Assessing the effectiveness of a role playing game as a stakeholder engagement tool for integrated natural resource management.
The European Union funded project Afromaison (Africa at meso-scale: adaptive and integrated tools and strategies for natural resources management) aimed to address current challenges facing South Africa’s environmental policies in a holistic manner though the concept of integrated natural resource management (INRM). The approach of INRM is receiving growing acceptance internationally although its implementation lacks momentum due to the lack of ‘buy-in’ from those on the ground. Therefore, one of the primary objectives of the project was to effectively engage stakeholders by adopting a participatory simulation model. There is growing international concern and dissatisfaction that on-the-ground stakeholders are not adequately engaged in the actions and management decisions which affect their social, economic, biophysical and cultural environment. In response, various stakeholder engagement tools have been developed to fulfil this objective. Participatory simulation models have been highlighted as tools for assisting INRM, due to their ability to replicate complex systems and effectively encompass the perceptions and visions of stakeholders as a means of developing and testing integrated management plans. The Afromaison project adopted a Role Playing Game (RPG) as such a tool to integrate the various facets of the project. This research involved the development of the AmanziGame RPG, which was used to interact with a range of diverse stakeholders as a means of creating and testing a combined strategy for the region. To assess the effectiveness of AmanziGame, a three-fold critique was applied. Firstly, an assessment of the tools ability to meet the objectives of the Afromaison project, in particularly, effective stakeholder engagement. Second, its ability to meet the objectives and address the challenges typically experience within INRM, and lastly its success in meeting the requirements as a participatory tool and mitigating the limitations commonly experienced. International and local case study examples of the Afromaison INRM approaches, other approaches to INRM, and Role Playing Game tools are used to tests the success and limitations of AmanziGame.