Wednesday, 03 July 2013

What a simple game tells us about making diversity work

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This is a story of a game for two people. The game is called the Ultimatum game. It works like this.The first person is the Divider. They are given £10. But they have to offer some of that money to the second person who is the Chooser.  The Divider can offer any amount to the Chooser from 1p to £10.

The amount the Chooser receives is then doubled by the person overseeing the game. If they were given £5, they now have £10.  The Chooser must then make a Choice. How much of the money they do they want to share with the Divider.

The game has been played by thousands of people. Two things stand out. First here’s the bad news. When the two players are from different ethnicities, the Chooser returns less money.  Doesn’t matter what the ethnicities are – black, white, Asian – if they differ, Choosers are less generous.

Now the good news: the more times the players from different ethnicities play the game together, the more money the Chooser gives.

This simple game tells us two very important things. Firstly, as the UK becomes more and more diverse by age, income and ethnicity there is likely to be an increasing tendency to trust less and cooperate less (in fact, we already have the lowest level of trust of others in Europe amongst under 55s).

Secondly – and more encouragingly – this low trust and low cooperation doesn’t need to be permanent as long as we find ways to make sure people from different ethnicities, ages and income groups interact with each other.

Making sure these interactions happen is exactly why The Challenge Network exists.

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