Thursday, March 20, 2014

Capacity focus, 77: Ideas for sustainable development change strategy simulations in virtual spaces . . . drawing on colour wheel models, spiderweb evaluation charts and a block based wargame simulation . . .

Chess is a metaphor for strategic action
based on thinking three moves ahead
Many board games are about strategies and use virtual spaces such as the famous checker-/ chess- board or the like. Even games such as football, rugby and especially American Football (a mock battle . . . ), use artificial spaces.

So, I have been puzzling recently over the issue, can there be a sort of virtual or pseudo-space for sustainable development? (Often, abbreviated: SD.) Can it model capacity constraints and the issue of initiating change away from business as usual and where it ends up, i.e. the change strategy side of SD.

Where already, thanks to the Bariloche Foundation of Argentina, we have a general framework for integrating SWOT analysis with development of a sustainable strategy in light of analysing BAU vs ALT . . . business as usual vs alternatives:

Obviously, such an exercise would help motivate a critical mass towards change, but how do we model effective change in the face of capacity limitations, the range of issues, sectors, interactions, challenges, barriers and more in a typical SD planning context, etc?

A problem.

But I know concretising and symbolising can help us form concepts, so I have been fishing for in effect a board-game wargame approach, but there is no physical space to be mapped, unlike here:

. . . or, we can see a more modern non hex-grid board [notice the tendency to use a roughly pentagonal shape], with off-map resource boxes and time/turn lines, superposed here on an actual map of the Golan heights:

. . .  so, we have to have a virtual game board space that is at the same time meaningful, with pieces that can have value as strategic resource units and that can then act against challenges in physical ways translatable into policy actions.

Perhaps, like Backgmmon:

. . . or (HT: Wiki), the classic oriental territory domination game Go:

. . . or even like the American Football field:

Having been inspired by colour wheel models, I am currently developing such a simulation model on such a virtual space, based on the three environmental domains, the bio-physical, the socio-cultural (including governance and government), and the economic. I have also been mixing in radar chart/spiderweb type circular evaluation diagrams for modelling capacity constraints:

Obviously we can see here a model of "space" to move in [that within reach of your capacity], and a constraint on space that is blocked, whether due to internal limitations or external challenges and threats. This automatically brings in the issues of (i) lack- of- capacity- driven barriers and (ii) other barriers existing due to active (open or veiled) opposition. Thus we see two main sides: 
 A: the change agent player (ALT Strategy) and 

B: the status quo (BAU Strategy) player (s).

An extra issue is that it seems that pivotal zones exist in sectors at the interface between pairs of the three major environmental domains, e.g. 
Biophysical + Socio-Cultural

NR side: brains and linked required population . . .  what we have between our ears considered as a major renewable and develop-able natural resource (one which GROWS with right and sound use), and 

SC side: education considered as a socicultural enterprise that develops brain power, unleashing capacity -- which then enables pushing the frontier of possibilities. (Where also, for education to be effective, people need adequate social welfare [including health]  to be able to pay attention on a sustained basis and to have the focus and discipline required for success. Social welfare is of course an end in its own right . . . and can be a bit of a double edged ideological and economic sword, but from a development policy context, its effect on other aspects of development is a crucialconsideration.)

Let's cut to the chase scene. 

Below is a live photograph of a "draft" version I have begun to put together, showing as a state of play:
(a)  resource deployments by A (who has quite modest resources but has acquired funding to back some action . . . ) to address education capacity constraint roadblocks, here

(b) the general level of education capacity being only fair -- that is, functional to some extent but with serious gaps and limitations backed up by institutional players, and also

(c)  active opposition leading to policy debates between A and B team players over government policy and culture, as well as

(d) a similar clash over natural resources, hazards and management of same:

A virtual space simulation model for SD-oriented strategic change initiated by a critical mass of change agents
working with facilitators and accessing support resources. The three arcs are for main environmental domains,
with sectors falling under the domains. The Y-shaped framework highlights the pivotal nature of interfaces
between domains (here, brains/education for biophysical/sociocultural, natural resources & hazards/resource and hazard management for biophysical/economic, governance culture/government policy-making for sociocultural/economic). Inner dotted circles denote capacity levels on a rank-ordered scale from v. poor to excellent or world-class. Donors and other funding sources enable action turn by turn, and external physical and technical resources as well as the diaspora of Montserrat [for which this is being developed]
may be drawn in as allies (with degree of reliability and/or focal area colour coded).Other sectors are to be
filled in. In the next phase of development as well, a BAU vs ALT alignment chart similar to the above diagram is to be developed. [Copyright: GEM of TKI, all  rights are reserved.Particularly, it is underscored that
no permission is granted for commercial use.]
(This already shows the capability of the "game" as an analytic tool capable of identifying key elements of a policy situation. That is it is an effective visualising simulation model.)

The virtual space (March 31) can also be used for planning/envisioning a strategy that first creates capacity breakthroughs (note the use of a spider web map to delineate the capacity-constrained space for maneuver . . . )  then accesses the policy space by breaking out and so transforms a situation -- here,

a:  a media-access and capacity breakthrough driven by fresh sound thought in a change agent think-tank that is ably communicated to potentially allied opinion leaders accesses allies and logistical support, which then 

b: empowers capacity-building change in education, population and linked welfare [which creates the required long term capacity transformation required to sustain economic development in the long term], also, 

c: enabling better natural resources use and improved hazards/disaster  management (in a region prone to disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and a drought-flood cycle), which 

d: synergises with addressing international access/transportation, the strategic tourism industry and manufacturing [including construction] and gradually improving argiculture, while

e: holding the line on the business as usual challenge in government, and 

f: gradually improving capacity for governance through reform of governance culture and government policy making and implementation capability; with

g: acceleration of these trends through an alliance with media, education and supportive resources from the wider world of the Caribbean diaspora,

h: eventually transforming governance also towards genuinely sustainable development . . .
better and more fairly meeting our needs today while making such wise use of resources and so husbanding the environment -- bio-physical, socio-cultural and economic -- that our children can adequately meet their needs tomorrow

i: thus cumulatively transforming our regional situation.

(Where, of course, each such step requires activities, resources, capability and effort. Thus, we see the OSL elements of strategic action in play: objectives, steps of action, and logistical support.)

{April 3:} This also leads to suggesting the key "pie-slice" sectors within the major domains [with an emphaisis on the sectors that lie at the interfaces between domains, highlighted in colours] with an eye to Caribbean circumstances, perhaps:

Also (as at Mar 22), we can also see the complementary SWOT strategy alignment chart:

SWOT strategy alignment chart, showing change strategy "OSL" framework  in outline: Objectives, [Action-]Steps, Logistics. A properly aligned, robust, sustainable strategy will " build on strengths, exploit opportunities, counter threats, and compensate for or correct weaknesses." Business as Usual [BAU] strategies usually reflect power or financial interests of groups with high social influence or power, and often (i) are inequitable, (ii) are short-sighted or have SWOT blind-spots, thus (iii) often have poor long term outcomes for a community or organisation. A more sustainable alternative [ALT] -- if such an ALT can be successfully developed --  will be better aligned to equity, meeting needs, husbanding resources and effects on the wider environment across time. This makes it more sustainable. But to achieve these outcomes, the development and planning process needs to undertake stakeholder identification, participative exploration, planning, decision making and project/programme governance, enlightened by sound environment scanning (biophysical, socio-cultural, economic-governmental), and it needs competent, sustained project cycle management. This usually implies a need for considerable capacity-building. Fortunately, this process is precisely, a capacity building one

Already, we can see many of the phenomena known to be relevant to strategic change in an SD context emerging naturally, in ways that can suggest actual planning and action steps in the real world. That is, I am seeing possibilities for using the emerging tool with the SWOT-strategy alignment process in exploratory planning and training/ capacity-building.

In effect an SD exploratory exercise with stakeholders could (inter alia)  enfold two phases:
Phase I: why the change and to what [the SWOT phase], 

Phase II: how, in light of objectives, strategy, logistics and situation [The change agent phase].
(Such an exercise would help to stimulate thought towards actual detailed planning.)

Let's also lay out a table of draft "simple" rules for the simulation (where also the umpire and or dice decision-based dialogue matrix game rules here are relevant, and the high level study here gives useful background):
 1] Purpose: The SD Policy space "game" is not a toy, but a planning process, so

2] We must be realistic: that is, we need to credibly and conservatively estimate: 
  • our capacities and intent in the situation in the SWOT context, 
  •  stakeholders in the situation, their needs, concerns, power to influence decisions, and motives/agendas
  • possibilities for partners, 
  • loyalty/agendas of allies,   
  • security concerns (tied to agendas of other interests/"players"), 
  • opportunities, threats, trends and possible shocks [with odds on various outcomes], 
  • financing possibilities,
  •  time and other logistical resources required in each period, 
  • action steps, resource inputs and time to achieve objectives, and 
  • how long it will take for steps to achieve the overall desired outcome.
3] Logistics: At each period (months, quarters, years as appropriate), one can only act on the basis of resources in hand, financial, in-kind, out of pocket ["zero budget"], voluntary effort, support by allies, etc.

4] Proposals: After the start, where one begins with current resources brought to the table by founding partners,  each player can only act on previously acquired resources, which in turn require creating and submitting proposals (and implied successful negotiations) in accord with a defined project cycle. Such proposals may include:
  • formal grant-making proposals to local, regional, national or international funding agencies (probably, a one-page, fill in blanks tabular format will be adequate)
  • similar proposals to businesses, community based organisations, etc.
  • informal agreements with partners and volunteers
  • subscriptions of members of a body
  • treaties or contracts with allies
  • if one has access to Government funds, national budgets 
  • etc.
 . . . for instance (HT: EU, CIDA, EFJ, etc):

. . . similarly, in public relations clashes (or policy debates) a decisive issue is to put a concept in a media statement, which is in effect an informal proposal to a relevant public:

5] Capacity: At each period, in any sector, one can only act within the level of capacity one has [though a policy level intervention can come to bear if one has adequate capacity in Government), and if there is doubt on which level, the lower is more conservative.
  • Capacity gives a player ability to act up to a limit (here, a player must access or be at policy level by building up capacity in some sector before being sufficiently able and/or credible to effectively act . . . otherwise the player may agitate but must depend on partners or allies to act on his/her behalf), 
  • key or critical success factors [most notoriously, funding] if favourable allow action to succeed, 
  • contingencies (uncontrolled variability) in the "world" or "environment" may or may not allow key success factors to be favourable. 
  • It is this element that brings chance . . . and so dice tossing and payoff tables . . . to bear in a game.
Or, using the Engle-type role-playing game as a context for setting up "rules":
 The Engle matrix game is a multi-sided, role-based seminar game with structured turns. It is possible for a given role to win in the game (by achieving its objectives) without other roles losing. Each player or team assumes a role within the game and makes an argument during each turn for how their action will change the game world. These arguments are assessed as to their likelihood by the adjudica-tor. Subsequently either the adjudicator or chance is used to decide the outcome of  the arguments, with the results of  the arguments and the nature of  the pre-existing conditions from earlier in the game shaping the likelihood of  success. The outcomes become facts in the game world. The same process is followed for counter arguments. As each turn passes, the facts accumulate to build a new world. 

Engle  matrix  games  are  a  form  of   structured  experiential  learn-ing—resulting in a strong exchange of  tacit and explicit knowledge between participants . . . [Helen Mitchard and Simon Ng ]
6] Government policy making: until one has reached world class policy level in at least one domain, one cannot act to directly influence government policy, though -- as just pointed out -- allies may do so on one's behalf (within relevant limits). One may agitate, but can not lead at policy level, in other words. (Agitation [by the usual means and tactics] seeks to influence media and public opinion, pressuring decision makers to recognise the relevant faction(s) as legitimate stakeholders, with needs and interests to be respected. Effective faction leaders become spokesmen consulted by media and decision-makers. [Unfortunately, but realistically, this reflects how terrorism acts.])

7] Capacity-building: This may need to be a project or project aspect. Until one has broken through to world class policy level, one is unable to directly act freely on decision-making regarding the three domains, but is limited to capacity-building in sectors -- and of course agitation. Allies may act on one's behalf, providing they are at world class policy level. Agitation seeks to attract allies and capacity-building support, and ultimately to bring new players to the table, i.e. to mainstream issues, concerns and interests of relevant stakeholders.

8] Allies vs partners: Allies may provide additional capacity, up to world class level, but must not take the lead role in the change agent ALT team. Partners may play lead roles, depending on relevant constraints on nationality or the like. Former objectors or opponents -- or the indifferent -- may become allies or partners . . . such can be represented by "capping" the tokens with a "hat" in the change agent's team colour. (As a complication if loyalty is an issue in play, in each turn, such "converts," or allies or even partners may be subject to an odds-based "flipping" of loyalty or to "backsliding." [E.g.: Decades ago, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous apparently reverted to his old ways, damaging the movement's credibility.] )

9] Risk/contingencies: Many circumstances are risky due to environmental influences on key success factors that are uncontrollably variable, so if it is desirable to
A ten sided 0 - 9 die, 6 and 9 underscored (HT: Wiki)
consider the impacts of risk and associated contingencies/  contingency plans, such may be modelled based on estimated odds of different outcomes, coin flipping [for effectively 50:50 odds], tossing of one or more dice, or pulling cards from shuffled decks, etc. Or,
  • summary arguments or short stories on what is intended and likely to happen next (and why/how) as suggested can be used to set up 
  • a balance of odds on: 
A: favourable/ B:  unfavourable/ -- and/or 
C: lose-lose/  -- and/or 
D: compromise/ E: neutral outcomes 
. . . notice the two (A/B), three (A/B/C)  four (A/B/C/D) and (A/B/C/D/E) five-point outcome possibilities, linked to
  • strengths and weaknesses to act successfully in the situation (perhaps by tipping credibility and capacity factors up/down), leading to 
  • a die tossing or umpire judgement based decision, cf. here
For simple odds determination, I lean to setting odds of success by judgement of players and an umpire then setting a hurdle threshold from 0 to 99 using a pair of ten sided dice in two colours, that will give a more or less flat-random distribution. That is,
  • in laying out intents and likely outcomes with reasons or in objecting to same, players lay out a range of possibilities. 
  • The umpire balances strengths of pros and cons and weights the range of outcomes on a 2 - 5 point scale or a more complex one if needed, where
  • strong pros and cons give even weighting to each of the five or however many categories and enough weak ones can give some weighting, then 
  • odds are set based on even or uneven weighting, then 
  • the die toss gives play to chance, leading to the outcome.
So, typically, for multiple outcomes -- each bearing more or less equal weight (on grounds that we have no basis to prefer any particular outcome) -- the range of possible results -- payoffs -- may be split into sub-ranges, 3, 4, or 5 being most reasonable. Where diverse weights can be reasonably assigned [e.g. success is highly likely, but not certain], the ranges can be widened for the most likely outcomes, by using say blocks of 1/10 (or 1/20 if desired), with more likely possibilities getting more than an even share, less likely ones, less. The extreme values 00 and 99 can also be reserved for unusual, very unfavourable or very favourable outcomes. Perhaps, for convenience:

Flexible Payoff table. To get a finer resolution, take odds in stages, a first one determining general range, and one or more thereafter for more precise outcomes, e.g. (1 in 3) x (1 in 10) = (1 in 30); giving ranges down to 1 in 10^4 or 10^6. Cf Australian military discussions here, especially this.

10] Credibility/power clashes: When opposed parties clash on a policy area, comparison of resources on a ratio basis, A:B  . . . "manpower" as affected by a (credibility + capacity) multiplier* . . . pro/con argument balance . . .  and the roll of dice may be used to determine a payoff table with possible outcomes such as:
  • conversion of engaged units of one side to the other,
  • removal from the game [loss of  public credibility . . . shifting odds for next turn], or
  • compromises [shared power . . . a mainstreaming win?]
* That is, a large and capable high credibility institution controlled by BAU is not a good direct policy target, but a small ALT group with good credibility and good enough capacity  can overwhelm a large but largely discredited institution.
This means credibility is closely tied to capacity and we can construct a unit strategic value model by using strategic capability multiplied by credibility: "5  x 5 = 25" with a small institution can have a balancing effect compared to say a "3 x 3"= 9  opponent with greater material resources.  For instance 25 carries greater weight than 9, leading to A:B odds of 25:9 = 2.8:1, overwhelming odds. Allies would multiply the effect of their side (say another 5  x  3 = 15, which would shift odds to (25 + 15):9 = 4.4:1.  Payoff tables are to be developed, but already a rule of thumb is that 3:1 or worse odds are  immediately overwhelming, and 2:1 will force incremental losses on the other side, coming out of credibility which would be transferred, so a credibility loss in turn n sets up a knockout in turn n+ 1 except if there is reinforcement. At 1:1 odds, things could go either way . . . indicating a need for negotiated compromise instead of betting the farm on a clash. But, that is already a mainstreaming win. [As at now, I doubt that a more complex model would be worth the extra effort.])
Tokens (of various colours) are used for such abstract units, and unit values will be recorded sector by sector based on evaluation per turn, and based on previous events, such as a credibility loss from a previous turn. Credibility loss by one side transfers to units on the other side, with banking of excess. (For instance sides A and B can draft competing media statements, which can be judged, awarded weights and subjected to dice-tossing. Of course, one side may have manpower to overwhelm the other with a blizzard of mass media efforts. [Thus, we see how credibility and capacity need to be built up and arguments carefully composed and simplified then polished before launching media blitzes at the right time, when public attention has been focussed on an issue.])
 Under such conditions, compromise or conversion by negotiation may be preferred to a PR clash with its risks of "betting the farm and losing." Such is already a mainstreaming win for that sector.
A good index of value is an evaluation if real world strategic asses are being modelled, e.g. a certain local politician seems to be a 5 x 3, and another a 3 x 4. But on more abstract grounds a good initial rule of thumb is that capacity = credibility too, with the latter boosted or demoted based on indicia of favourability or the results of clashes or successful negotiations. Where capacity can be increased based on success in capcity building projects or the equivalent in negotiations or confrontations.
So also, capacity starvation may seem attractive (nip it in the bud) . . . but, for an institution to actively block capacity-building and/or credibility-building risks discredit and loss of capacity, should that be exposed by a media ally. (Which, shows the vital importance of such access and support.)
That points to subtle conflicts for donor support (implying resource starvation for the other side) as well as subtle backing of opposition not obviously traceable to a source, and for the power of potential allies to dramatically shift power balances, especially allies in the media.

11] "Winning": The dominance or degree of influence achieved in policy level decisions made in the three pivotal interfaces at the end of the agreed number of periods, is decisive on "winning." That is, the aim of the ALT team is the mainstreaming of sustainability. There are different degrees of a win:
a] An outright win will gain relevant capacity in the key domain interfaces and outright control or strongly influence all three.
b] If only two are controlled or strongly influenced, in the long term the change process will become mainstreamed.
c] If the change agent team has its concerns and vision put on the mainstream agenda for decision-making in at least one area such that its input will be routinely sought, it is now an established stakeholder and interest group.

12] "Winning" vs SD progress: Winning in the end is a power outcome, genuine progress towards sustainablility implies change with genuine -- realistically appraised --  progress, i.e.:
 . . . sustainable development better and more fairly meets our needs today, while so wisely husbanding resources and the environment . . . bio-physical, socio-cultural and economic -- and so prudently managing hazards that our children and grandchildren can better meet their needs tomorrow.

In this process, I have found block-type wargames an inspiration, and this tutorial is helpful to visualise how resource and strategic units can be modelled at fairly sophisticated levels:

Obviously, the level of sophistication depends on the context, and wargames already have an answer to that, they have rules for basic and more advanced levels of play.)

DV, I will continue to update this post as I work further. WIP -- END

PS: Cf the Matrix Wargame approach discussed here.  Let's clip:
In [typical war or role-playing] games you compare lists of statistics and peer at complicated books of rules containing someone else's idea about what things are important, before rolling a [die, representing risk/chance] . . . Instead, in a Matrix Game you simply use words to describe why something should happen, the Umpire decides how likely it is, and you roll a [die]. If you can say "This happens, for the following reasons..." you can play a Matrix Game . . . .
The [original] Chris Engle Matrix Game was created in the USA by Chris Engle, and published in 1992. Chris wanted to create a system by which it was possible for a player to "role-play" anything from a single person to an entire country . . .  What he wanted was a system that could take into account anything the players though was relevant, including intangible elements such as culture, beliefs, and perceptions of themselves . . . Like all good ideas, the Matrix Game is very simple in concept, but has huge potential in that it can be adapted to fit any game setting. Matrix Games have been used by the UK MOD with the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle capability, education of Consultants in UK MOD Procurement systems and in the preparation by HQ ARRC for the deployment into Bosnia . . . . 

In a Matrix Game, actions are resolved by a structured sequence of logical "arguments". Each player takes turns to make an argument, with successful arguments advancing the game, and the player's position. There are a number of ways you can do this and each has their own strengths and weaknesses, some of the most popular are:
  • The "Three Reasons" system [--> a player projects what is intended with three supportive reasons why it is achievable]
  • The "Pros and Cons" system [--> In case of active opposition, intent and pros are advanced, say by A, and cons by B, leading to a net pro/con weight in light of weight of points, then die toss to determine outcomes on the odds, the list of contingent constraints and outcomes coming from the pro's and cons with either flat weighting or odds assigned by informed judgement]
  • The "simple narrative" system [--> here " The players states what happens next in the evolving story that is the current situation. The chances of success or failure and exactly what those results look like are judged by an Umpire or, more usually, by another player taking it in turns . . . " so either a die toss based or a judgemental outcome can be accommodated]

. . . . The arguments themselves are judged by the Umpire based on inherent likelihood, historical precedence, personal experience, and his own judgement (and quite often the other player's judgement), and a chance of success arrived at (percentage dice normally being thrown to see if the result was achieved, but you could use any combination of dice or random number generator that you like - or the Umpire decides based on military judgement and the justice of the circumstances).

The advantage of this system is that it works well where there are a number of teams of players and you have a strong central Umpire. You have to be careful, however, that other players don't interrupt or heckle with a reason why these arguments might not work - that is the role of the Umpire . . .