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Informality Game: Introduction

You are a CEO/ public official stationed in a country known for its systemic corruption. Your background and past international experience from where you worked in the past ten years did not prepare you for the daily exposure to corrupt environment. You have colleagues who can share their views and local consultants to explain things, but you need to develop sensitivity to the context you find yourself in.

Your initial contract to stay in [Tanzania, Russia, Kazakhstan etc.] is for three years. Your family is with you and you know they also have exposure and shock from the ways things work. On the one hand, in your leadership role, you are driven to maintain the DFID agenda and zero tolerance principles, and to make a difference. On the other hand, you hear from colleagues that nothing much can be done because of the overwhelming presence of social norms, unwritten rules and informal practices that effectively block reforms and do not allow for long-term changes.

As a new appointee, you want to generate change and increase short-term impact, but also build your leadership integrity and be successful in the long run. You will have points assessing your effectiveness in achieving your short-term goals, so you aim to score as much as possible. However, your leadership style and integrity might suffer as a consequence of effectiveness.


For example, you might benefit from competitive advantage in a short-term, but suffer the consequences in the longer term. The points you receive for leadership can increase or decrease, which is reflected by movement forward or backwards on the board. This board game places you in a variety of contexts and exposes you to the complexity of the local knowledge. It trains you for learning the context- specific lessons, understanding the role of unanticipated factors, and making complex decisions.

Balancing the short-term effectiveness and long-term integrity in a rich-context environment and the ability to reflect on the compromises one has to make in systemically corrupt environments serves to devise protective policies and to enhance the effectiveness of policy-making on the ground.

The game has three periods (full board cycles), with each period corresponding to one year. Every time you pass “Start” you receive extra points for experience. The game lasts until the first player to complete three circuits of the board does so, after which any players who have not had their turn yet during this round get to roll the dice a final time so that, when the game is over, each player has had the same number of turns. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner. The game can be played individually (to develop the sense of complexity of individual decision-making) and then collectively, in order to facilitate the articulation and discussions of dilemmas, surrounding the sensitive issues around corruption.

Throughout the game you will have to deal with difficult situations that are presented on the board by coloured cards. These situations aim to represent the complexity of the context and fall into four categories:

  • ‘Cases’ (neutral colour) that require you to think strategically and make multiple-choice decisions

  • ‘Mini-cases’ that require you to confront different aspects of the local context: government and regulations (red), PR and networks (yellow), markets and conflicts of interest (green), and people and internal governance (grey).

  • ‘Pure chance” (blue) in which uncontrollable events have positive or negative impact on your leadership.

  • ‘Lessons learned’ (neutral colour) in which you receive specific pieces of advice about doing business in this particular country.


You will be competing against other players who will find themselves in similar situations. Players take turns to roll the dice and move their markers along by the number of spaces indicated by the dice. Each situation you encounter may result in positive or negative points and may cause you to move forwards or backwards on the board.

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