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Group of people sitting around a table and playing the Glasgow Game, with colourful post-its and the Glasgow Game banner in the middle.

Playing the Glasgow Game

27 Apr 2015 | Rachel Harris

Recently, I spent an afternoon playing the Glasgow Game with a wonderful group of staff, volunteers and participants from the Galgael

The Glasgow Game is based on the ethos of making use of multiple overlapping perspectives when considering the future of an area or working on a key strategic question for an area, organisation or group. These 12 perspectives are arranged around the outside of a Mandala, which can be seen in the middle of the table below. The interaction of these perspectives or nodes across the Mandala also demonstrates the extent of complexity that the game can address. 

Anyone can play; indeed the game has been designed to make the most of all players' views as individuals take on the role of a specific advisor, such as Advisor for Community Safety or Health or Poverty. There is also a suite of background evidence, infographics and other materials linked to the 12 nodes, which can be accessed from the Understanding Glasgow website

The game is played in three rounds. Round 1 is known as ‘Our World of Concerns’. In this round each Advisor reviews the evidence provided and shares the apparent trends, their concerns, and potential shocks related to the node they are responsible for. During the game played at the Galgael, this resulted in the overview below. 

Glasgow game galgael mandala

During Round 2, the Galgael Advisors formed small groups and considered ‘What Might Happen’. This involved reflecting on what each Advisor in the group had shared in Round 1, and then considering how the nodes might interact and develop in future. This led onto developing stories of the future, along with suggestions of how to plan for these eventualities. 

In Round 3, ‘The Wisdom Council Speaks’ and everyone came back together. The key question we had been considering was: Where should the Galgael position itself to have the biggest impact over the next 3 years? Individual Advisors reflected on this question in terms of what they had learned and then made recommendations of wise actions to take going forward. 

Some of the Galgael players were a little cautious about playing the game and being ‘Advisors’; there was a suggestion that at first they did not see themselves as 'expert' enough. Yet by the end, there were positive reflections about taking part and while the discussions require some thinking and imagination, everyone commented on how they had gained from the experience, and learned from each other. For Galgael, it also provided a useful tool in considering how to move forward as an organisation. In the words of Gehan Macleod, co-founder and Programme Director of Galgael: 

The organisation is going through a bit of a soul searching period before it makes this big change, and this really feels as though it has helped us to fill a bit of that void … it’s really worked for me.

The game itself was developed in collaboration with the International Futures Forum (IFF) and draws on the IFF’s World Game. There are therefore clear parallels with the ideas underpinning Buckminster Fuller’s original “world peace game” or World Game. For example, the Glasgow Game uses a whole systems approach rather than something more piecemeal, it is accessible to all, and the game has an information source with data linked to the current state of the city through the Understanding Glasgow website.  

Furthermore, in the early development of the Glasgow Game, Bruce Whyte and Andrew Lyon discussed the development of this ‘miniature Glasgow’ with the Donella Meadows Institute. Glasgow was the first city the Institute knew of to use their miniature earth idea.

If you're interested in playing the Glasgow Game, please email Bruce Whyte for more information.

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