Training Course: Reinforcing Games as an Educational Tool for Social Change - Rustavi, Georgia

Diane Ackermans quote "Play is our brain's favourite way of learning" worked as a guideline for the implementation of our Reinforcing Games as an Educational Tool for Social Change training within the ERASMUS+ Programme.

In this fully-funded Training, 24 youth workers from Austria, Armenia, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine came together for 8 days, from the 4th to the 11th of February 2022 to dive into the world of educational games, while learning about the concepts, tools and techniques needed for designing and developing board games with educational dimension and social value in community contexts.

The participants explored how games can address a whole variety of topics in a very accessible way and in a short span of time, as a game can help us to actively process new and complex information and find creative and innovative solutions and ideas for initiatives to tackle the problems at hand. All of this was made possible with the support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

The day we started our training in the city of Rustavi had finally arrived on the 4th of February. Everyone was super excited to meet the other participants, curious about the upcoming days and what will be learned, and last but definitely not least, to discover the beautiful country of Georgia, and its culture. (To spoil in advance: Getting to know the Georgian cuisine was a delicious experience.)

The first days were very engaging and gave the participants the chance to get to know each other, while introducing them to how board games can be used as educational tools. They explored the values of board games, their creative strategies and importance for social inclusion, as well as the essential aspects of board game creation. The topics of social inclusion and exclusion were discussed and reflected on by comparing and contrasting the approaches of different countries in tackling inclusion-based issues, with a special focus on youth radicalisation.

We finished off with a great intercultural night, to which the participants had brought foods and drinks that are common in their countries. There was a great intercultural exchange where lots of stories about the countries of origin and culture were shared, while the different flavors and tastes were enjoyed.

The sessions of the following days consisted of the major principles and mechanisms, concepts, tools and techniques needed for designing and developing board games. The knowledge intake was enhanced by playing and testing different board games. Even though the days were long and exhausting, the joy of the process was maintained and we had a great barbecue night, where everyone got to try more traditional Georgian foods like different types of Khachapuri, which we enjoyed a looot! A bonfire was lit afterwards and gave the participants more time for sharing stories and memories.

During the next days, the participants were able to put their theoretical knowledge into practice: the game development process, with the aim of developing a set of educational board games to be used in the youth work field, had finally started. Groups of around 5 participants each were formed, based on the social phenomena they wanted to takle and raise awareness about. This process included choosing a target group. It was intense, but the participants were prepared for the difficulties that can occur while developing games, as they had been made aware of them in advance, so we were pleased to see the dedication and continued motivation!

After the game developing phase, the testing phase was entered, where the participants could figure out how to refine and eventually change parts of their game in case some improvements had to be made. The newly developed games were then finally played and feedback was given, which implied that the end of the training had sadly arrived.

Everyone came together one last time to review the learned content, talk about the learning expectations and outcomes and get a chance to reflect on the week that had passed so fast, but had provided so much content and joy. The participants also exchanged ideas of future cooperations with one another in their specific work fields. Last, but not least, follow up initiatives were discussed in the different country groups. These future action plans, which are connected to the training, will be implemented in the following months to deepen the learning outcome and ensure the input of the learned content in society.

"I liked how the training was planned, we did not start making games right away: We had good introduction and played already existing games. So it was not overwhelming for participants who have not done anything like this before. The balance between energizers and actual learning parts was quite fair. It was not overwhelming or annoying." - A participant review.
"I’ve never been to such projects before. This also was my first Erasmus+ experience and to be honest in the beginning I didn’t have any specific expectations because I never realized the importance of games for inclusion. Personally, this training was very productive for me, and I gained so much information that I’ve never even heard about or never paid attention to. The schedule was perfectly distributed, used methods and team building activities were so different and unique. Overall, I am highly satisfied and I’d love to attend it over and over again." - A participant review.

This project and its training activity were successfully realised thanks to the generous support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.

Role of EMOTiC in this project: Main Coordinator and Beneficiary.