The Military Operations Research Society will be offering a three day online course on “gaming emergency response to disease” on 27-29 September 2022, featuring Roger Mason, Ed McGrady, and Pete Pellegrino.
In this three-day course we will focus on the application of professional games to the problems associated with disease response and will cover pandemic response games, both national and international. The objective throughout the course will be to identify unique or challenging aspects involved in designing games involving disease response.
Introduction: The Problem of Disease Response
Game Design Fundamentals
Ways to Apply Games to Disease Response
Basic Biology and Epidemiology in Games
Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Game Examples
Exercise: Nature or Nurture
Exercise: Building a Disease Response Game
Emergency Response Process
Disease and Emergency Response
Emergency Response Games
Exercise: Building Emergency Response Games
Exercise: Practicum and Discussion
More information and registration at the link above.
The READY Initiative was established in 2018 by Save the Children, the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communications Programs, UK-Med, EcoHealth Alliance and Mercy Malaysia to strengthen global capacity to respond to major disease outbreaks. To the end it has developed a variety of training and outreach programmes, operational readiness checklists, and other tools for use by humanitarian and development NGOs and others. Funding is provided by USAID.
Much of this training initially took place in-person—something that became more difficult when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. To facilitate remote training, it was decided to develop an online simulation: Outbreak READY!
Outbreak READY! is a digital simulation strengthening the readiness of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to respond to large-scale infectious disease outbreaks in humanitarian contexts. Through a unique, digital interpretation of an outbreak simulation, READY brings the complex nature of a humanitarian outbreak response to life utilizing a computer-based serious game that allows participants to test and refine their readiness skills and knowledge.
In Outbreak READY!, you will take the role of an NGO team lead managing a multi-sectoral humanitarian program portfolio for a medium-sized, international NGO named READY. The response takes place in a fictitious, low-income country that recently experienced civil conflict following a disputed national election. The simulation is divided into two modules: the first focuses on readiness prioritizations and actions as an outbreak is identified in a neighboring country; the second focuses on the NGO’s response to the outbreak as it begins to spread. Over the course of the simulation, the learner must make decisions that determine how the NGO adapts and expands programs to respond to the outbreak.
The simulation is designed for national and international NGOs responding to humanitarian emergencies, particularly targeting NGO leaders and managers from both operational and programmatic backgrounds across all sectors.
This simulation is set in “Thisland,” a low-income developing country that recently suffered from a period of violent conflict. Government capacity is limited outside the capital and corruption remains a serious problem. The country’s public health infrastructure is weak. As noted above, the player assumes the role of the team lead for an international humanitarian relief and development non-governmental organization (READY) in the outlying city of Murelle. Your current programmes include health and nutrition, food security and livelihoods, cash and voucher assistance, and water, sanitation, and hygiene. Community engagement and protection are mainstreamed across your portfolio. In the course of the simulation you’ll interact with your country director, local staff, public health officials, a partner NGO, a journalist, and a community leader—among others
The narrative-choice simulation is designed for experienced humanitarian aid workers, not for neophytes. It is also more of a simulation than it is a game. There is a lot of information to juggle. Don’t expect to see immediate epidemiological consequences from your actions, since that’s not the way it works it the field—especially when you’re but one small part of a multi-stakeholder response. The simulation content was built with input from dozens of subject matter experts.
Nevertheless, I’ve used it with my own undergraduates, and the feedback has been very positive. I think it also has considerable value for “humanitarian adjacent” organizations and personnel who would like better insight into the perspective, concerns, and priorities of the humanitarian aid community. If you’re instructing military personnel, diplomats, or journalists about humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, for example, I think they would learn a lot.
The simulation is browser-based for ease of access, designed for low-bandwidth environments, and intended to be robust across a broad range of browsers, platforms, and operating systems. It will be localized into French and Spanish too. &RANJ—the digital game company behind the peacebuilding game Mission Zhobia—was the development studio for the project.
From the very beginning, Outbreak READY was also designed with support for briefing, debriefing, and pedagogical support built into the project. The website thus includes an optional pre-reading package, a solo play guide, and very substantial (70+ page) facilitation guides for both virtual and in-person events. When players complete the simulation they also receive a substantial evaluation of their effectiveness as a humanitarian team leader during a major infectious disease outbreak.
I was fortunate to work on the project as part of the READY team (who, it must be said, were an absolutely terrific group to work with.) Click the link and give it a try!
The WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has issued a request for proposals “to develop a serious online gaming prototype, targeting multidisciplinary public health emergency responders from around the world and utilising an outbreak response scenario, to build the large-scale multidisciplinary human response capacity with the cross-cutting knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to respond to COVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks.”
You will find the full details of the RFP here. The closing date for applications is 2 August 2021.