Asking questions can be problematic, particularly when there are disparities of outlook, education and nationality. Asking hypothetical questions and considering future scenarios is particularly difficult when working with, for example, rural African farmers (however we suggest such questions are problematic everywhere).
Participatory computer modelling is a technique that has been used to help researchers and communities understand issue and envisage future solutions in these contexts. We worked on two projects where we built agent-based models (using NetLogo) with subsistence farmers in Cameroon and artisanal fishers in Kenya. In both instance we also worked alongside local researchers and policy-makers to discuss climate adaptation strategies with respect to crop selection and fishing gear choice.
We gained a better understanding of how computer models can be built that enable local participants to consider the status quo, gain insights into how to recover from crises, and envisage the future. In particular we focussed on the design and use of game-like elements that enable participants to express a deep understanding of their world through the way they interact with the model.
Using field experience of running ABMs in Africa we will discuss ways in which mobile based “games” can be used to collect data and to widen debates about environmental interventions, planning and implementation.