Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Playing games in Vienna

Today was our first full day of "work." A group of faculty members from IIASA joined us for our first day of the stakeholder simulation workshop. The group was split up into stakeholder categories and given background information on each role. Groups included a local government, an environmental NGO, farmers, bankers, and a water council, and we each had limited funds to start the game (100 euros). Farmers had to buy land and try to make a profit, the local government had to sell land and allocate money to the water council, who was in charge of controlling the river's water flow. The NGO's goal was to work with other stakeholders and promote sustainable land use (as determined by the descriptions we were given to start the game).

The exercise was an excellent example of how important information sharing is when trying to reach a common goal. We learned the importance of transparency, trust, and open communication, as well as how difficult it is to balance policy and science. Part of the difficulty in these simulations is the speed at which we move through them. Today we covered 7 years of decision-making among 18 people in about 4 hours. Making decisions in the face of uncertainty and under pressure is difficult, and we all walked away with a greater understanding of how difficult it is to implement adaptive management in a complex system. We also learned how our cultural background influences how we view problem solving. Often, the solutions proposed by the IGERT students were very different than those proposed by our international colleagues.

The next 2 days include more workshops where we learn how to observe the simulations, record meaningful qualitative data, and interact with a variety of stakeholders. This is a busy week for us, but we are learning the basic skills needed to implement these workshops with real stakeholders in Poland, which will take place next month.

I apologize for the brief description, as I could go on about these games for pages, but I wanted to get a quick blog post out on what we have been up to. In addition to work, we have been on quite the culinary tour of Austria - though we haven't had any Viennese food yet (at least as a group). However, we have had delicious Greek, Chinese, Thai, and Nepalese meals. Our hostel is in a wonderful location, and conveniently, there are plenty of microbreweries, cafes, and gelato stands between work and home. We definitely won't starve here; we're much more likely to run out of money first. The restaurant we visited tonight was in a quaint neighborhood with narrow, cobblestone streets lined with cafes and stores set in buildings with beautiful architecture. Vienna is a wonderful city, and we are making sure we play just as hard as we work. Here are a few more pictures from around town - all were taken within walking distance of our hostel.

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