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Can you ever plan for the future? Idea Couture, the Toronto-based innovation firm, with an office in London, has developed a ‘serious’ board game, aimed at teaching and preparing their players for the future. In IMPACT, participants are assigned a profession of the future, in fields like AI, biotech or robotics, and tasked with earning enough influence to secure their character’s future career.

Scaling up: From successful prototype to crowdfunding campaign

Idea Couture’s ethos is to give organisations around the world the means to navigate complexity and uncertainty while remaining open and innovative. IMPACT was created to support Canadian public servants and policymakers to better think about the implications of economic, social and technological change. The first iteration of the game’s narrative was developed by drawing on the Government of Canada’s 2013 foresight study on emerging technology.

Following a successful implementation within the Canadian Government, Idea Couture launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 with an ambition to scale and reach a much larger number of people, both policymakers and the public.

How the game makes players think critically and innovatively

Players take on the role of a character holding a unique ‘future’ job and set of preferred conditions, which make this job prosperous. An example character is Magna Martinez, Martian Migrator, who hopes to secure a career colonising Mars. Throughout the game, participants play Impact and Disruption cards, revealing unexpected technological changes that trigger an impact on the society in the game; around transportation, medicine, or natural resources, for example. To win the game, a player must secure the prosperity of their future job, creating the ideal conditions on the board.

Players are able to refine how they think about emerging technologies; how these might evolve, and the kind of impact and influence they might have on society

Through the game, players learn about the future in various ways. First, they are introduced to some of the basics of futures thinking and foresights, including the terminology associated with these fields. They also get to become more familiar with recent significant advances in science and technology. As a result, they are able to refine how they think about emerging technologies; how these might evolve, and the kind of impact and influence they might have on society.

The skillset policymakers require today is ever expanding, and tools like foresight and futures thinking are becoming critical. With the aim of building policymakers’ capabilities in this space, and benefiting from the combination of simulation and role-playing, IMPACT allows for decision-makers and the general public to be better prepared for the future.