Exploring Sustainable Futures

Seeing is believing. Experience the future.


Introducing the Exploring Sustainable Futures game​

Cranfield has been using a Scenario Exploration board game to help Masters students practice strategic decision-making in the context of four different pathways towards a sustainable future in 2050.  Players representing established businesses interact with players representing entrepreneurs, policymakers, civil society organisations and ‘the public voice’ as they all react to changes in the economy, technology, and society along these pathways.

The ‘winners’ are judged not only by the resources they accumulate, but by whether they have achieved their purpose.  Teams also reflect on the nature of the world they have collectively created through their decisions. ​

Initial findings show the game deepens players’ aptitudes across a range of skills and learning outcomes related to sustainability, systems change and ESG.  ​

For example:  ​

  • the radically different, plausible futures that could unfold​
  • the role different actors play in societal change​
  • the interrelationship between business, society and the wider living world​
  • what might have to change in the world for sustainable development to happen ​
  • the scope for business to both regenerate and degrade society.  ​
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Development of new versions of gameplay

Our small team is building more future worlds for the game and constantly updating it to deepen the learning and impact for players. We passionately believe in the power of this game to transform head knowledge of sustainability issues into heart understanding which can empower the change agent in us all.

We believe this game can be rewritten for a variety of purposes- from higher education settings, to corporate settings to reinvigorate sustainability understanding and passion within an organisation, to schools to help children understand the value and impact of their actions today.

We are currently playing the game across Cranfield University and with other Higher Education partners including Warwick University. We have secured grant funding to grow this project, but are seeking motivated partners for this ambitious project. Find out more about becoming a partner, or continue scrolling down to learn more about the game.

Our team

Showcasing the Exploring Sustainable Futures game at COP26!

We were privileged to be the only university presenting a workshop and completely re-wrote our board game based gameplay to create a theatrical and immersive experience, where audience members were invited to interact and make choices that impacted the future world we arrived in.

This incredible opportunity supercharged the development team and we worked collaboratively with many partners to create a visually impactful and immersive experience. Since then we have been invited to showcase at edie Sustainability Leader conference in February 2022 and the British Academy of Management in September 2022.

Original creation

The game concept was originally devised in 2018 by the EU Commission’s Joint Research Council (JCR), and this version of the game was developed in collaboration with Forum for the Future and the Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) as part of the EU-InnovatE project.

Cranfield University’s Sustainability Group Head, Dr Rosina Watson then further developed and refined the game with the help of Gemma Adams, freelance systems thinker, and Dr Hugh Wilson and Dr Emma Macdonald of Warwick University.

The birth of the Exploring Sustainable Futures game

As the game development team grew, Dr Watson played the game across Cranfield University for over 300 students between 2018 - 2020, receiving very positive feedback and enthusiasm by participants.

Continual development of the game to increase impact and outcomes was catalysed as the team grew to include Gabriela Pearson and Caroline Harris. As teaching had to shift online during the 2020 pandemic, a crude solution to play the game via Zoom was formed – this highlighted a need to develop digital, agile gameplay… now known as our Plug & Play project.


Join our project as a partner

The Plug & Play project brings together our current game development team and interested academics from other institutions and industry professionals to co-create a streamlined version of gameplay that is easy to replicate and use in a variety of settings. The digital game will be used in-person and to play remotely with players online.

We are looking for like-minded individuals to join us on this project by partnering with us.

What you get out of it:

  • Increase your sustainability education tools by taking the game to your university or organisation with access to our resources and multimedia as we continue to develop it
  • A chance to be part of a research project that will grow to produce community projects in an effort to spread sustainable futures thinking in schools, colleges, organisations and businesses.

We work with you to deliver the game to your institution, and through gameplay collect data on the impact.

What's involved?

The first step is to register your interest for the soft launch of the digital Plug & Play version of our game, where we will also be discussing partnership opportunities.

If you are not able to join us on this date, use the form to get in touch with us and we will get back to you.


To play the game for yourself, join us for our next open event...

Exploring Sustainable Futures Game Experience

Thursday 2 May 2024
The Bartlett School of Architecture,
22 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0BQ

Over the past four years, we have played the game in a variety of formats – in cabaret style around traditional gameboards, in a theatre setting with actors, and remotely over Zoom.


"In terms of social changes relating to immigration and demographic change, I understood these challenges beforehand, but the game has made me think about what might happen over the long-term, looking to 2050… Is the advancement of AI a good thing when considering ageing populations?  We’ll have AI care and AI will take jobs as there will be fewer working-age people to perform more creative roles that will still require human brains. I also thought about economic changes and recession – we have had relatively short-term recessions in the past (compared to lifetimes) but could we be looking at consistent, long-term recessions in the future as the effects of climate change take hold?"

“Playing the Sustainable Futures game made me much more aware of the power of a wider group of stakeholders, particularly the degree of influence that established businesses can wield.  Also, the interaction between various stakeholders was interesting to observe and the game made me think more about how collaboration between diverse stakeholders can be a force for good.”

“The game reinforced that no one institutional stakeholder wields power to the point that others can't bring about change, and that often grassroots initiatives and the public voice can be extremely powerful, especially where effective collaborations and partnerships are formed."

silhouette photo of person standing

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash


If you would like to get in touch to find out more about the game, please register your interest via the form below:

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