Metropoly: a game-based alternative towards climate adaptation in Panama Bay

By: Ariadna Araúz – Coastal Solutions Fellow 2021 – Panama

Metropoly: Sustainble Hub for the Americas, Watershed Edition is an experiment created under the framework of my Coastal Solutions project: “Regenerative Master Plan (RMP) for the areas of Juan Díaz and Don Bosco, in Panama Bay” in collaboration with my mentor, the Architect Cristián Pérez-Navarro. The aim is to bring new tools to the leading sectors in development, to undertake the current threats caused by growing urban sprawl. This allows to challenge development as we currently know it, generating a more agile and dynamic scenario through a new approach that can be very effective to achieve sustainable development goals, through an iterative process that begins with exploration, moves to experimentation, and concludes with the evaluation of results.

The exercise is based on integrating the motivations behind the private and public sectors, academia, NGO ́s, and citizens in a game of roles specially designed to simulate investment decision-making and economic benefits, as well as social and environmental contributions that would be involved in a profitable regeneration of critical ecosystems. All of this through a systemic process to reach a safe and healthy hydrological balance, for human beings and biodiversity, both vitally dependent on this resource.

Through a game-based learning technique, we adapted the popular boardgame Monopoly to simulate the implementation of an urban development model capable of financing different tools based on incentives for climate adaptation that can:

  1. Help redirect the decisions behind urban development from ecosystems of high ecological value, like wetlands and coastal areas, towards points of the city that are more suitable to avoid or reduce extreme flooding and other climate risks.
  2. Contribute to regenerate critical points of the city that currently flood during extreme rain events, produced largely by the impermeabilization of urban surfaces with pavements that impede the free flow of water towards subterranean layers.
  3. Facilitate the creation of verifiable sustainable conditions in public and private urban development projects – like green buildings and infrastructure – to be funded through sustainable and social green bonds, certified by international third parties like the Climate Bond Initiative.

To take on this challenging task of reorientating development to achieve climate adaptation and regenerate the watersheds in Panama Bay, we need to first converge the motivations of the various stakeholders, also allocating space for natural regeneration, and compensating the impossibility of building on certain critical sites with current or future climatic risks. It is also important to create a sustainable urban improvement fund to help finance other public
green infrastructure projects, as well as tax incentives for the private sector to promote the implementation of said solutions in construction projects.

countries like Brazil and the United States – and in the possibility of implementing public policies in Panama based on behavioral knowledge, just as over 100 governments around the world already do. This with the objective of creating informed public policies by a better understanding on how people adopt, participate, use, and respond to these programs, to gain better results employing less resources, and adapting and diversifying the context of decision making for a more sustainable urban development of the city.

During the implementation dynamic of Metropoly in the project, we had the participation of 22 people representing different institutions, from property developers and government agencies to representatives of environmental institutions, academic researchers, and citizens. We were able to observe, through the testimonials of the participants, that certain prejudices that some players had about the administration of power and resources, changed
significantly once they assumed the responsibility of making decisions, instead of just acting as mere critics or spectators of traditional development. This allowed to demonstrate the possibility of working in a collaborative model where all sectors better understand each other and consider the individual and collective motivations. Similarly, we were able to witness the potential of pushing for more common goals with less conflict between sectors,
which many time arise from erroneous conclusions about the motivations of decision makers.

Metropoly not only allows for a moment of entertainment, fun, and healthy competition among the participants, but also offers them the opportunity to immerse themselves in the challenges that public administration, resource management, and decision-making require in public and private investments, under a context designed to advance the goal of transforming Panama City into the Urban Sustainability Center of the Americas.

If you want to learn more, you can check-out the following links:

Daniel Kahneman y Amos Tversky: “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk”

Cass Sunstein y Richard Thaler: “Nudge, The final decision”

Dan Ariely: “Predictably Irrational”, on people’s irrational behaviour.

Rory Sutherland: “The next revolution will be psychological not technological”

Coastal Solutions Fellowship Program

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program builds and supports an international community to design and implement solutions that address coastal challenges across the Pacific Americas Flyway. Our main goal is to conserve coastal habitats and shorebird populations by building the knowledge, resources, and skills of Latin American professionals, and by fostering collaborations among multiple disciplines and sectors.