21 reasons why you should never date an economist (Anniversary edition)

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Today I have been married 20 years to an economist, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to update our favorite Development Roast post of all time (21 reasons why you should never date an economist), taking advantage of the creative feedback of our readers at the time.

Here is my updated list of the 21 best reasons never to date an economist:

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The Universal Beer Work Constant

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

It’s Carnaval week/month in Bolivia – the time of year when most beer is drunk. Beer prices have just gone up again, now reaching an outrageous Bs. 9, or more, for a small can of standard beer in supermarkets. This corresponds to USD 3.64 for 1 liter of beer, way more than it costs in rich countries such as Denmark.

If we take into account the low level of wages in Bolivia and the high prices of beer, Bolivia becomes one of the most expensive places in the world for beer lovers. On average, Bolivians have to work about 145 minutes to afford 1 liter of beer (1), whereas in the United States on average they only have to work for 10 minutes (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Minutes of work required to purchase 1 liter of beer in a supermarket

Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from The Economist + Bolivian data (
Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from The Economist + Bolivian data (

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5 Games and Apps to Change the World

Ioulia-FentonBy Ioulia Fenton*

Whether it is family Trivia Pursuit at Christmas, Words with Friends on the android phone, or Second Life on a P.C., everyone likes to play games. They are challenging, fun, and constitute a healthy source of friendly competition. However, as Jane McGonigal, an American game designer, argued in her TED talk, they can also make a better world.

Today, Development Roast* highlights five games and applications that are more than mere entertainment, but serve to educate and deeply involve its players in global food, agriculture, and sustainability issues:

1. Being a game-changer. To govern is to choose between competing priorities and interests and making policy decisions in an increasingly globalized world is difficult. Players of Game Change Rio, that aims to educate its users to such complexities and raise awareness of future global challenges, choose from 150 different policy cards to try and balance the economy with the environment, human health, education, and other important issues. Read More »

Learning to Play and Playing to Learn!

Angelina Gherardelli


Leelo en español AQUÍ SpanishFlag

By Angelina Gherardelli

“If you want to take all the fun out of it, get a bunch of educators involved”

A common joke in game designer circles.

As children we run, jump, and most importantly we play. When my five year old nephew was learning geometrical shapes and colors he played a game where he had to assemble a red square, a green triangle, and other colored shapes into a perfect cube. No one would think of sitting him down in a classroom with a chalkboard and telling him ‘learn this’, at least not at that age. But the game taught him to figure out the rules for himself through patient trial and error. In the same way this simple game taught my nephew basics geometry concepts, colors, and how to follow rules, games can also teach us how to set personal goals, create social bonds and socialize, and learn to navigate in a world that is mostly unknown. Read More »

News: REDD+ Transaction Costs and Games for a New Climate

Climate Change Workshops For Policy MakersIn continuation with the SimPachamama launch month at INESAD, this week has seen a number of articles published around the topics of gaming, deforestation and climate change:

What would it cost to implement deforestation reduction policies in Bolivia?

By Ioulia Fenton

In conjunction with its partners, the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD) has designed statistical tools, using extensive real life data, to simulate what kinds of policies are likely to make a measurable impact on reducing deforestation while maximizing human wellbeing in Bolivia. As the “How to Live Well in Bolivia” infographic released by INESAD earlier this month illustrates, two policies working in tandem are predicted to have the best results. An internal US$450 tax on every hectare of cleared forest, structured in a way as to mainly affect large-scale commercial agriculture, could raise one billion dollars every four years and kick start deforestation reduction efforts. While laudable on its own, the policy would not be enough. A matching system of payments from rich countries to Bolivia for reducing deforestation that would raise an additional one billion dollars every two years is predicted to act as a catalyst. If the money is then spent on paying people to conserve their forests, on creating green jobs (such as within the eco-tourism sector), and financing anti-poverty initiatives, every year, together, the dual policy effort is forecast to engage 72 percent of the rural population, increase the income of the poor who participate by 29 percent, and achieve a 29 percent reduction in deforestation. (Play the SimPachamama simulation game to see if you can keep forests standing while making the community happy and wealthy). Read More »

Games for a New Climate: It’s time to take games more seriously!

Tracey LiLeelo en español AQUÍ SpanishFlag

By Tracey Li

This month saw the release of INESAD’s SimPachamama game. This is an educational simulation game, designed to teach the user about the deforestation and human wellbeing challenges associated with rural development in Bolivian forest communities. Being freely available online, it can be accessed and played by a large number of people.

However, more traditional ‘low-tech’, face-to-face games can also have a powerful reach: in recent years, many large non-government organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross have co-designed multiple participatory games. Facilitators from these organizations then take the games to several countries over the world, where they are used as educational and/or training tools in workshops. Read More »

Concussion Slayer and Four Other Games Making a Real Difference

Half the sky the game

By Angelina Gherardelli

‘Serious games’ are games with a purpose that go beyond sole entertainment by aiming to educate, inspire, or even change certain real world behaviors of its players. ‘Games for good’ or ‘games for change’ focus specifically on creating social change.

The movement is widespread and—as witnessed by the last three months alone—it is gathering momentum. In May, Crete (Greece) welcomed the first international workshop on Intelligent Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion; Paris followed with a Games for Change Europe Festival in June; and August brought together the leaders of the serious games industry for a Serious Play Conference near Seattle. The study and development of serious games started spreading in the last decade thanks to the increased understanding of the enormous potential gaming has as learning tool —as explained in the article published on Development Roast Learning to Play and Playing to Learn— and as an instrument of social change. Here five games that in the last three years have demonstrated that gaming can actually change real world behavior. Read More »

Can games contribute to academic research on land use and forestry?

Diana WeinholdBy Diana Weinhold

Academic research on land use and deforestation generally tries to uncover the underlying reasons for people’s and companies’ actions on the environment. For example, academics may investigate the impact of road building on agricultural expansion, how property rights change land clearing, or how agricultural labor supply affects cropping patterns.

Simulation exercises like SimPachamama (whether or not in a ‘game’ form), however, essentially work like thought experiments – if the world worked like this, what would happen if we did that.  As such, a simulation cannot answer fundamental questions of causality: what caused what. But what they can do is allow us to consider some possible outcomes of complex interactions between all the factors considered important (see Ben Groom’s piece for more information). In other words, given that academic research has found these causal relationships to be important, how would we expect the economy and environment to evolve over time under different policy choices? The outcomes from such an exercise should thus not be considered a scientific forecast, and presenting the simulation as a game is thus useful for framing the results as what they are – a hypothetical outcome from a hypothetical economy, albeit one based on current academic scholarship. Read More »

The challenges of reducing deforestation and how scientific simulations can help

Ben GroomBy Ben Groom

To try to begin to save what’s left of the world’s forests it is important to first ask: Who deforests and why? While this varies considerably in different contexts, some broad patterns exist. Loggers and farmers or cattle ranchers are the ‘actors’ that typically clear forests, but what they do to their land is determined by the political and economic systems that they find themselves in: the prevailing institutions, markets and policies. Chief among the institutional determinants are property rights: that is who owns the rights to the land and timber and how this ownership is regulated and enforced. Of the many economic determinants, the nature of land markets, local labor markets, and migration in and out of the locale are key. Where institutions are weak and markets fail to reflect the full economic value of standing forest cause for concern is warranted. Read More »

Can Games Influence Development Policy? SimPachamama in the news

SimPachamamaCoverPageSmallOn September 01, 2013, Americas Quarterly magazine published an article by INESAD’s Ioulia Fenton on whether or not games can influence development policy. Read the original article here.

Can Games Influence Development Policy?

By Ioulia Fenton

Often referred to as “games for good” or “games for change,” a new generation of socially- and environmentally-oriented online simulation games aims to go beyond entertainment by raising awareness of global issues and securing funds for projects—making a real-word difference.

Over 10 million people worldwide have played World Food Programme’s (WFP) “Food Force,” for example, spending money that goes to fund WFP-sponsored school meals projects. However, few simulations have been useful at the policy-making level—until now. Today marks the release of “SimPachamama,” a new game from Bolivia that could influence international, national and local-level policy decisions that affect forest communities. Read More »


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