Gamechangers Uganda

by Ben Parkinson in Koro Road

We did it
On 18th August 2017 we successfully raised £3,171 with 165 supporters in 21 days

Bringing boardgames to rural communities in Northern Uganda, through developing regular clubs and teaching young people how to teach others.

by Ben Parkinson in Koro Road

 New stretch target

This stretch target is to start to deliver regular weekly boardgame clubs in both Gulu and in Koro on Saturdays and Sundays.  It will require transportation of staff and children to Koro,  drinks and biscuits for attendees, support for staff time, perhaps some acquisition of some omweso and chess sets to complement the boardgames we have.

We will allocate £150/month for these costs, so I am requesting, that this cover the period of October to March 2018.  If we don't make the target, then we will run the clubs less frequently and still try to last until the May Convention.

Gamechangers is something new which will demonstrate the power of boardgames to teach young people new skills, help them gain in confidence and show them they can solve problems on their own or in effective teams.

If we can find support for the project, then our aim is to develop a springboard for boardgame clubs in Northern Uganda, with an aim to set up two regularly playing clubs at our centre in Koro and in Gulu town, which can be a conduit for circulating new games and hubs for budding game designers in Uganda.

We know that there is an incredible enthusiasm for boardgames following the event we ran last May - the Uganda Village Boardgame Convention.  Children walked 10km each way to be there, early morning and through the evenings and every day there was a queue of new gameplayers looking for transport to the venue.  Thanks to all of those who supported this brilliant convention and I hope we will be able to run something similar again next year!

Gamechangers builds on what we learnt in May and will make next year's event run even more smoothly, as it will give those children that attended a chance to play more new boardgames between now and next May.

For the Gamechangers launch we are going to work on four different areas:

  • Competitive and Co-operative boardgames
  • Drama, to teach the value of boardgames
  • Art arena cooperation games
  • Active and teambuilding games
  • Story-collecting for new games and adventures

Competitive and co-operative boardgames are important , because children like to win.  Omweso is one of Uganda's most favourite games and there are many championships that take place throughout the country.  It is a game of similar ilk to Mancala, which the Five Tribes modern boardgame is loosely based on and the moving of beads, beads, stones has the same feel as moving pieces around on a board.  Usually, the game is played without a board, with small pits dug out from the dust, which Uganda is famous for.

All boardgames have some significant educational benefit and these can be split into the following areas:

  • Academic - Maths, English, especially.  Both of these subjects are crucial to village children's performance at school.  Maths teaching is notoriously poor in village areas and English is not even taught until Year 6, a year before the children have to take their exams, which enable them to move into secondary school.  It is not easy for them to catch up in Maths, if they have missed early schooling, but a confidence can go a long way in learning maths.
  • Social skills and co-operation.  In a world which is becoming introspective, selfish and technology-focused, young people are growing up tied into mobile phones or other gadgets.  Even village children are magnetised towards this technology and in doing so, they lose some of their uniqueness in the modern world.  Our research also shows that villages are not as co-operative as perhaps you might expect and there is thus significant opportunity to foster co-operation, whilst children are still young.  Their memories of winning games Legends of Andor and Forbidden island through co-operation will stay with them into adulthood.
  • Planning ahead.  Many who live in village or other poverty-stricken areas live on a day to day basis.  Saving is rare, as expenses usually outstrip ability to pay and thus money received is most often paid out as soon as it is received.  Therefore planning games, like Agricola, present children with new thinking and concepts.  Worker placement games give them options, which they may not be used to.  Resource management games give them a chance to prioritise.  Cash management games like Power Grid give them money to work with, which really has impact on them and they really enjoy handling cash.
  • Learning about the world.  Village-based children have little opportunity to learn about the outside and some argue that it isn't important for them to know, when their future lies in farming land.  Boardgames like Pandemic place the children as world problem-solvers.  Even Ticket to Ride, which they really enjoy, shows them that they are part of a world and inspires them to think of themselves as international citizens, as they must, if they are to reach their potential.  Other games, like Mombasa, Congo, Puerto Rico or even London, teach them how people live in different countries and this can help inform them about a direction for their own life.
  • Creativity.  The amount of latent artistic ability locked up in villages is immeasurable.  We have so many times discovered new artists with incredible talent living in remote villages, yet they have never painted, nor even used coloured pencils.  This talent needs to be nurtured and encouraged and artistic children really enjoy the creativity of modern boardgames like Ingenious.   We believe that this will spur them into artistic careers and in time I believe we will see artists and graphic designers living and working in these villages.
  • Confidence-building.  Gaining new skills, seeing oneself as a Ugandan, but an international citizen, winning as an individual or as a team in a co-operative game, understanding how to play more and more new games, having a strategy work, developing a secret strategy for winning, having others congratulate (or even be angry at) you for good plays in a game helps build confidence.  In a village, children may be cared for but not respected for their abilities and this makes it more difficult for them to become confident.  Cosmic Encounter is a great game where you will almost certainly win one battle in the game and you can develop a new strategy every game you play.

However, not everyone recognises the above and in Uganda drama is often used in village areas to communicate the benefits of changing behaviour.  Boardgames are often associated with gambling and parents are concerned that their children do not become involved in such things, squandering what little money the household may have.  

We are going to take a team to develop a boardgame drama, which can be acted out in new communities by our teams of young people.  They will decide on how to put the ideas across and then spend time during the Gamechangers programme over a few days perfecting their acting and learning their words.  When complete, they can visit local communities in Koro and in Gulu and perform it, which will help gain more support for the boardgame clubs, which we are planning to set up as part of this programme.

This drama will also be put onto a video, which can then be used in other locations where the drama group cannot attend.

Chrysalis believes very strongly in art as a means to express ideas and creativity.  We are going to use the Art Arena Games model to create some large art pieces, linked to specific boardgames.  Each day we will gather a group of artists and produce a different picture, based on a different game.

Art Arena was designed in the 1960s by art educator Don Pavey.  His work with gifted and talented and disabled children was ground-breaking, as he used games to show children how to co-operate with each other to create the best end products.  Their experience in the process was magnified when they could see the final result and they voted themselves to decide whether they had co-operated well enough to create an excellent painting.

 In Art Arena, there are teams and each team takes responsibility for a different theme within the whole.  For instance, in one of the games, Spaghetti Junction, the teams were planning a town and each one was responsible for a different part of the town, whether it be roads, railways, parks, residential buildings or something else.    Each team must first design their plans for the towns, then in small sections they are awarded planning permission by a central planning team.  This is representative of some of the decisions made in a game like Suburbia, which we play regularly on our tablet at the Chrysalis Centre.  

For the Gamechangers event, we will choose three games from our collection - perhaps RoboRally,  Agricola and Cosmic Encounter - see the mini-example above.  Part of the fun of the process will be enabling the children to set the rules of the painting and choose the themes of the teams, not so different from some of the decisions that game designers need to make when creating new games, so we intend to foster this idea in a slightly simpler but dramatic setting of an art mural.  We'll be posting some smaller versions of what we plan here, when they are done.  More information on Art Arena games can be found here.

Not all children will engage with board games, but virtually all can engage with play and active games.   We will have a team of young people, who will be teaching new active and party games to children that come to the centre, so they will go home having learnt at least two new games they can play at home with little or no equipment.  Physical games are fun and children look forward to them whenever they take part in more serious activities.  It is easier to teach them more complex games, if they know there will be an active game coming or one that they have already played.

Village Boardgame Convention joint founder, Beckham, is planning to go on a story-collecting mission.  Uganda's rural areas are a rich source of stories and legends, which have been handed down from generation to generation, yet few outside these areas know of these adventures.

 The Programme for the event will be as follows:

Day 1 - Travel to Koro with 16 young changemakers

Chrysalis trains young people to be social entrepreneurs (Butterfly Project) and this event will be practical experience for their skills.  These children are 12-15 years old and whom have been living in Kampala with us since February, during which time we have been training them.  Each will be allocated to one of the four categories above - Boardgames, drama, art or active games and will have developed activities which they can deliver effectively.

Day 2-5 - Gamechangers Day 1-4 

Every day we will deliver each of the four activity themes with all of the participating children and youth (8-16).  There will be 16 boardgamers from the Uganda Village Boardgame Convention who will stay over at the site and they will buddy with our young Butterfly trainees.  We will work with these young people teaching them new boardgames and set up a rotating system where all the boardgames can be played from each Club location.

There will also be attending about 25 children who live locally to our Koro Centre, who will be participating in all activities.

We will be supporting each attendee with lunch and evening meal and breakfast, if they stay overnight.

Day 6 - Changemaker group departs back to Kampala

Day 7 and onwards - Boardgame Club Development 

The adult team in Gulu will deliver the Boardgame Club in Gulu and in Koro for the next six months, working with the youth that we trained at the Gamechangers Launch.  We will need to find space in Gulu for the club to take place.  We may need a stretch goal to cover these costs until next year, when the Convention will take place.

Budget Breakdown

Travel to and from Gulu - £300

Accommodation food and bedding for participants (Approx 60 people for 4-6 days) - £550

Resources for activities - £100

Storytelling trip - £100

TOTAL - £1050

Stretch goal

To include the development of the ongoing boardgame groups - details to follow.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£10 or more

£10 Reward

We will add your name to the Gamechangers Founders list on our web-site

£25 or more

£25 Reward

We will send you a special thank you photo from the participating kids with your name and add you to the Founders' list

£50 or more

£50 Reward

We'll add your name at the end of the event video as a special Founder member and all previous rewards.

£100 or more

3 of 20 claimed

£100 Reward

We'll write your name on one of our boardgames used in the boardgame clubs - donated by ,"your name here" and all previous rewards

£250 or more

£250 Reward

We'll send you a framed photo of the event signed by the kids, with the Gamechangers logo and your name. Add also all previous rewards!

Got an idea like this?

Over £200 million has been raised from our crowd to support the projects they love! Plus tens of millions more unlocked by our partners.