Serious Fun: Disaster Mitigation through Participatory Games

By: Nathalie Liautaud

This year’s Interaction Forum in Washington D.C., included a significant number of workshops and conversations on disaster mitigation and risk reduction. I attended one that I really knew very little about, entitled Serious Fun: Promoting Disaster Risk Reduction through Participatory Games. How can talking about disaster risk reduction be fun? I wondered. But off I went to the workshop. Imagine my surprise when I found a workshop full of development professionals ready to get up and role play and discuss the impact of climate change on crops on a roll of a dice? Or determining purchasing power and capacity to diversify crop based on the number of beans on hand?  Astonishment aside, this was a great session.  Animated by Pablo Suarez, Associate Director for Research and Innovation at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, the lively session really got the participants thinking about the types of decisions vulnerable communities must take in the face of natural disasters, but also, about the responses and programs that we, as practitioners, donors, humanitarian organizations, livelihood developers, and field implementers design to face these situations.  

The participatory games developed help raise awareness within the communities of disaster risks, climate change and the complexities that stem from these risks in a creative, effective way, which promotes discovery and encourages community participants to engage in problem solving activities.  The techniques and tools shared with the participants highlighted opportunities for us to integrate these types of participatory interaction in future programming and implementation actions, and to engage in a fun way partners and stakeholders on the very serious subjects of natural disasters and the mitigation and risk reduction activities that accompany it.