What do you think happens when team engagement on climate action is actually fun? The answer from this slightly biased facilitator: you get exciting and enjoyable team engagement, a bit like a roller coaster ride! This was the case at the Game Day with the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) team from ABN AMRO Private Banking International on Wednesday 19 August 2020. This article shares some highlights from the activity, and discusses key takeaways.

After an extended heatwave, it was very refreshing to spend an afternoon in a beautiful outdoor setting – we sat under a carefree sky at the beautiful Amsterdamse Bos next to a small lake. And the setting was only a small part of the amazing experience. Twelve members from ABN AMRO CRM team participated in the Game Day. Okay, before the Game Day started, I was quite nervous and, even a bit sweaty; partly from biking from Haarlem to Amsterdam, and partly because it is the first time we are playing the game with a company. The last time the game was played was prior to the corona pandemic and it was well-received by a group of masters students from University of Groningen, but how would professionals from the real world, i.e. outside the “climate bubble”, react? Curiosity nudged me to find out.

The good news was that the team was already curious about the game even before we started, standing around the extra-large corona-proof game boards. Apparently the team had not had a group gathering since the Corona lockdown. There was almost a buzz of amusement park-like excitement as people chit chatted and caught up with each other. Sometimes we forget how significant and precious it is to have real human connections in addition to just work subjects.

After being introduced to the theme of sustainability and climate change, it was warm-up time: all participants got to share through a survey on how their past understanding and engagement on the topics. Then the team was divided into groups of 3 players each. I could sense a healthy level of suspense in the air – the sort you feel when you are about to start something unknown but fun. Just like a rollercoaster ride, when the course has been set, the wheels are ready for a smooth and rolling start. I could barely contain a heartfelt desire to connect with diverse participants over sustainability and climate action through the board game.

Right off the bat, the climb started as teams picked up tutorial cards from the game and followed the step-by-step instructions, getting their heads into the game. This was not easy: climate change is not a simple concept, and Minions of Disruptions mirrors this complexity nicely in many ways. Luckily the board game captures the complexity of the subject in an engaging and logical way that makes the interaction light and fun. Very quickly some groups started working nicely with each other by reading out the cards together. Some less experienced players struggled a bit and got the support and push they needed. Pretty soon the groups got the hang of the game and recognized the havoc the climate minions would bring to our work and life. The ride was about to get rocky.

Despite the building tension, it was pleasant to see how the groups stayed calm and took the necessary actions. In fact the games moved so quickly that I could barely keep up with what was happening. It was only when I heard one player yell out “I LOVE THIS GAME!” that I realized the groups had taken their mission seriously: to tackle the climate minions and build resilience against the climate disruptions. Without any spoilers, about an hour later, just about all groups were able to win the race against climate disruptions and we had a champion group – Hooray!

The roller coaster ride did not stop when the game ended. After a quick refreshing ice cream break, we continued with an equally engaging discussion. Now it was not just any discussion. Everyone, I mean everyone, contemplated a series of relevant questions. Tangible outcome, here we come. As the Game Day drew to an end, I was absolutely floored by the collective effort and results. As a facilitator and a climate professional, nothing inspires me more than to empower participants to take the matter into their own hands and minds, whether this entails improving their understanding of the subjects, coming up with climate action ideas, or responding to call for climate action by ABN AMRO CEO, Robert Swaak. You can take a look at the full interaction report here – it is 110% inspiration! Out of the interaction report, I find the few findings most strong and revealing:

  1. Collective action at the team level is one of the best kept secrets for climate engagement. When asked “After Today’s activity, are you more likely to take more climate action?”, about three fourths of the participants indicate a resounding “yes”! And interestingly, that they are twice as likely to take more climate action as a team than as an organization, and 1,5 times more likely than individual action. This response makes sense. Quite often climate change is seen as this too-big-to-address issue, but together when we hold hands with each other, there is more shared confidence and boldness. Meanwhile, when addressing it as a team, there is a lot of benefit for organizations to put emphasis on sustainability as organizational goals. The climate actions from teams respond nicely as a unit of action, supporting more relevant, relatable and swift actions to compliment those at the organization level.
  2. Ownership and interest are key for initializing engagement. Prior to the game, 75% of the participants indicated that they have not been engaged in climate action from work. The Game Day experience transforms the engagement. For the first time the participants experienced a climate action, as a team in an organization. There was a strong sense of pride and ownership in the wonderful ideas from the brainstorm discussion, ranging from reducing emission (mitigation) and adapting to a hotter, drier, wetter climate (adaptation). I have absolute faith that the interest is contagious – that more teams would want to have similar engagement on this important and relevant subject.
  3. The need for meaningful connections is greater than ever. The Corona pandemic threatens not just our physical health, but the health of our social fabric, particularly work relations. Now more than ever is there a need for leaders in organizations to keep their team together, making the connections effective, relevant and meaningful. Social distancing does not have to lead to relationship distancing. In that sense the ABN AMRO CRM team grabbed the Game Day opportunity at the right time – kudos!

As Sander Janse, the team leader confirms the positive experience:

Thanks Day of Adaptation for giving us the opportunity to engage and learn about climate change in a fun way. The whole experience was well managed starting from engaging my team to facilitating the execution and finally reflection. We learned a lot , bonded as a team and we now have clearer ideas how we can make a difference towards climate change. I can recommend this to any team.

We at Day of Adaptation cannot wait to welcome more teams from companies, governments, NGOs, and schools at our Game Day roller coaster. Join the ride!

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