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.

Interactive Media featured in Fall 2014 Miami Magazine // Toma el Paso graces the cover

Tim Collie wrote a comprehensive article about our Interactive Media program and games at UM, including both faculty and student projects, for the Fall 2014 issue of UM’s Miami magazineToma el Paso (Make a Move) is featured on the cover and as a sidebar, and Cops and Rubbers also gets a nice mention.

Toma el Paso has been played by hundreds of unaccompanied immigrant minors in Miami since April 2014, and it will spread to Texas starting in April 2015. Stay tuned for more on my immigration games and serious games projects.

 

For the full article, visit: http://miami.univmiami.net/gaming-system/

Miami Magazine featuring UM's Interactive Media program and game projects

Miami Magazine featuring UM’s Interactive Media program + game projects; Toma el Paso graces the cover

Cops & Rubbers wins Best Overall Non-Digital Game at Meaningful Play 2014

Thank you to the Meaningful Play 2014 committee and Michigan State for a really meaningful, radical, and fun conference! I especially enjoyed meeting other academics from a variety of disciplines coming together and exploring the meaning that can be embedded in game systems. Thanks to everyone who checked out and played Cops and Rubbers, Humans vs. Mosquitoes, and Vanity at the game exhibition. A highlight was meeting my co-panelist Dan Jackson, a lawyer by trade and director of Northeastern University’s NuLawLab, and sharing our experiences on the Games for Legal Services panel. I look forward to connect with Dan and Steph Kimbro (an original panelist who couldn’t make it to Meaningful Play) in the future about our progress with legal games.

Another highlight was receiving the Best Overall Non-Digital Game Award for Cops and Rubbers. Check out photos of Cops and Rubbers at Meaningful Play!

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.

 

Without Mosquitoes, there is no Dengue: UM students use HvM to teach Panama youth about vector-borne diseases

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During Summer 2014 in the semi-autonomous Panamanian community known as Kuna Yala, a team of University of Miami Public Health and Latin American Studies students participated in an educational intervention to raise awareness about mosquito avoidance and disease prevention among Kuna Yala’s 10-12 year old schoolchildren. They were successful in engaging the children in pertinent discussions about this topic through the use of a simple card game developed by Clay Ewing and myself called “Humans vs. Mosquitoes.” The student team adapted it to fit the cultural context of the remote village in Panama and introduced the game in a formal classroom setting, supplementing it with an educational talk and community-wide garbage cleanup.

The game has one goal for each team: the humans try to eliminate all the mosquitoes’ eggs from the breeding grounds while the mosquitoes try to deplete the humans’ blood supply. Children were quick to learn the game, and very eager to continue playing and switch teams after each round. Implementing a formal pre and post evaluation proved difficult, but the team left after seven days with very valuable knowledge about this topic. First, the game was popular among the children, which signifies its potential to be adapted to almost any environment. Second, by opening this channel of communication through gameplay, the team discovered that many of the children had difficulty defining dengue and distinguishing it from the mosquito itself or from other vector-borne diseases. Community health workers and health professionals must keep this in mind when developing awareness raising or educational campaigns. The Panama youth experienced situated learning by playing the game, and it facilitated trust and openness between all participants, which encouraged an ongoing discussion about an important health education topic identified by the community.  The game can be used alongside other educational tools like talks and community engagement activities to reconcile the misconceptions about the life cycle of a mosquito and the diseases it may carry.

 

Thanks to Dr. Sherri Porcelain and Professor Ali Habashi for mentoring and creating such a unique student experience

 Video credit: Hannah Artman, Charles Chen, Stephanie Echeverria, Orchadia McLean, and Amanda Randall – University of Miami

Blog content credit: Hannah Artman

 

 

Cops & Rubbers video is now live!

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 Have you played Cops & Rubbers?

Watch this video to learn more about my Cops & Rubbers game project with Open Society Foundations’ Public Health and Rights Project, which is based on OSF’s Criminalizing Condoms report.

For more on Cops & Rubbers:

 

Thanks to Ed Talavera, professor from University of Miami’s Cinema program, for putting together this fabulous Cops & Rubbers video.

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.

Make a Move (“Toma El Paso”) is officially available on The Game Crafter

For those who have been following my Gaming the Immigration System project and the status of Make a Move (Toma El Paso in Spanish), I’m happy to announce that the game has been translated into Spanish and is now available for purchase! I’ve been working with local immigration experts here in Miami (thank you Americans for Immigrant Justice and University of Miami’s ICAN network) to confirm the content and Spanish language translation.

Since the majority of undocumented unaccompanied immigrant minors (UUIMs) are Spanish speaking, I’ve published the full version of the game in Spanish with an English expansion (you can use the English chance cards and release mats with children who prefer communicating in English). If you will only be playing with Spanish speakers, please order the Toma El Paso version. If you will be playing with both Spanish and English players, then also add the English expansion to your order.

Ordering the game:

For more information on the project, visit: http://lienbtran.com/games/gaming-the-system/

 

 

 

Vanity 2.0 now available

In Fall 2013 Clay Ewing and I went back and did some tweaking to the original Vanity game. Some of the changes were to make the gameplay more user friendly, like eliminating the moles all together and instead using stackers that move along a numbered column to track your fitness, tan, style, and health risk. Other changes were to increase meaningful choice – like whether to take an acting role that earned you Vanity Points but also potentially reduced your attribute levels.

Vanity 2.0 has an improved player experience and is now available for purchase from The Game Crafter: https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/vanity2

More photos to come!

 

 

Put Yourself in a Sex Worker’s Shoes – and there might just be a condom in it

Now everyone can put themselves in the shoes of a sex worker – just don’t get caught with a condom in your shoe like Naomi here. Cops and Rubbers is now available for free PDF download or you can purchase an official printed version from the Open Society Foundations (OSF)’s website! Check out the OSF Cops and Rubbers page: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/publications/cops-rubbers

Also this week Paul VanDeCarr, managing director and co-founder of Working Narratives, wrote a nice article for the Communications Network website on Cops & Rubbers. Paul interviewed Brett Davidson and Rachel Thomas from OSF and myself so the article shares perspectives of the design process from the subject matter experts/advocates and game designer. Enjoy!
http://www.comnetwork.org/2013/10/put-yourself-in-a-sex-workers-shoes/

Naomi tried to hide her condom in her shoe hoping to not get caught in possession of condoms. Unfortunately, tonight the police are searching people’s purses/wallets and shoes for condoms, and Naomi is caught. She’s at risk of getting arrested …. or worse.