IMPACT: Learning Edition | A Game to Engage in Futures Thinking

Voices from the Field   01 December 2021
By Maria Romero, KnowlegdeWorks


Why did you create IMPACT: Learning Edition?

KnowledgeWorks is always looking for new and fresh ways to talk about the future of learning. We believe that to better prepare our societies and ourselves for what might emerge, more people need to engage deeply in futures thinking.

That’s what IMPACT: Learning Edition is all about.

What is IMPACT: Learning Edition?

IMPACT: Learning Edition is a strategic foresight game designed to help people imagine and think critically about emerging changes that could impact the future of learning. Three to five players can take on distinct characters, each with their own role, values, and hopes for the future. 

Players connect with avatars like Ayren Batiste, our “most likely to become president” high-school learner, who pursues STEM learning experiences and work experiences aligned with his career hopes; and Pat Li, a non-binary learning journey mentor who guides and supports learners to design and enact pathways through a focus on balancing healthy bodies, minds, and relationships. They, and other personas, compete to create a world where their future role is relevant and secure.


Each world includes 10 domains that affect learning:

Players pursue their preferred futures by putting influence cubes on domain cards. Impact and disruption cards influence the number of cubes on specific domains, stalling or accelerating change.

IMPACT: Learning Edition sparks insightful conversations and reflections about education change-making. It will help players understand how the decisions they are making today could shape the future—not just for one person but for everyone. The game also introduces players to systems thinking, a critical skill for grappling with change across different domains and challenges in life.

Maria, as you’ve tested the game with different groups, are there any gameplay stories that stand out?

I was a big fan of how Rasheda Cromwell, Senior Director of Community Strategies at Greater Cincinnati Foundation, summarized the game experience: “This thought-provoking game ignites your critical thinking skills as the game’s twists and turns remind players that the decisions you make today determine the stories you tell tomorrow—not just for yourself, but for your entire community. So be prepared to think on your feet as every move ends in a news headliner that impacts other players!”

I was also struck when Michael Wright of Unfiltered Gamer expected to be able to read and play out the impact and disruption cards, but “was surprised how much debate and discussion that [gameplay] entailed. This sparked a lot of conversation.”

By exploring cause-and-effect relationships across social, cultural, and technological domains, players have discovered the sources of unintended consequences; identified and anticipated possible consequences of future events; and synthesized ways in which future consequences might interact.

And, that is the kind of thing that serious games can do because they are fun and entertaining, but they have ulterior motives: they aim to teach players something. In IMPACT: Learning Edition, players get to interact with possibilities for the future of learning that are the result of over two years of strategic foresight research. Jessica Fuller, Director of Project Development and Operations at Reschool Colorado, shared with me after playing: “Games are a really effective way to create space for folks to approach issues in education creatively and through a different lens. It is great to see another tool out there!”

What difference do you hope this game will make for those who play it?

IMPACT: Learning Edition can help us reach audiences that we could never have dreamed of reaching before because it is more accessible and affordable.

IMPACT: Learning Edition can also be a container for bigger conversations. As a result of playing, we hope players feel more comfortable talking about challenges and threads in a hypothetical game world because there are lower stakes at play—or they might empathize with those in different roles or with different values because they got to play through the eyes and actions of this persona or avatar. Players are also encouraged to bring their own lived experiences and context to the conversation, which provides a more tailored and relatable experience altogether.

As we work to co-create the future of learning, we know it will take all of us working together to engage in futures thinking. We hope IMPACT: Learning Edition supports the generation of new ideas, systems thinking, and opportunities to connect with others on this journey, contributing to what is possible.

Education Reimagined team members played the game and shared their thoughts:

“One thing that struck me about the game was that when you got a card announcing a disruption in a particular area of life, our natural inclination is to only see the negative impacts, but in this game, you are challenged to see the positive outcomes of disruptions and what it could mean for learning.” —Kelly Young, Founder and President

“Through role-playing, the game naturally attunes players to see the greater system you are operating within, so each gain or loss might be viewed as an opportunity. I could imagine how over time, this ‘systems’ way of thinking would naturally lead to more holistic approaches to solving community-wide issues leading to stronger, more resilient communities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to empower not just young people in their learning but all people with this way of seeing into the future?” —Monica Snellings, Vice President of Communications

“The game gave us the opportunity to play together in the domains of civic life, climate and environment, community and culture, and more. What better way to explore, learn, and bring a newly imagined future into the present? It felt like we were building our shared muscles of compassion, empathy, and communication.” —Bobbi Macdonald, Senior Partner for Ecosystem Growth & Advancement

New resources and news on The Big Idea!


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