Thursday, March 17, 2022

For Food Biosystems Doctoral Training Programme

Policy makers invoke the term “Food systems” as a way of framing the holistic and complex inter-dependencies, impacts, and outcomes that food production and consumption entail. Many current food challenges, such as malnutrition or climate change adaptation, require an interdisciplinary and intersect-oral approach in order to generate effective interventions. However, there are challenges in operationalising such a holistic perspective – particularly when we consider that any given person has limited insights into the bigger picture. How then do we understand other people’s experience of food systems?  How do we negotiate between and advocate for different food policies – especially when there are limited resources, different perspectives, and high stakes?

Games and role play activities can help participants to see the world from other people’s perspective, while also presenting opportunities to reflect on our own worldviews and opinions. This reflexive interplay between self and other can help to better model and understand different arguments and behaviors. This in turn can reduce interpersonal conflict and suggest a range of novel engagement strategies.

PlayDecide card game was chosen for a three-hour interactive stakeholder role play session through which participants:

  • Gained an overview of food systems thinking and literacy
  • Gained insights into group negotiation processes
  • Reflected on the implications for food policy of there being a diversity of actors and perspectives within food systems.

The game gave students an insight on understanding food systems and the thinking process behind them, while allowing them to communicate through role-play and discussion and cultivate empathy for different experiences, perspectives, and worldviews.


Dr Harley Pope formatted, edited, and led the game, with the help from Prof Rosalind Cornforth, Dr Ross Fairgrieve, Gerard Stewart (Walker Institute) and Konstantina Pratta (Walker Academy) who all functioned as Facilitators during the game.

27 students from the Food Biosystems Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) were enrolled in the game, 25 of whom participated, including students from University of Reading, Cranfield University, University of Surrey, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, and Brunel University London.


15 out of the 25 participants completed evaluation forms.

Eighty-six percent of students were overall satisfied with the game with 11 out of 15 students commenting that the quality of discussions and dialogue of the immersive game was very good and 13 out of 15 adding that they have found the quality of the teaching material and the administration of the game very satisfactory.

“It has helped me further realize the importance of policies in my work and the weight they’ll have in its potential industrial applications. It’s good to see my project from the eyes of other scientists and listen to other opinions on the matter.”

 “I will be able to view wants and needs from my partnering company easier and will push my research to a more applied solution for as many people as possible rather than solely focusing on a research perspective.”

 “Definitely enlightened me to a lot of things when it comes to policies, and the feelings of the general public to new technologies.”

 Everyone at the Walker Academy was thrilled to be given the opportunity to conduct this game with the Food Biosystems DTP students.

If you would like to register your interest in future Walker Academy courses, please email us on