Becoming politically informed is often difficult to do even in ideal situations and with proper resources. Information can be complex and confusing, and sometimes bland and boring. For people living in countries governed by corrupt leaders, being politically informed is even more difficult. How can one know the ongoings of their government if they cannot properly identify corrupt actions? This becomes exceedingly difficult when citizens face corruption in everyday life, as well as political settings.
Paolo Rivas, a political scientist living in Peru, began to notice the lack of awareness regarding corruption after working in public institutions. To combat this issue, he developed a new, innovative, and fun way to engage people in complex information regarding politics and everyday corruption in his home country.
Peru was listed at 85 out of 175 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Index for 2014, and was tied with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. It’s score is only 38 out of 100, with zero representing a very high corruption level.
Education Through Gamification
Rivas’s project, titled FAENÓN: a 3D Quest to Understand Politics, is a game that helps people learn about, and recognize, corruption in politics. It has a “learning by doing” approach that helps students recognize their own political actions, have the ability to make better informed decisions, and recognize corruption within political activity; it also aims to help create better informed citizens that will actively work towards combatting corruption, as it has negative effects on the everyday life of the general public.
FAENÓN is set up as a reality-based game board game where players simulate real-life situations. Its setting is in a made-up country, where players must interact with a president and governmental advisors as they are handling national issues that conflict with private interests that conflict. Players must negotiate with each other, and the fictional characters, in order to win. To be successful within the game, one must show political awareness, make informed, legal decisions, and not show favoritism; essentially, they must act as an ideal politician, free of corrupt influences.
The game is designed to simulate reality and convey a high degree of realism, which makes it innovative and adaptable to real-life. It shows players how their decisions, and the decisions of politicians, can effect everyday life both positively and negatively (although the emphasis is on the negative effects of corruption). By participating in the game, players will come away with a sense of what corruption is, how to identify it within political situations, and how it affects daily life. Ideally, players will have an understanding of political systems, and then remain politically engaged and be able to make informed decisions that will combat corruption in all levels of government.
Importance of Becoming Politically-Aware
Rivas wanted to create a way to fight corruption after seeing how easily it can thrive in a political setting when the general public is disengaged from governmental decisions. If the general public is not informed about their political rights, or their country’s political climate, then they are less likely to pay attention and notice corrupt activities that hinder their everyday lives, and even less likely to take action.
“What has really changed my perspective on corruption is realizing how a lack of citizen engagement can significantly affect the overall performance of our public institutions, decrease awareness of the importance of fighting corruption and deteriorate the legitimacy of our democratic regimes,” he said in his project application for the International Anti-Corruption Conference. “A disengaged public makes it easy for corrupt leaders to get away with their actions and, therefore, increases the possibilities of dealing with corrupt public officers.”
Rivas believes that out-of-the-box thinking is key when it comes to education regarding corruption. From his experience working in public institutions, he is aware that corruption can take multiple forms, and that the general public is often unable to recognize them all. Formal education surrounding corruption is often unavailable, or difficult to understand, so new, innovative and simple information needs to be easily conveyed in order for citizens to gain an understanding and fight back.
His project is targeted at high-school students, so they will learn about corruption, and be prepared for various scenarios, before facing them in the real-world as active adult citizens. Rivas is collaborating with two local economists — Italo Raul Orihuela and Giacomo Giorgio Canepa — and the San Ignacio de Loyola University to carry out this project.
FAENÓN was one of three finalists in the 2014 Social Entrepreneurs Initiative for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region contest. As a winner, Rivas will receive funding to help kick-start his project and make it a reality.
More detailed information about the project can be found here.