How do you teach Cambodia’s future leaders about complex issues such as sustainable development, distribution of wealth and tragedy of the commons? Let them interact with the subject material.
Kristin Lynch/Phnom Penh Post
Students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh compete for the world's resources.
Enter Perspectivity, an innov-ative board game where “countries” – consisting of pairs of players – compete for a limited amount of resources and vie for wealth and development.
The game forces its players to grapple with issues such as climate change, corruption and terrorism. It’s been played by leaders throughout the world, ranging from executives at Shell Oil to academics at the London School of Economics and employees of Greenpeace.
But last Sunday, it was introduced for the first time to nearly 30 students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Micah Stanovsky, who teaches critical thinking in the Southeast Asian context at the university, played the game in November and thought it would make the “ultimate class session” for his students.
“My students know about development and sustainability in very abstract terms, without a whole lot of substantive understanding. I thought Perspectivity would allow them to engage with those terms more critically,” Stanovsky said.
Feedback from his students after the session seemed to indicate that his assumptions were correct, as students were able to apply some of the concepts they learned from the game to the issues facing Cambodia.
“The game showed us that rich countries must think about poor ones because we all live in the same world, and we can’t ignore poor countries when we develop,” Salinin Sreang, 20, said.
“In Cambodia, people develop quickly, but they don’t care about the effects on the en-vironment. If we continue to do that, our world will be destroyed,” she added.
Ear Boneath, 19, echoed her classmate’s concern.
“In Cambodia, foreign investment is a big enterprise and the government promotes big business. But, for the most part, they don’t think about pollution,” she said. “We need to think about this, because pollution will harm the next generation.”
Perspectivity, first played in the Netherlands in 2007, has spread internationally as participants organise playing sessions within their social and professional circles. Sessions are facilitated by trained game leaders, (there are 50 of them around the world).
There are about 40 Perspectivity games in circulation, and two of them are in Phnom Penh.
Game facilitator Hein Oomen, who helped organise the Royal University of Phnom Penh session, hopes to develop the game so that those “in the highest echelons of power . . . politicians, policymakers and CEOs of multinationals”, are exposed to it, as this is where the most impact can be had.
“The best setting I can imagine where the game could be played is at a conference like the World Economic Forum in Davos, the UN Security Council or during the next International Climate Conference. And I don't believe those are totally unrealistic targets,” Oomen said.
Groups, universities or companies can arrange a group game-play by emailing Oomen at [email protected].