Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

The Mandelbrot Development Project

A few years ago, the International Development Research Centre’s Economy and Environment Programme for Southeast Asia commissioned a role-play simulation to examine environmental and decision-making issue, revolving around a proposed mining project in an ecologically sensitive area of a fictional SEA-type country:

The Mandelbrot Development Project is a hypothetical development project ina developing country. The project design is based on typical circumstances in a hypothetical low-middle income country (Mañanaland), and draws on actual conditions from a cross-section of real-life projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Ocean island states, the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean. The case study site features a coastal region (Deli Province) with typical bio-geographic and socio-economic conditions of high poverty levels, environmental degradation from deforestation and marginal agriculture, and an artisanal fishery industry. The area also features a recently established terrestrial biosphere reserve (Deli National Park) of international importance, and ecotourism around a marine park area (Deli Archipelago) is slowly being developed close to the sea-side provincial capital of Fort Brot. The Mandelbrot Project is composed of a number of regional development activities that include : (i) a mining project to extract ilmenite; (ii) a port expansion component required for the mining development; and, (iii) associated infrastructure.

The case study exercise provides a role-playing context (“game”) for students of environmental economics. The purpose of the exercise is not so much to have students undertake an environmental economics study, as it is for students to gain an understanding of the decision-making and policy formulation dynamics that often surround such studies.

Students are divided into groups of 10-15 people, with each person representing a “player” in the game. The players are invited to a half-day meeting to consider the development options for the province, and to determine whether the Mandelbrot project should (i) proceed immediately; (ii) proceed in some modified form; (iii) be abandoned; or (iv) be deferred until further research is done. The Project itself will be funded through the following formula: 25% private sector; 25% government contribution; 50% international assistance. All players in the game are given the same background information, which consists of an invitation to participate, a list of participants, and an economic consultant’s report. The meeting is chaired by a representative of Central Government who, in tandem with a representative from an international development agency, is tasked with garnering input from various stakeholders in the province.

The full files for running the simulation (including general information, specific role briefings, and spreadsheets) are available for download from H.J. Ruitenbeek Resource Consulting here. The simulation requires some familiarity with economic and business analysis, but certainly could prove quite useful in university courses in environmental economics, as well as for professionals in this area.

One response to “The Mandelbrot Development Project

  1. ppc 29/04/2012 at 11:01 pm

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed scaning what you all have to say

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