International Negotiations and unfair resource distribution

Time taken: 30 minutes to play and at least 15 minutes for reflection. 

Equipment: About 80 sweets (small, individually wrapped, variety to suit all tastes)

This game is designed to simulate international negotiations. It is based on "Prisoners Dilema" type experiments from economics. 

Participants first need to be split into unequal groups, with unequal quantities of sweets given to each group. With 16 participants we divided it up as follows:

Group number

Number of members

Number of sweets

1

7

5

2

4

8

3

3

1

4

2

11

The group receive their sweets in variety pack boxes (could use other boxes but these are an ideal size, which they also use to secretly play their sweets.

Explain that you are going to distribute a number of sweets to each group. They should keep their sweets secret and not discuss anything with other groups. In each round, the group will need to decide how many sweets to share (they put these into their box and place the box in the centre of the room). However many sweets are shared will be doubled and divided equally between the groups, but any sweets that a group holds onto they can keep for themselves. Each round a new rule will be added. 

Rounds:

  1. The number of sweets everyone has is secret; However many sweets the groups decide to share will be doubled and shared out equally (simple rules).
  2. As with the previous round, but each group can send a negotiator to discuss with the other negotiators how many sweets each group should share. Questions the negotiator should discuss with their group beforehand:
  • Are they going to tell the others how many sweets they have?
  • How will they persuade the other groups to share their sweets?
  • How many sweets are the group willing to share? 

When the negotiator returns to their group to explain the deal, the group must still decide whether they are going to comply with the agreement made by the negotiators. 

3. As with previous round but a threshold is introduced. This will be equivalent to roughly half of the sweets in play. If they do not reach the threshold, the sweets will not be distributed. 

4. Reveal how many sweets each group has. See if any group wants to donate sweets to a poorer group.

5. Play another round of the game, with everyone knowing how many sweets all others have (same rules as round 3) 

6. This time it is entirely open. Get into a circle, don’t use the boxes and each group knows how many sweets the other groups are putting in. The participants may put sweets in or take them out of the middle according to what the other players are doing, but the facilitator counts down from 10, and the sweets left in the middle on 10 will be the ones that are doubled and shared. 

You can also make up other rounds with additional rules. Use the comment box below to tell others if particular rules work. One I would like to try is to allow migration of people between groups in one round. 

Reflection:

  • How well does this reflect international negotiations? Is it a model for anything else?
  • Which countries do you think the different groups were behaving like?
  • What strategies can be adopted to get people to co-operate? Probably the participants will be trying to make those who do not co-operate feel guilty, but what else could be done?
  • Did negotiation help people co-operate more or less?
  • Did openness help people co-operate more or less?
  • How many sweets would you have had if nobody had co-operated? How many if everybody had co-operated?