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DeBola: A Prisoner's Dilemma Simulation-Game for NGOs

Noam Ebner (Creighton University)

August 2017


"DeBola" is a simulation-game constructed as a teaching-tool for the topics of collaborative problem solving, conflict analysis and resolution, negotiation, and decision-making. Specifically, it does so in the context of NGOs and mission-driven organizations. 
"DeBola" involves four NGOs working on health missions in Africa. The four have been diverted to combat an outbreak of Ebola. The NGOs are tasked to administer a new, effective, Ebola vaccine called DeBola, in an attempt to turn back the tide of Ebola’s spread. However, there are operational constraints, and over multiple iterations, the NGOs mast make decisions with regards to their operative path. In the framework of a prisoner’s dilemma structure, the four NGOs must decide whether to collaborate or compete with one another, in a situation rife with uncertainty. Collaboration might lead to greater joint success in conducting vaccination operations. However, given that each NGO’s funding is contingent on its own success in administering vaccines, each NGO is also pulled towards working alone. The outcome of their decisions affect them all, determining their organizational longevity and the degree to which they will achieve their mission. Often, these two factors conflict with each other – reflecting a real-life tension faced by aid organizations, non-profits, government agencies and other mission-driven organizations.