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What use are games to international NGOs ?

Management Game Techniques and International NGOs (Part #8)

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There are a number of possible uses of these games to international NGOs. Games could be developed to illustrate the decisions and problems in congress organizations, in the creation of an NGO and in the actual work of one or more international NGOs.

a) Congresses

One of the problems for an individual in a national organization who is suddenly allocated the unfamiliar task of organizing an international congress is that he has no concept of or feel for the many problems with which he will have to deal. A game is ideally suited to the task of allowing him to go over his various decisions in a simulated environment without having to suffer the embarrassment of some of the disastrous results achieved in practice. The game plus information on the game 'environment'

could be sent to the organizer. He could make his decisions for the first phase of congress preparation on special forms and return these for processing. They could be evaluated manually (30-60 minutes) or by computer (about 1 minute) and the revised situation reports could be returned to the organizer for his decisions on the next phase, and so on. In this way the neophyte organizer could gain an awareness of the problems he will face, month by month, and an evaluation of the probability of success of his simulated congress.

Features could be introduced so that the organizer would have to cope with evaluating alternative congress halls and dates, organizing accommodation, inviting participants, bargaining with airlines, keeping within budget limits, scheduling, etc. A game could be built up so that groups of organizers could simulate the competition for the best facilities. Such a game could perhaps be used at a congress of congress organizers. With computer processing, decisions on two years of congress preparation could be simulated during the course of one day or less of real time.

b) Creating an NGO

It is often the case that national organization delegates can be brought together for an international congress but are extremely suspicious as to the value of going a step further and forming an NGO. Each organization suspects that it may be forced into implementing or supporting policies with which it is not in agreement. The problem here is a conceptual one. The national organizations do not know how the operations of an international organization would affect them. Clearly there is an argument for the use of specially designed games to simulate the interactions between members resulting from the creation of an international NGO.

How would this work ? Each national organization interested in the formation of the NGO could be given a set of decisions to make on the basis of a preliminary agreed game constitution. The decisions would be collected, processed and the resulting decisions and effects returned to the national bodies. This procedure could then be repeated with decisions, votes or proposals for activities by the NGO. Votes could he taken to modify the constitution if if proved unsatisfactory or favoured any particular group.


Reports received on performance in Period III (e. g. a period of 3 months)
(N.B. These reports are used as a basis for decisions for the next period, Period IV).

1. Balance sheet.

2. Income and expenditure statement :

  • donations, legacies, etc.;
  • magazine revenue, advertising revenue.

3. Programs and activities successfully initiated (shortterm, long-term) : _ indicates a measure of effectiveness.

4. Numbers of new and lapsed members :

  • indicates long-term acceptability of policies.

5. Numbers of favourable and unfavourable letters received :

  • indicates short-term acceptability of policies.

6. Number of paid personnel hired, fired, resigned. Number of voluntary personnel obtained.

7. Magazine quality indicator.

8. Indicator of comparable salary levels in commerce.

9. Influence indicator :

  • a figure computed from membership, donations, magazine quality and sales, etc. to indicate a level of performance for the period.

10. etc.



Decisions made for Period IV
. These decisions are used as a basis for computing the information in the reports on performance for the period, Period IV.

1. Expenditure on programs to be initiated (short-term, long-term).

2. Expenditure on office and other equipment :

  • compensates for depreciation;
  • increases efficiency.

3. Expenditure on membership campaign.

4. Bank loans to be obtained-if possible.

5. Donations to be solicited :

  • too much effort in this direction reduces the level of the Influence Indicator.

6. Magazine :

  • pages of text;
  • pages of advertising to attempt to sell;
  • copies to be produced;
  • selling price.

7. Number of paid personnel to be taken on or fired. Number of voluntary personnel sought.

8. Salaries of personnel.

9. etc.

All these decisions can be made to interact e. g. :

1) if salaries go below a certain percentage of commercial salaries there is a chance that personnel may resign;

2) if funds are not devoted to activities the rate of increase of membership may become negative.)

In this way, either by post or during a congress, a more real concept of the consequences of the creation of the NGO would be obtained by the members or delegates of each national organization. In addition, using game models allows the delegations to produce successive improvements to the constitution until it provides the basis for the formulation of a satisfactory final version for use in practice.

c) Working NGO Simulation

A working NGO has a wide range of problems which include balancing the conflicting interests of members, scheduling programs in its field of activity, interaction with other NGOs, personnel, UN consultative status, relations with national governments, obtaining funds and controlling operational expenditure. Many of these could be included in a game. What for ? Such a game could be used to simulate the consequences of suggested new policies to determine likely results. Naturally, it could only he a guide as it is difficult and expensive to build an accurate model.

The game could also he used to give an understanding of the operations of the NGO to potential members, new staff, or the Executive Council. A game has been used by the management of a commercial firm to explain operational problems to its Board, realistically and in a short space of time, prior to a critical decision.

The main use of these games in business is for training management. Although members of top management may he very familiar with their businesses and tend to resent the implication that they can learn anything from a game, participants soon become highly involved. This is particularly the case where the result of the game indicates some level of proficiency. A game is a good medium for introducing some new technique. It allows the treasurer to undertake the functions of the production manager and, consequently, to understand his problems and exhorbitant demands in real life. NGOs could use games in the same way. Where the Secretariat of an NGO rotates between the HQ of national member organizations, a training game would very usefully orientate the new office holders to the problems with which they will be faced. An example of some of the reports and decisions that might be included is given in Exhibit I.

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