acclimating to life in the U.S. We are also trying to expand the reach and use of our resources to include immigrant youth who may have legal status to live in the U.S. Stay tuned!

To learn more about the original Gaming the (Immigration) System project, please visit: http://lienbtran.com/games/toma-el-paso

 

Special thanks to The New School’s New Challenge for seed funding to make this project a reality, my Parsons MFA+DT game design ‘family’ including faculty and students at Institute of Play who helped test the game in its very early stages, Jessica Wendorf (for her instrumental translation help), Lauren Gutman (ICAN program coordinator and Amiguía Americana research assistant), ICAN volunteers, Etiony Aldarondo (Director of Dunspaugh-Dalton Community and Educational Well-Being Research Center at University of Miami), Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), and the staff His House in Miami Gardens, Florida.

 

Invoking the Pause selects “Games for the Caribbean Climate” as 2014 Grant Partner

I’m pleased to announce that my proposal for “Games for a Caribbean Climate” – joint with Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center (CADRIM) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre – is a 2014 Invoking the Pause (ITP) Grant Partner!

Thanks to Invoking the Pause, we will be conducting a 2-day workshop in Barbados in June 2014 to explore communication of climate risk using game systems. We will use some of our existing climate risk games as an introduction to using interactive tools to discuss climate risk. Some of these games will then be adapted to be specifically relevant to the Caribbean region. The games will also serve as a catalyst for dialogue regarding climate change adaptation needs and concerns in the Caribbean and will inform new ideas for collaboration and innovation to strengthen community resilience. Feedback captured via discussions and evaluations from the workshop will further determine the scope of methodology designed for the adapted game(s).

The workshop will be attended by personnel from partner organizations such as the National Disaster Office, Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) , United Nations, University of the West Indies and the Barbados Red Cross.

I’m looking forward to organizing the workshop with Reynette Royer of CADRIM and taking a pause in beautiful Barbados!

 

From the Invoking the Pause blog:

[quote]Invoking the Pause is thrilled to announce our Grant Partners for the 2014 grant cycle. We received a record number of applications this year, and definitely had our work cut out for us deciding how to allocate funds among a highly qualified pool of applicants. After a lively discussion and some tough decisions, our Advisory Committee selected five partners to receive Invoking the Pause grants:

•    A New Story to Heal the Earth: Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment
•    Breaking Up with Fossil Fuels: As You Sow
•    Raising Our Voices: Convening for Key Environmental Messengers: Environmental Entrepreneurs
•    An Investigation of Fracking in Calfornia: Mark Hertsgaard and Holly Kernan
•    Game for the Caribbean Climate: University of Miami

[/quote]

 

This grant kicks off the beginning of a new and hopefully extensive partnership between the University of Miami and the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Center! Thank you to Invoking the Pause and the MK Gratitude Fund of RSF Social Finance for selecting and funding this workshop.