Building Community Through Board Game Nights
Play - How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
Written by Ella Muja and Katja Asbill
You cannot just teleport from a community to the next to find one that suits you best. One must actually be willing to belong, to participate in a community and to contribute to the wellbeing of it. The question is how one participates in a community, in its events and the building of communality.
The International Relations Team, or IRT, is a smaller team that is responsible for Proakatemia’s connections abroad and for hosting any international visitors. However, due to the minimal number of visitors the IRT was receiving in the autumn semester, an idea to develop the community more came from the hosting team. With the international community growing, there hadn’t been a situation for Finnish speaking students to get to know them on a more casual level and practice their English at the same time. When we began thinking about organizing community events amongst members of the International Relations Team there was a desire to create an event option at Proakatemia that would be a break from the work and studies, wouldn’t cost anything, would be accessible for everyone and would be conveniently located. An event where participants would develop emotional intelligence and build relationships through getting to know other individuals from the community, for example, connect with individuals from different teams. We knew from experience how important it is to connect with the other students at the beginning of our studies and we wanted to do our part to help integrate particularly the Finnish team entrepreneurs and the English team entrepreneurs. Moreover, as we knew that many among Finnish speakers were reluctant to use English, we wanted to offer an opportunity to practice it in a safe environment. As an additional benefit for a diverse and rapidly growing community we thought that it would be good to have more events that wouldn’t involve the typical party scene.
Sustainable Development Goals
One of the main goals of the International Relations Team for the 2021-22 year was the improving the well-being of the community and team itself. In addition to working hard to attain goals we saw value also in getting to know the individuals doing the work. So, for us the board game nights and training sessions were just one way of promoting a more casual work culture with the focus still being on continuous learning, whether it be learning a new language or meeting new people.
The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, have been a guideline for businesses and communities around the world (United Nations, 2015). The third goal, Good Health and Well-being, focuses on promoting health, safety, and well-being for people of all ages around the world. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it was a high priority for the United Nations and communities around the world to build back the sense of improved health and well-being.
During the spring of 2022, Jory, or the management team of Proakatemia, has been developing a strategy for the entire community based on the vision. Proakatemia’s vision is to be the paragon of new entrepreneurship. The strategic points of view are sustainable entrepreneurship, communality & networking, and continuous learning. In order to achieve the strategic goals, set for meeting the strategic points of view we must consider the inevitable success factors such as transparency and vulnerability, curiosity towards different work cultures, industries and people, and courage to learn by doing. The goal is to bring forth sustainability and create more discussion about not only sustainable figures, but sustainable practices. To do this the aim is to make sustainability aspects a standard part of the quarterly projectors and thus encourage teams to consider how they promote sustainability amongst themselves.
Each pillar of the strategy has its own foundation. The foundation is made up of goals, action points, and indicators that Jory and the rest of the community can follow up on (Hujanen & Wojcik, 2022). The strategy that was created and decided amongst the board then trickles down from the representatives to the teams and mini teams, and eventually to every individual. In this case, Jory is developing the purpose of the community and putting each team’s and the environment’s best interests first. Jory, the community, and every individual must take the responsibility to follow the strategy and work towards applying it to the work and projects done.
The new Sustainable Business team in Proakatemia that began last autumn has been focusing on the environmental impacts of projects and the community as a whole. Their main goal for now is to increase the level of knowledge Proakatemia has on the topic. News regarding sustainability is constantly being updated and changed, making it difficult to follow, which is why the Sustainable Business team can focus their efforts on obtaining knowledge and sharing it with the community. For example, they plan on having at least two training sessions for each team in the autumn regarding sustainable business practices.
Each new academic year the new members to the community are warmly welcomed particularly by the tutors and the Kääpä team. While the individuals of these groups change from year to year their mission remains. The Kääpä Team members are tutors for the whole Proakatemia community. They help organize events, such as the beginning of the academic year, Happy Alley, and community days, across team lines. In these different events the team entrepreneurs have a chance to get to know themselves and one another better. They also have a chance to explore topics relating to their current and future needs. During the academic year 2021-2022 the Kääpä team also created a photo wall of all the community members on the 5th floor of Proakatemia (Hiltunen ja Rita 2021).
The community has multiple team players that play an active role in the application of the new strategy which creates a sense of accountability and communality. Although all of the smaller teams have a different purpose, their actions reflect the overall image of Proakatemia and should have the goal of promoting the paragon of new entrepreneurship.
Sustainability Within the International Relations Team
Currently the International Relations Team, or IRT, is made up of twelve members, including a leader. The team is made up of three smaller teams, a podcast team, social media team and host team, who simultaneously work for the IRT and Proakatemia on various tasks. Each team is required to meet weekly and once a month the entire IRT meets. The weekly meetings are a way to work in smaller groups and get to know each other better at the same time. Whereas the monthly meetings are a way for the IRT to bond as a team and participate in various activities. (Muja & Parikka 2021).
One challenge seen in the IRT was the lack of familiarity with all team members. Since the smaller groups only worked in their own teams, there wasn’t a way to get to know all members in a more casual way that would then create a more comfortable working environment amongst the larger team. The lead of the IRT scheduled the monthly meetings as a way to build a more positive and motivated atmosphere in the team. This removed pressure from the performance of the members and prioritized bonding within the team.
During February the IRT also had an organized innovation week with the goal of working with the entire team and earning money at the same time. Each day of the week had a new focus to break down the process of innovation and project ideation. The first day was spent checking in with everyone and hearing updates from all of the smaller teams and then the remainder of the day was focused on ideating and innovating possible project ideas for the IRT. The rest of the week was full of innovation, delegating tasks, and the execution of the event organized, which provided an excellent opportunity to learn about event organization and the success of projects.
An important aspect of longevity and trust within a company or team is the prioritization of social sustainability. This means that a company ensures human rights are maintained and all employees are respected and understood (Ajmal, M., Helo, P., Hussain, M. & Khan, M., 2018, 328). For example, creating a safe and comfortable work environment where employees enjoy coming every day is a place where a company thrives and can foresee the future.
Another aspect is creating a positive atmosphere where it is encouraged to have fun and share ideas. In the IRT’s case, this means the scheduled monthly meetings where more official work is set aside, and the main focus is on improving relationships between people in the team and sharing thoughts in a more casual setting. It is encouraged to have stress free opportunities in the workplace for people to communicate openly, learn more about coworkers, and prevent the feeling of burning out by over working for an extended period of time (Scott, 2020). For example, the most recent monthly meetings have been a shared lunch, an escape room, and an aerial silk class. This results in an increase of trust and productivity in the workplace (Ajmal, M., Helo, P., Hussain, M. & Khan, M., 2018, 334).
The well-known management concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR, supports the idea that a company should consider the environmental and social impacts both internally and externally (UNIDO, n.d.). Implementing and sharing a positive leadership style and strategy has improved the IRT’s progress and helped the overall image of the team towards the outside and within the Proakatemia community. Feedback that the hosting team received from various groups has shown positive results and reflections from visitors, which also encourages enthusiasm and motivation for future hostings the IRT has.
The other half of the CSR concept is that it keeps the shareholders and business partners accountable as well (UNIDO, n.d.). In the IRT’s case, Proakatemia is the umbrella organization that also encompasses other smaller teams such as the Data and Sustainable Business teams. Both Proakatemia and the IRT keep each other accountable because of the close connection they share, and their choices reflect upon each other.
In the European Union, a proposal for an EU wide corporate responsibility law was made during the spring of 2022. The main purpose of the law is as follows:
“The objective of EU-level CSR regulation is to promote respect for human rights and the transition towards a carbon neutral economy. Another objective is to provide a level playing field and legal certainty for businesses operating in the European Union.” (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, 2022).
This action would require companies to track and measure their impact on social and environmental operations and result in the end of the company if there is a refusal to make changes (Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, 2022). Having the European Union behind this decision brings a new level of professionalism and awareness to the cause and will hopefully emphasize the large-scale impact that all companies have on social and environmental issues.
IRT Events for Others
Pajas held by IRT – Spring 2021 and Autumn 2021
In the Spring of 2021 the International Relations Team, at the time known as KV-team organized a learning session open to the Proakatemia community. At the time the organizers chose to keep the format open in order to give dialogue room to lead us on to topics participants deemed important to them. The organizers prepared for the paja by finding out about the various options students have for gaining international experience while studying at TAMK.
The original invitation for the online event (Picture 1.) was posted in Teams on the channel dedicated for training sessions and learning cells on the 12th of April. Eight days later a reminder (Picture 2.) of the event was posted separately on the same channel. Neither the original invitation or the reminder utilized visual elements such as emoticons, illustrations, or pictures. The KV-team members pushed the info to their respective teams as well. This was at least at the time typical for this channel.
The participants enjoyed the dialogue and found the event informative. Due to mix up with times not all participants who had expressed interest ended up joining us for the training session.
PICTURE 1. KV-team training session announcement in Teams
PICTURE 2. KV-team training session reminder in Teams
During the fall semester in 2021 the Head of International Relations Team requested the Host Team to organize another training sessions as the first one had been well received by its participants. The timing of the training session got pushed back due to scheduling issues until end of November in 2021.
The goal for the event was from the beginning to have it in person and a decision was made not to offer a hybrid option for it. Once again, the announcement for the event was posted to Teams on the Training Sessions and Learning Cells channel. The location was revealed later as the number of potential participants was determined. At the time of the training session there were a multitude of things happening at Proakatemia, which influenced the availability of rooms. The training session was held at the Stage.
PICTURE 3. IRT training session announcement in Teams
One of the reasons board games were the focus was because of their familiarity. Board games are well-known to everyone and provide an easy circumstance for conversation while also training the brain and promoting playful competition. Humans are designed to play throughout their life, including adulthood, because of continuous brain development (Brown 2009, 48). Networking, playing board games, and learning new languages all improve brain function and organizing an event that targeted all three was something that the IRT was interested in.
Board Game Night 1:
30.11.2021 from 17.00-19.00
Here is the invitation:
PICTURE 4. IRT Board Game Invitation in Teams
The post was made in the Unofficial channel of Proakatemia’s Teams and the IRT General Teams channel (PICTURE 4.). One of the main differences between the first and second post was the language. Initially, the board game nights were advertised as an easy and safe space to practice English and meet both the IRT and Entre. The goal was to include Finnish speakers in the international community of Proakatemia by providing them with a time and place to do so.
By posting this in the Unofficial channel, it may have received less attention, even though the reaction count was nearly identical with the second. The post was then shared to the IRT, Kipinä, Syntre and Flip to gain even more attention. To further remind of the event, a comment was made in the post to drop it to the bottom of the channel.
The turnout for the first board game night was small, however, there were Finnish students who joined. One observation was the fact that this was the first time the IRT had organized a board game night for the community, and there was an idea to market this on Proakatemia’s social media channels (PICTURE 5.) to share what life in the Proakatemia community may look like. This created hope for more visibility for the future board game nights. The second board game night didn’t receive the same attention from that perspective, and no one took pictures to post on Proakatemia’s channels.
PICTURE 5. Proakatemia Instagram post
Board Game Night 2:
15.12.2021 from 17.00-19.00
The second board game night was organized two weeks after the first one to create a recurring event for the community and have people get used to the idea of them happening. It was held in the very last week of the autumn semester which may have been a mistake.
The turnout ended up being small for this board game night as well, which led to it being cancelled rather quickly. It became apparent that scheduling anything in the last week is challenging. The first obstacle is the essay deadline, which happened to be at the end of the same week the board game night was scheduled. The second obstacle was the emptiness of Proakatemia. During this time many students had already left early for the winter holiday, or they were spending time at home finalizing essays and other tasks that didn’t need to be done at the premises.
Board Game Night 3:
17.03.2022 from 16.30-19.00 (can join anytime between)
Here is the invitation for the second board game night:
PICTURE 6. IRT Board Game Invitation in Teams
This post was shared in the Proakatemia Events channel in Proakatemia’s Teams and in the IRT General Teams channel. A new strategy to attract more people was by posting in a more active channel. The Proakatemia events channel has more posts about official events such as Projektori, Vuosigaala, or Proakatemia’s Birthday. Commenting closer to the event to bring the post to the bottom of the channel was used again. However, this post received the same number of reactions as the first post which was in the Unofficial channel.
Another change made was the announcement of the event in Projektori, which had a large turnout of the community, including the new Influencer Academy. The post was shared to Teams the same day as Projektori in hopes that it would remind people of what they heard that morning.
The language of this post was also changed to only English with the goal to attract the Infla students and encourage the use of English more within the community. This may have influenced the outcome, as the turnout consisted of only Infla students and IRT members.
The final change made was the schedule. In the first post there was a set time where it was implied that it started at 17.00, whereas in the second post it was made clear that people can join anytime between 16.30 and 19.00 in case meetings ran long or schedules didn’t align perfectly. The goal was to also create a more casual feel to the event and allow anyone to join at any time.
PICTURE 7. Playing games at third game night
Developments and changes were made during the process of having the board game nights for the community. Initially, the posts were in both English and Finnish, however, to align more with the changes made in Proakatemia related to utilizing English simultaneously, the IRT decided to advertise the event only in English.
Another change made was the clarifying of the details of the event. In Flip’s Teams channels it has been observed that the most reacted to and read posts are the ones that are easy to read and state the details clearly. The IRT decided to put this method into practice when posting about the board game nights by having the location and time written clearly and in capital letters.
Something that has come along with the current second year students in Proakatemia is the utilization of images and infographics when posting in Teams. For almost every event in the community, some sort of image or fun way of displaying the information is added. It has increased reactions in the posts and engaged more members of the community. The IRT decided to add pictures to the posts after the second board game night to attract more students.
A suggestion to increase turnout at community events that aren’t mandatory would be to push a message to all leaders of the teams in Proakatemia. This sort of direct communication catches people’s attention and spreads the word faster.
We fully expected that the events would attract a good turnout as underneath it all we all have a need for connection and community. We do not meet simply for networking, connections, project leads or possible future career opportunities. Not to say that these are not important reasons, simply that we thought of the game night more as an opportunity to communicate and perhaps negotiate with a different group of individuals than in the day in and day out operations. Perhaps however, we didn’t build in the types of clear opportunities to learn about different cultures or ways to recuperate via focusing on activities that are different enough.
Another observation was the lack of consistency. The board game nights were kept rather irregularly and by setting a monthly date and time for them, there is a better chance that they would catch on within the community. The invitation format was also inconsistent, and to bring a sense of regularity, using the same invitation structure may have also increased turnout.
To emphasize a positive environment and attitude for the events, the International Relations Team could have combined their monthly meetings with one of the board game nights to provide a mandatory event for the IRT, but also encourage more members of the community to join. Or in the future they can combine their monthly meetings and board game nights to promote visibility. As the IRT is made up of people from multiple different team companies, each person could bring along one other team company member and help the IRT achieve its purpose of hosting board game nights for the Proakatemia community.
Ajmal, M., Helo, P., Hussain, M. & Khan, M. 2018. Conceptualizing and incorporating social sustainability in the business world. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 25:4, 327-339. DOI: 10.1080/13504509.2017.1408714
Brown, S. 2009. Play – How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin Group.
Hiltunen, M. & Rita, J. 2021. Yhteisön kehittäjinä. Read 27.04.2022. https://esseepankki.proakatemia.fi/kaapa-ja-ainejarjestotoiminta-yhteison-kehittajina-2/
Hujanen, S. & Wojcik, K. 2022. Jory Spring –22. Read 03.05.2022. https://esseepankki.proakatemia.fi/en/jory-spring-22/
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. 2022. European Commission publishes a proposal for EU corporate social responsibility legislation. Press Release. Read 27.04.2022. https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/-//1410877/european-commission-publishes-a-proposal-for-eu-corporate-social-responsibility-legislation#:~:text=The%20objective%20of%20EU%2Dlevel,operating%20in%20the%20European%20Union
Muja, E. & Parikka, E. 2021. IRT = International Relations Team. Read 04.05.2022. https://esseepankki.proakatemia.fi/en/irt-international-relations-team/
Scott, E. 2020. Why Having Fun Provides Some of the Best Stress Relief. Read 02.05.2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-best-stress-relief-3144573
UNIDO. N.d. What is CSR? Read 27.04.2022. https://www.unido.org/our-focus/advancing-economic-competitiveness/competitive-trade-capacities-and-corporate-responsibility/corporate-social-responsibility-market-integration/what-csr
United Nations. 2015. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Read 02.05.2022.https://sdgs.un.org/goals