Why we design role board games in innovation regions?

InnoForESt innovation regions (conceptualised as social-ecological systems, SES) are characterised by manifold, sometimes diverging uses of forest ecosystem services (FES), such as extraction, recreation, preservation or education. These uses are driven e.g. by depopulation, market pressures and ecosystem dynamics (e.g. climate events). FES are considered as public or common goods facing diverging individual and societal interests affecting the quality of ecosystems and well-being of the communities. This may result in overuse, degradation or unsustainable behaviour, creating also barriers for cooperation, economic profit and innovative business initiatives.

In order to get a better understanding of the role and the impact of key innovation factors for the regions, CETIP is designing behavioural laboratory experiments in the form of a Role board game (RBG) for every innovation region within InnoForESt project. RBG allows testing stakeholders’ specific behaviour for resource use, and innovation activities, to create economic incentive, knowledge and social value. We argue that this will help to set conditions for successful development of policy and business innovations in InnoForESt innovations regions and to foster collaboration on FES provision for sustainability among stakeholders in a long term.



How was the first role board game?

Our first RBG was set up for Finnish innovation region and conducted in Turku, Finland in June 18th 2019. The proposed experimental session builds on Cardenas et al. (2013) and Castillo et al. (2011) as an interactive agent-based model arranging for repeated interaction and learning in real-world situations. It contributes to testing the effectiveness of incentives provision for the sustainable production of FES and the acceptance of such an intervention by FES communities (Kluvankova et al.,2019).



The session in Turku, Finland intended to create a situation in which a group of five ecosystem services users and providers made decisions about the use and management of habitats for ecosystem services provision as a governance innovation, and are confronted with fostering or hindering context conditions (local climate, governance, innovation potential, etc.) and stakeholders’ interests. Stakeholders faced change in conditions/factors (individual/collective action, diversity of rules, innovation factors, external events and disturbances etc.) and were able to observe/test what conditions lead to successful collaboration for sustainable ES provision in their specific contextual conditions for well-being of their communities/region. Sixth stakeholder of the game was representing an authority (national park) external to forest use but with regulatory and monitoring power. This approach created a space to test innovation activities for prototype development (reflecting scenarios as preferred development options for the innovation regions).


The game consisted of two stages. First stage without any innovation in place. In the second stage, various novel payment schemes for biodiversity conservation, in which actors degrading biodiversity compensate the loss they generate by buying offsets from landowners who restore and/or protect sites as offsets. Options are different in factors that may affect decisions and innovations and thus leads to behavioural change of stakeholders. It concerned the variety of motivations that make innovations attractive for stakeholders to participate and support ES provision in a long term (state regulations, market payments for ecosystem services or a business innovation incentive). It is here where the preferred vision for innovation development may be implemented.

After playing, stakeholders were asked to take part in short survey to clarify reasoning of their decisions during the game, their motivations and their reflections on the game design. At the same time, calculations and graphical interpretation of the game were prepared to show the stakeholders their decisions during the game. Then, stakeholders were invited to a focus group discussion to consider main findings and game implications for their innovations in the regions. During this session actors highlighted key positive and negative factors of the game and analyzed the effects of the rules of the game with comparison of existing institutions on their decisions. Last minutes of the session were allocated for the stakeholders’ payoffs that are based on their individual results from the game.


What next?

The RBG is meant to test combination of innovation factors in real-world setting and is part of prototype development for governance and business innovations. It enabled stakeholders from innovation region to test different innovation approaches and factors, learn about their effect and potential, discuss necessary context conditions, increasing collaborative capacity and trust.
Results from the game will be used for prototype development and further development of innovative activities in Finnish innovation region. It is expected to play similar adapted games in other innovations regions in the following months.

For more information about Finnish innovation region you can visit following link: https://innoforest.eu/innovation-in-focus/habitat-bank-finland/



Cardenas, JC., Janssen MA., Bousquet, F., 2013. “Dynamics of rules and resources: three new field experiments on water, forests and fisheries,” Chapters,in: Handbook on Experimental Economics and the Environment, chapter 11, pages 319-345 Edward Elgar Publishing.
Castillo, D., Bousquet, F., Janssen, MA., Worrapimphong, K., Cardenas, JC., 2011. Context matters to explain field experiments: Results from Colombian and Thai fishing villages. Ecological Economics 70 (9), 1609-1620
Kluvankova, T., Brnkalakova, S., Gezik, V., Maco, M., 2019. Ecosystem services as commons? IN Handbook of the Study of the Commons. Blake Hudson, Jonathan Rosenbloom & Daniel H. Cole eds., Routledge Press

By: Dr. Veronika Gežík

    CETIP – Centre for Transdisciplinary Studies