SDG Cities Card Games: Playful ways to build sustainability

In the last three years, SDG Cities have been engaging with organizations and groups across sectors including schools, local governments, businesses, nonprofits and investors.

We noticed that there is an increasing awareness about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). People recognize the icons and have a general understanding of what the SDGs are. But that understanding usually stays at a very surface level.

That is not surprising, when people hear something like this as an introduction:

“The SDGs, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 global goals encompass social, economic and environmental dimensions and they require a whole-of-society approach.”

They can appreciate the importance of the SDGs but at the same time, it can sound too complex and overwhelming. Making it difficult to connect the SDGs to their work and local reality. That is why we designed the SDG Cities Card Game. A simple and fun way to introduce the SDGs to your organization or group, get a deeper understanding and find meaningful ways to integrate the SDGs into your work .

The SDG Cities Card Game is a set of 72 cards (4 for each of the 17 SDGs + 4 blank ones for you to add your own theme) where you can discover each one of the goals, explore some of their sub-themes and learn how well Canada is doing.

We started using the card game with undergraduate students from different programs at Western University. Philosophy, business, and political science are some examples of classes where we invited students to connect the topics they were studying with other issues that might seem unrelated at first sight. Playing the game helped them in their assignments of writing articles about sustainable topics or creating proposals for a sustainable food system at the university.

“I always heard about wicked problems and how things are interconnected, but playing the [SDG Cities Card] game was the first time I could actually understand what that means.”

-Undergrad Student

During public events and fairs, the card game was a great icebreaker to introduce the SDGs to a general audience. Besides being an educational resource and raising awareness, the card game is a helpful planning tool for organizations. We have used it during meetings or workshops to help teams identify priorities, explore partnerships, promote shared understanding, and evaluate alignment between programming and strategic goals.

“Reading the sub-themes was super helpful to ground the SDGs into something more tangible for me.”

-Nonprofit worker

“The way we played the [SDG Cities Card] game pushed me to look for connections where I wasn’t expecting them. That completely changed how we think about our strategic priorities.” 

-Board member

Even though the SDG Cities Card Game supports the SDGs as a whole, there are a couple of specific SDG targets that are directly related to this resource.

You can find more information about the game in the resource library on our website and download the instructions with the list of cards. There you will find four suggested ways to play the game. From Go SDGs, played as a basic Go Fish game to other variants that we designed ourselves such as Interconnections, Perceptions and Priorities. You can play the SDG Cities Card Game with two people or with a large group with dozens of people.

Let us know if you want to give it a try and I hope you have fun while advancing your SDG journey!