Exploring How Knowledge and Communication Influence Natural Resources Management With ReHab

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Simulation and Gaming, ISSN: 1552-826X, Vol: 47, Issue: 2, Page: 257-284

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Le Page, Christophe; Dray, Anne; Perez, Pascal; Garcia, Claude
SAGE Publications
Business, Management and Accounting; Computer Science; natural; resources; exploring; knowledge; communication; rehab; influence; management; Engineering; Science and Technology Studies
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Background and Aim. It is often assumed in natural resources management that communication helps with solving the ‘tragedy of the commons’ by way of shared knowledge and better coordination. ReHab is a role-playing game, both cooperative and competitive, exploring the role of knowledge production and communication for the conservation and management of natural resources through experiential learning. Method. ReHab pitches players as Harvesters or Rangers in an abstract landscape representation where a resource is distributed in discrete units of Biomass. The landscape is also a nesting and breeding ground for a protected migratory Bird. The Rangers’ task is to maximize Bird reproduction by creating protected areas, while Harvesters have to collect Biomass. Rules about biomass regeneration, distribution amongst harvesters, and bird reproduction are not disclosed to the players. A typical game session includes two successive scenarios: No communication between players, followed by open communication. A final debriefing session with all players focuses on eliciting a common understanding of the hidden rules, as well as the influence of individual or collective strategies on scenario outputs. The analysis includes records from 45 sessions played since 2008. Results. Our results show that in most cases communication improves the outcomes for both roles, Harvesters and Rangers, even though players construct and articulate rational decisions based on limited or even flawed understandings of the rules. In the absence of enforcement mechanisms, trust and communication prevail over knowledge and understanding when it comes to managing natural resources and resolving trade-offs between conservation and development.