A Social Work Futures Game – LET’S PLAY!!!

Recently, I was asked to develop a futures game for Deans and Directors of Social Work (NADD) around the United States. This is a group I’ve been proud to be part of for the past six years, but will soon be exiting as I end my deanship at Portland State University (for a sabbatical to explore/work on several futures projects and then returning to my faculty position!!)

Gaming is increasingly being used as a method for engaging, educating, focusing and energizing people to work on common goals – it is moving way beyond ideas of “winning and losing” from a futures perspective. While now a few years old, well-known gaming futurist Jane McGonigal has a classic TED talk on this topic – which you can see (and read this accompanying summary) here.

Here’s another more academic article about gaming theory and practice for various populations, settings and purposes in a futures context.

My own futures game is intended:

  • To stretch social work students, faculty and practitioners’ minds to consider possible future trajectories and what it means to be “ready” (as much as possible) for alternative futures.  
  • To develop specific “next steps” in futures readiness planning.
  • To serve as a tool in “foresight” capacity development individually and collectively for social workers and social work educators.
  • To develop our collective agility, creativity and intelligence as a profession regarding the challenges we will face in our shared future.

This is a “beta” version which is to say that I’m planning on making adjustments and will probably add additional scenarios in the future. For now, I invite you (especially if you’re a social worker, student or social work educator) to explore the game and use it in a setting that it might be useful! If you do, please keep me in the loop and share your feedback and ideas about how I can make the game even more relevant and helpful!

You can download the game here!

Here’s to using gaming to build a better world in social work! Have fun!!

Special thanks to Dean Goutham Menon at Loyala University for the invitation to develop and pilot this game, to Dean Nancy Smyth at University of Buffalo for development consultation, and to the participants of the Spring 2019 NADD meeting for participating in the game for the first time and providing invaluable ideas and encouragement.


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