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Geography students engage in charged “Trade and Development” game

by Sakina Ruzieva, Year 9

On the return to school after the long, World Cup holiday, Year 9 students did something unique - the world trade and development game. This involved using “resources” to create “products” to earn “money” for the various teams. The twist? Not everyone started on equal footing. Here, Year 9 student Sakina Ruzieva provides an excellent account of the event, from a competitor’s perspective. Her engaging story will certainly explain the animated expressions in the photos!

The main objective was to create as many paper shapes as possible within an hour, and to trade them into the bank for money. It seemed easy and straightforward enough at first… Before the game started, we were randomly assigned our groups just from our position in the line. Just as people have no choice of what country they are born in, we had no clue what these groupings would mean as we waited for the game to start. When the game did begin, we read through the rules, which seemed simple enough, and then went through the contents of our box. Groups A, B and C each had a different set of supplies to start with, ranging from abundant to scarce.

We were in the C2 group, representing a low-income country (LIC), and we started with three sheets of paper, two pencils and $200. To make the shapes to trade into the bank, we needed to cut them to exact dimensions, but we had no way of measuring or cutting. After realising we had to trade for supplies, we attempted to do so, but to no avail. The A groups already had everything needed: paper, all the tools and $600. They were representing developed countries; these countries would start with lots of money and already have the necessary natural resources and manufacturing tools to make even more money, while the poorer countries were stuck with next to nothing.

The B groups at least had bargaining materials in the form of lots of paper and special paper - rare resources - which I assumed would increase the value of the shapes sold, though since our group never used this, I didn't know the specifics. Before we knew it, 30 minutes had passed and we had made no progress at all. Even though they had more than enough, the other groups did not want to trade and demanded extortionate prices like $500 and two sheets of paper in exchange for a two-minute use of a stencil or scissors. The shapes had different values, like products in the real world, and their prices in the bank fluctuated for unknown reasons, but in the real world it could be supply and demand.

Around this halfway mark, the price of the circle increased, making it the most valuable shape. Getting a compass would be very important now, but the groups holding them knew that too. Then, the price of the circle further increased to $1,000, while the rectangle and the triangle plummeted to $50. We managed to obtain a set square to draw triangles, but still had no scissors. We had still made nothing; this was very frustrating and felt unfair. At some point, Groups A was forced to lend group C a pair of scissors for three minutes, and one of our members tried her hardest to cut out all our triangles, but alas, the bank rejected them for being mere millimetres off-shape.

Time was running out and we still had nothing. Increasingly exasperated, we accepted our losses as the time started to run out, we had absolutely nothing. A famine occurred late-game, causing us to lose a total of $700, putting us in debt to the bank, rubbing salt into the wound by putting us in an even worse situation than when we started. Again, this is reflected in the real world where the LICs (low-income countries) are hit hardest by disasters, since they have very limited resources to try and cope, while the developed nations can provide adequate support to their citizens.

The game drew to an end and we came in last place with a negative balance. Interestingly, in one of the other worlds, a C group managed to outperform one of the A groups; an impressive development, both because Group C group actually managed to profit, and because Group A somehow lost more than they made, even with the huge starting advantage (perhaps they were incredibly generous, which led to their downfall?)



Sakina Ruzieva, Year 9

This game was thought-provoking a reality check, highlighting the unfairness of the world. The rich take the advantage to make even more for themselves, while in our group we felt that it would take pretty much a miracle to make any kind of progress. The game reminded us of the importance of the global sustainability goals, and how these should underpin all actions of world leaders, activists, and young people who will influence tomorrow’s landscape.