The Sim (One out) game is an interactive learning process, which simulates a decision-making process for large scale interventions, by organizing the participants into different roles. Through this method, the students gain a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of stakeholder involvement, understand the various layers that affect decision-making, and identify different types of stakeholders of the same genre, whether through empirical or theoretical backgrounds.
This method is most applicable to courses related to urban planning, architecture, city development, etc., but there is no exclusion for other fields, like economy, environmental protection, etc. The following is a demonstration of the method in the case of an urban planning course:
Phase 1_Preparatory phase
The first step of the exercise is to identify a large site in the city, which is currently going through a major intervention, or has an ongoing project, which is known to the public. This site will be visited three times during the semester and analyzed briefly through visual surveys and informal talks with the community. These site-visits will serve as a first communication of the school-project to the community, to inform them and to ensure their presence at the final presentation
Phase 2_Assignment of roles
Next, the students and participants will be divided into different roles (chosen randomly), according to a similar list to the following. The roles will be assigned at the first day of the workshop, but presented and studied earlier, in the preparatory phase.
- 2 urban planners
- 1 local government official
- 1 environmental lobbyist
- 1 NGO-representative
- private sector representatives
- local community representatives
- civil society
- others, according to the context.
Before the simulation starts, the 2 planners are randomly assigned a category of planner. This will determine their approach to planning, and the overall process and debating in the game. It is necessary that each type of planner (or other “main stakeholder”) is well-defined.
The respective types of planners can be as follows (but not limited to):
He is the professional who only deals with functional and morphological aspects of planning, in urban scale
-the comprehensive planner
He is the planning expert, who is closely affiliated to the local government, does things in bureaucratic way, according to traditional urban planning theories, without taking into account the emerging needs of the local communities and the private stakeholders
-the strategic planner
He is the kind of planner who takes into consideration the relationship of the government with the major private stakeholders and encourages large scale interventions that benefit all
-the social planner
He is the planner who focuses on the vulnerable groups and tries to assist them to gain profit from the investments and the public services in the city
-the market planner
He encourages the raise in land value according to market forces and tries to manage development only on this criteria, as the most economically efficient one
-the communicative planner
He focuses on the process of planning, and mostly in the acknowledgment that the main thing in planning is the participation of all stakeholders
-the environmental planner
He lobbies that decision-making in urban level is carried out giving special emphasis on the environmental protection and other similar issues
Phase 3_Simulation of debate
The game has various rounds of debate. The main issues to be addressed will be:
- How will the housing needs be met? What distribution, typologies, densities?
- How will the intervention be financed?
- What public services/infrastructure will be added?
- How will the local people and their property rights be addressed?
- What is the environmental approach of the intervention?
At each round of debate the stakeholders will present one by one their interests and intervention proposals. They will take turns to speak and a dice decides the number of proposals (1-6) each of them can give each round. This simulates the factor of lobbying power and capacity, which for each project or decision-making process depends on the number of stakeholders that are affected, or take part on the negotiation. After each round there will be a summary of the proposals given, which will be discussed and voted by the 2 planners. They will also be the main coordinators of the discussion, depending on their “role”. E.g., a market planner would mostly consider the interests of the developer, while a communicative planner would let each stakeholder express their opinion equally.
Phase 4_Voting and developing a scenario
After all the discussion sessions have concluded, the 2 planners will draft the design/strategy discussed, and the participants will vote whether they like it or not. The final word belongs to the “government”, which will either approve or disapprove the scenario. This simulates the context where, albeit the project is liked or not, the main decision remains political.
This process will be repeated 2 more times, in the next days, with all roles remaining the same, except the role of the planners, who will change approach according to the given categories.
The game will be organized as a 3 day workshop, combined with some preparatory work during the semester. In the first day, the students will be presented the game process, be divided into specific roles and carry out the first discussion session. During the afternoon all the students will visualize the intervention strategy/design or objectives that were decided upon by the votes of the government at the end of the simulation. The next day, two other simulations will take place, and their visualization will be carried out in the afternoon. The third day is reserved to presenting the outcome, along with the dynamics of the game, to an outside audience, preferably the local community in the study area. Another voting will take place, among the three scenarios. The most voted outcome represents, thus, the most successful decision-making process. This last day will help students understand what approach is more likable and what type of planner is best suited for the local context.
The main idea of this approach is to give insight on the multiple factors that can influence a decision, in different scales.