Promoting climate action awareness for Ugandan youth

This project supports the work of a team of Ugandan and UK academics, educators, and artists, to develop and test innovative climate action education materials for use in East Africa. The key deliverable is a card-based educational game exploring climate futures in a Ugandan context. A connected workshop will support knowledge exchange and networking.

Overview

This project builds on Principal Investigator (PI) Dr Joseph Walton's recent innovative work on climate risk communication and the use of games in science fiction futures with Co-Investigator (CO-I) Prof Peter Newell's substantial world-leading research in the area of the political economy of climate transition while being led by the Ugandan voices and perspectives.The research targets a problem divided into two connected parts. First, climate-related educational resources are scarce in the Ugandan context, and climate change is not yet part of the school curriculum, despite commitments at the national level to mainstream it. Second, the use of speculative fiction and games to explore climate futures has grown increasingly established in the Global North, in educational and other contexts (e.g. policy and industry), but remains biased toward the perspectives and needs of the Global North. Reimagining these approaches for Global South contexts, initially in Uganda, is therefore a priority. The solution proposed is grounded in Dr Walton's existing expertise in game design and large 2021 pilot in climate futures themed games, and building in the domain expertise of Prof Newell (political economy of climate transition), Nkrumah (youth climate activism), and the localisation expertise of high profile Ugandan artist Dila and climate scientist and educator Ssebisubi. 

Project description

In many Global South countries, including Uganda, climate-related educational resources are currently scarce, climate change is not yet part of the school curriculum, and public understandings are insufficient to drive climate action. There is growing interest in speculative fiction and games to promote climate action. Major research projects funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), European Commission (EC) and Wellcome have used such cultural interventions to explore positive climate futures. However, to date this work has prioritised Global North contexts.

These problems relate directly to SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 4 (Quality Education). To address them, PI Dr Joseph Walton will collaborate with Ugandan science fiction writer Dilman Dila to design and test an educational game to build knowledge and skills around climate action. Maurice Ssebisubi will aid with development and coordinate pilots in four Ugandan schools (Ngogwe Baskerville Secondary, Victoria Ssi Secondary, Sacred Heart Secondary, and Nyenga Secondary), which he is involved with as part of his regular work. The project builds on existing collaborative relationships between Dila, Ssebisubi, and Dr Walton, including the recent development of a Climate Risk Communication toolkit (COP26 Climate Universities Network 2021).

Timeline and funding

Timeline

February 2022-July 2022

Funding

SSRP funding (£8,060)

Methodology

  • Scoping: As part of the development of the Climate Risk Communication toolkit, the project team has already undertaken a literature review on climate risks, policies, public discourse and local climate knowledge in the Ugandan context. Ssebisubi will also conduct four school visits (March-April 2022), engaging the existing network of environmental clubs to enhance the understanding of students’ baseline knowledge. This will be assessed through exploratory conversations and a climate quiz.
  • Game development: The initial prototype will draw mechanics from on Dr Walton’s Applied Hope project, which engaged 50+ game designers to explore positive climate futures. Dr Walton and Dila will lead its development, using standard game development methodology of design sprints, playtesting and iteration, initially within the design team (February-April 2022), and then with intended end users on school visits (May 2022).
  • Subject expertise on climate policy and climate youth activism will be fed in by Co-I Prof Newell and Co-I Nrkumah.
  • Learning outcomes will also be informed by Uganda’s national climate communication strategy, initially launched in 2019 but delayed because of the impact of Covid-19. The game itself will be based on a deck of cards. Including or removing subsets of cards will allow customisation for different age groups.

Expected impacts and outcomes

Sussex researchers will gain knowledge of adapting climate risk communication research for a specific local context. Students in four Ugandan secondary schools will benefit from learning about climate change and climate action. The project will cover print and distribution costs to make innovative educational materials freely available to a further 20 schools. A print-and-play version will be available online under a Creative Commons license. Additionally, a virtual workshop will be held to enhance impact and knowledge exchange, especially at the regional level with Kenya as an initial focus. Workshop participants will include academics, educators, policymakers and NGOs, drawn partly from Prof Newell’s networks across Africa, as well as creative professionals from the African Speculative Fiction Society.

In the Global North, games and science fiction have long-standing links with futures research, and more recently have developed a strong connection with climate futures and behaviour change. By contrast, African speculative cultures are under-utilised and under-theorised in the context of adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The project will explore new avenues for forging local artist-activist-researcher connections and enabling local interventions, initially through the development of educational materials, and also through a reflection and amplification workshop, bringing together African writers through the African Speculative Fiction Society together with academics and NGOs.

The secondary schools involved have indicated their lack of resources and funding for climate education. Providing easily accessible, locally co-produced materials is an economic imperative. Keeping the focus on youth, the research team will explore how such tools might be scaled regionally and spread across Africa, as well as made available globally through online platforms. Further indirect impacts will be realised through building capacity in understanding climate risk and climate adaptation. Uganda has a very young population, and so youth interventions stand to realise significant long-term benefits.

The project will create new possibilities for practice-led climate research in Africa, by bringing together academics and artists in a workshop showcasing the completed climate futures game in Uganda. The project will support networking and knowledge exchange both externally (Sussex, Wits) and internally (School of Media, Arts and Humanities, School of Global Studies, Sussex Humanities Lab and SSRP). It will improve understandings of climate risk pedagogy, with reflective outcomes captured in the second edition of the Climate Risk Communication toolkit. There are opportunities for synergies with two of Dr Walton’s other climate workstreams in 2022: Decarbonising the Curriculum and Greening the Digital Humanities.

Further impact will be realised through this work’s inclusion in the Climate Risk Communication toolkit (second edition) from AU4DM, launching in August 2022, lead authored by PI Dr Joseph Walton with Dr Polina Levontin (Imperial College London). This will include the game itself as well as reflections on its development and use, aiming to support similar work across diverse national contexts. Several engagement and impact activities are planned around this publication, e.g. pre-launch event at the Great Exhibition Road Festival in June 2022. The publication is innovative in focusing each section for a different kind of key audience (risk management professional, climate activist, climate scientist, climate educator), while also sharing insights across sections.  

The team

Where we worked

Uganda.