Next Nexus! Report from the first trial at WWF in Gland


Summary – Next Nexus! Session, 20 May 2016

Perspectivity has entered into a partnership with the Luc Hoffmann Institute, an independent research hub that works in partnership with the WWF, to accelerate research impact on complex environmental challenges . Together, we are advancing the Nexus! challenge on energy, water and food. We have jointly developed a set of additions to the game. The additions give more prominence to the role of the ecosystems, waste, and people. When cities decay, people have to relocate as refugees. When the economy expands it creates waste, and when it expands indiscriminately over land, ecosystem services become constrained.

Perspectivity and LHI convened a group of thought leaders in The Hague on May 20th to take a closer look at how Nexus! is designed. LHI and IUCN were represented by Jon Hutton and James Dalton. The group further included Maike Boggemann, Apostolos Georgiadis and Herman van der Meyden from Shell, who are the original game developers. Roland Kupers attended as a long-time game ambassador and co-developer. He is fellow of Oxford Smith School and expert in resilience theory. Louise Wieteke Willemen from Twente University brought a wealth of expertise on food systems. Lisette Gast and Michiel Damoiseaux from Perspectivity looked at what Nexus! simulates through the lens of complexity and dialogue.

The reflections on a trial Nexus! run in the morning coalesced into the need to give more prominence to three aspects in the Challenge: 1) ecosystem quality, 2) impacts on people and 3) effects of the economy on the biosphere. Whilst it was acknowledged that one cannot simulate the full complexity of real-life in one hour and a half , a few concrete improvements were still identified. We call the advanced challenge with these additions “Next Nexus!”

1.Ecosystem Quality

The original Nexus! was quite focused on quantities of water, food and energy. Their quality hardly featured. In real life, quality of food and water are extremely important for our livelihoods. In Next Nexus! players will receive waste as a result of the economic activities of farms, energy plants and cities alike. They then face a choice: either to dump waste into the lake, or to pay a processing fee at the bank. If there is too much waste in the lake, then water quality obviously deteriorates and the lake water, as a resource for human and economic consumption becomes unusable.

2.Impact on people

Take New Orleans after hurricane Katrina or Aleppo during the Syrian civil war:once the basic economic infrastructure of a country or region no longer fulfills basic human needs, then people are displaced as refugees. The original Nexus! features the possibility of losing a city, when it does not and one unit of water. However, in our original game, this was not felt by players as the human tragedy that it clearly is in real life. Players saw it more as an economic calculation. With this in mind, In the Next Nexus!, a country that loses a city receives a card symbolizing one million refugees . The country needs to then find shelter for these refugees in another city on the game board. This comes at a cost for the receiving cities, introducing a dilemma for the receiving government, that German chancellor Angela Merkel can most likely sympathize with.

3 Effects of the economy on the biosphere

What happens when we build something on every plot of land we have on Earth? There will clearly be no space left for and the ecosystem. Biodiversity suffers, forests decrease and we lose vital ecosystem services. Still, in Nexus! it is possible to build a piece of economy on every plot of land without facing these types of consequences. The addition built into the Next Nexus! contains vegetation tiles, which stand for natural capital. To begin, about half the land blocks on the board are covered with these tiles. As the economy expands, countries will reach a point where they may choose to remove some of those tiles from the board in order to build more productive assets. As the total vegetation cover gets removed, the impact of ecosystems loss on the economy is simulated by a reduction in rainwater runoff to the lake.

LHI LIVES Team Trial at WWF

All three additions of Next Nexus! were recently tested with the LHI LIVES Team at WWF in Gland. The dilemmas introduced by the new elements were clearly experienced and the overall playability remains good. The addition set is most useful for advanced audiences who have some systemic understanding of energy, water and food systems. We will therefore make it available in an optional fashion with the existing Nexus! challenge.

The next step of the LHI-Perspectivity collaboration is a joint roll out of Next Nexus!, with a focus on universities and schools. We want to give more people a fun experiential learning on what it takes to navigate the dilemmas that come with rapid economic and population growth, resource scarcities and market turbulence.

It is exciting to think that shaping a board game like Nexus! Has brought a world-class energy company, a cutting-edge research hub and leading environmental NGO as well as thought leaders on complexity and dialogue together to form a joint view on how ecosystems and the economy relate with each other. And that dialogue continues with every Next Nexus! session that will be played. More to come.