Environment Agency, Red Kite House

ARCC climate action narrative

Friday 20 April, Adelaide

Thanks to SafeWork SA staff, Attorney-General’s Department, Government of South Australia.

Monday, 24 April, Oxford

Thanks to Environmental Change and Management MSc students, School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford, and to Dr Pete Walton for being the Inspector!

What is a climate action narrative?

Serious games are increasingly being used by non-governmental organisations such as the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to convey changing risks. Underpinned by this concept, the ARCC network partnered with Goddard Creative to write and test an innovative communications and engagement tool to improve individuals’ understanding of the current climate change challenges facing the urban environment.

This communications and engagement project aimed to instruct positive change in the office environment. It was underpinned by excellent ARCC-affiliated research to deliver an improved understanding of current urban issues including:

  • impacts of climate change
  • adapting building stock / retrofit
  • overheating / energy efficiency
  • urban flood resilience
  • opportunities for green infrastructure, green spaces
  • creating liveable cities
  • sustainable transport including walking / cycling.

From January until April, Tanya Wilkins, ARCC network, and Amy Amani, Goddard Creative, wrote the murder / mystery-style, character-driven game that was intended to encourage positive change in the workplace.

This short pilot project included development of the game, and two trials to test the murder / mystery style approach but also to evaluate the game’s ability to empower participants with a deeper understanding of the issues, current research, and what they can individually do. For a successful longer term project, the communication tool will enable participants from the non-academic partner organisations to:

  • know more about sustainable behaviours as they relate to their office environment
  • talk about climate change as it relates to living in a city
  • understand the links between climate change and our health and wellbeing.

The novel murder / mystery style approach has been developed:

  • for facilitators to use this as an ice-breaker activity, in a ‘train the trainer’ type style so office workers can become champions / advocates for sustainable teams
  • for academics working with communities in adaptation research within the urban environment (potentially ice-breaker, or community building activity)
  • that this can be incorporated in training for ECRs and DPhils as an opportunity to showcase their research; by using the game to deliver the performance, they can understand the value of creative arts in communicating their research (i.e. dance your PhD).

The game

Led by the Inspector, participants become members of the Very Responsible Office Company, including familiar roles such as ‘The Big Boss’, Chief Operating Officer, accounting, procurement, facilities, IT, communications, reception, and an intern. These characters discover that they have just failed their Happy Climate Building Accreditation, which means instead of the celebratory party they would have received they now have to solve this crime: they must work with and against each other to uncover who did not complete the required accreditation tasks.

The HCBA was loosely based on the International WELL Building Institute’s building accreditation, however, modifications were made to include ARCC-affiliated research promoting climate action and sustainable urban environments.

The tasks included:

Commitment to the HCBA

  • Strong leadership to ensure all staff are supported in the HCBA accreditation requirements
  • Commitment reflected in the professional standard of application submitted
  • Organisational mandate to tackling climate change to improve human health
  • Vision, strategy, policies reinforce the commitment to HCBA
  • Leading communication tactics, including utilising new digital opportunities to engage staff


  • Sustainable Urban Drainage plan for site, including regular maintenance of external drains
  • Staff understanding of the importance of water security
  • Install dual flush toilets
  • Green VROC: indoor plants to be watered using the rainwater
  • Investments in permeable paving, and maintenance policy and procedures

Wellbeing & sustainable transport

  • Costed policies around car sharing and a bike loan scheme, and discounts with local bike shops, bus and train lines
  • Flexible working, telecommute, and a responsible travel policy
  • Green VROC; increase plants in office to 1 per every 5 desks
  • Encourage employees to walk or cycle to work and meetings, and to give up their car park
  • For everyone’s benefit, ban eating at desks
  • Desks are advantageously positioned to windows and natural light walkways to be on the inner areas of the floors

Reduce & adapt

  • Overarching policies for why this important
  • Promotion of this initiative and its importance
  • On the path towards a paperless office with supporting data collection
  • Food waste programme
  • Recycling programme, including reuseable interoffice envelopes, return waste to suppliers, free or recycled items first
  • Building Retrofit Plan; understand adaptation opportunities like external shading, tree planting Energy and carbon


  • Bird boxes around buildings
  • Endorsed policy for staff to be feeding birds in winter
  • Install bee houses
  • Careful planting of trees to support shading of building, and provide nice areas for staff

Energy reduction policy and cost-savings

  • Collect, report and analyse data from energy audits
  • Monitoring the shut-down of equipment out-of-hours
  • Building kept to 21 degrees centigrade
  • Ensuring automated lighting system is working, and light bulbs swapped to LED
  • Understand carbon footprint of suppliers
  • Upgrade small appliances

There were predominately failed tasks, however it wasn’t all bad news for VROC with some of the tasks completed by members of the team!

The trials

In both the Adelaide and Oxford trials, the concept of using a murder / mystery-style game for a climate change ‘who done it?’ was really well received by the participants. As is the case with most new activities, it took a little encouragement to get participants into character, however, with a little prompting they began to uncover the crimes.

This game was delivered to fit an hour timeslot, however, both trials supported a significant increase in this time, as well as a more instructive role for the Inspector to include prompts for the participants. This also includes additional instructions for the participants to highlight that they should be looking at the tasks according the job roles, and identify who would be responsible for costing a green infrastructure initiative – perhaps start with the accountant given it is partly a financial matter.

The characters were developed to have an influencing factor in the completion of tasks (as is the case when humans are involved!), so participants can really draw from those relationships in deciding who to approach to ask about a task. There is always the opportunity to ask the same direct question of everyone until you get the right answer, such as ‘were you responsible for the food waste programme?’

In conducting these two trials, there was a lot of specific feedback on improving the game, including:

  • wearable props
  • clear responsibility for tasks, no delegation
  • higher stakes involved; would someone possibly be fired as a result of this?
  • simpler relationships
  • a longer version of the game containing actual solutions for the issues.

What next?

With the approach confirmed as a success, this game can be further developed to suit a range of other needs, such as bespoke tailoring to a particular organisation or sector, or as a linking tool between different disciplines such as climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

With the ARCC network closing on 30 April 2018, Tanya Wilkins and Amy Amani remain available and keen to pursue opportunities for this murder/mystery style climate change communication tool.

Tanya Wilkins

Amy Amani