Interview with Thao Do on BONUS RETURN - a EU funded project to support the Baltic Sea


Research assistant Thao Do facilitating a BONUS RETURN workshop in Uppsala, Sweden 28 October 2019.
Photo: Brenda Ochola 

Interview with Thao Do, research assistant and project coordinator within the EU-funded project called BONUS RETURN.

Can you please tell us what this project is about?

BONUS RETURN is an inter- and transdisciplinary research project focusing on identifying, assessing and scaling constellations of eco-technologies that have the capacity to turn nutrients and carbon into benefits in the Baltic Sea region. The project brings together six partners from different countries, and enacts a co-inquiry process with a variety of stakeholders – local and national authorities, academics, policymakers, businesses, investors, innovators and civil society into opportunities for innovative eco-technologies capable of generating co-benefits for multiple sectors at different scales.

What is the key challenges and opportunities?

The key challenge in this project is the interdisciplinary nature of the consortium made up of multiple disciplines that often have divergent approaches and methodologies to conducting research. Disciplinary barriers between project researchers have made it challenging to integrate and synthesize different findings, and achieve a coherent understanding of the project’s direction. The encounter of diverse interests and practices has constantly required considerable negotiation and deliberation over different aspects of the project.

On the other hand, BONUS RETURN brought us a great opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders from different sectors and organisations in a truly engaging and co-learning process to co-produce knowledge that can have a great impact in real- world contexts.

What is SWEDESD’s role within the project?

Our role is to design and facilitate co-learning processes between the project researchers and a diverse group of stakeholders through the development of a Serious Game System (SGS). The SGS serves as a collaborative and exploratory space to support stakeholders with the identification, selection and implementation of eco-technologies that can both reduce nutrient emissions to the Baltic Sea and reconcile interconnected challenges. SWEDESD has been working in close collaboration with the Department of Game Design in this process.

You have recently been busy hosting two workshops in Uppsala and Helsinki. Could you please tell us a little bit about that and what was happening?

Yes, the workshops were part of our SGS iterative development process in the BONUS RETURN project. During the workshop in Uppsala on 28 October, a group of stakeholders from three case studies in Sweden, Finland, and Poland, were invited to playtest and co-develop some of the aspects of the SGS in the format of a board game.

Workshop participants exploring Serious Games at Uppsala University. Photo: Brenda Ochola 

This session was highly interactive, as we were exploring how different constellations of eco-technologies perform in relation to the disaster risks and threats that the Baltic Sea region is facing.

We have also organised another Serious Game System workshop in Helsinki on 13 December with focus on how the policy environment enables or hinders the implementation of constellations of eco-technologies. This event gathered a group of stakeholders from agriculture, wastewater, forestry and water protection

The insights emerging from these workshops will support the development of a participatory monitoring and evaluation module within the SGS.

What is the next step?

We will continue with the development of game mechanics and functions with the data generated from playing the board game version of the SGS in the respective case studies and emerging data from other work packages in the project. In parallel, a digital game space encompassing 3D-graphic worlds, avatars, assets and visual effects will be created with the insights harvested from the board game sessions.

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