Pilot of Social PlaNet – Serious (online) gaming for social entrepreneurship

In 2016-17 we worked in partnership with the Tavistock Institute (TIHR) to pilot a new online game called Social PlaNet, as part of their EU Erasmus-funded ‘Social Seducement’ project developed with several European partners.

The aim of the game is to develop key competences and skills of adults from less-privileged backgrounds, to help them to start their own collaborative social enterprise. The game is intended to simulate real challenges, scenarios and activities, when starting a collective social enterprise.

Our role involved delivering workshops on social enterprise, facilitating the online games and evaluating the outcomes.

To help us to prepare to deliver the pilot, we were invited to attend a week-long training event for facilitators in Rome in October 2016, along with fifteen colleagues from several other European countries. (We are now part of a European network of facilitators of the game).

In spring-2017, we piloted the Social PlaNet game in London with students and unemployed residents. Three games were piloted with three teams of students who were studying MSc International Business Management in the School of Business at London South Bank University (LSBU) as part of their ‘Enterprise and entrepreneurial management’ module.

We also piloted a game with unemployed residents through Waltham Forest (WF) Adult Learning Service, as part of a course on ‘Starting a social enterprise’.

The pilot was completed successfully, and we shared our findings with TIHR.

Most players of the game felt they had learnt a good deal about the practical challenges of starting a social enterprise through the game. They highlighted the areas of the game they thought were useful, such as the case studies.

In terms of areas for improvement, there are two main sets of issues that were identified. Firstly, there were some issues relating to the game mechanics and technical aspects. But we have been advised that some of these issues were resolved after the pilot.

Secondly, restricting the entire learning and collaborative enterprise-creation journey, to an online (solo) game, was unhelpful to players, according to the feedback we received and our own observations. We found that it impacted engagement in the process (players began to chat offline or were easily-distracted, or bored). We think that parts of the online learning experience would have been delivered more efficiently and/or effectively offline, such as through workshops and discussions. Our main recommendation is for a ‘blended delivery’ approach. We have suggested that the best parts of the online game can be bolted onto existing successful social enterprise learning and development programmes, where it helps to enhance or improve the overall learning experience.

For more information on the game, take a look at the website. There are also various reports written by TIHR and their partners during the course of and following the development and piloting of the game which can be found here.