Playing for a Greener Future: JenV's Success with the Sustainable Games

Playing for a Greener Future: JenV's Success with the Sustainable Games

What makes a project from one of our partners a success story? Maybe it should appeal to a large and diverse group of people, spark conversations during coffee breaks, or make people smile.    

Well, the latest run of Duurzame Spelen (Sustainable Games) by PHI Factory at the Ministery of Justice and Security (JenV) has all these things, making it a real success story. That is why this showcase will focus on this project. We spoke to Marinda Bosman from PHI Factory to get an insight into the project, and we also interviewed Lela Heerkens from JenV.   

The Sustainable Games: Explained   

The Sustainable Games has been played by several ministries already and it is a four-week program consisting of four challenges. The first challenge is 'no time to waste', consisting of questions on general topics such as sustainable impact, climate agreement and Earth Overshoot Day. The second challenge is called 'circular at work', which teaches employees how to apply sustainability in their workplace. It provides sustainable solutions for the workplace, such as recyclable coffee cups, sustainable data management and other sustainable solutions. The third challenge, 'circular at home', explains what sustainable practices employees can adopt at home and how they can reduce their impact. Finally, the fourth challenge is called 'be the change' and aims to help participants understand how they can be the change, make a difference and inspire others. And it also teaches what changes are needed to transition to a sustainable society.  

Why tackle sustainability with gamified learning?   

JenV launched the game during the National Climate Week with a kick-off session attended by 300 players. In total, 700 participants in 71 teams will play with and against each other for 4 weeks.    

Lela mentions that they tweaked the game a bit before launching it at JenV to make it even more suitable for their group of players. Lela: "Think about using different wording or replacing a certain action that is more practical to perform in the workplace. Of course, it is always possible to choose a program and adapt it to your needs.”. 

The idea of this project was to reach as many people as possible in the different departments of JenV. This can be a difficult task, especially when dealing with a topic like sustainability, as it is often perceived as a heavy subject. This is one of the main reasons why JenV decided to use gamified learning, as it is fun and accessible. This way, people who are not well informed or not really interested in sustainable development are introduced to the topic.    

While sustainability may not be the first association with the Ministery of Justice and Security, Lela Heerkens explains the rationale behind their involvement:”Climate change, which is often underestimated, is a significant security risk that affects the work of JenV. For example, the potential influx of climate migration as a result of escalating natural disasters in certain regions is an example of the far-reaching effects of global change. And there are many other challenges related to this issue that affect the daily work of the ministry.”. 

JenV recognizes the importance of proactive government involvement. Sustainability should not only be the concern of the program within the departments but should be embedded in all facets of the organization. The aim is to permeate every department and involve every employee, creating a holistic approach to sustainability.  

The success factors  

Getting 700 employees from different departments to give 30 minutes of their time each week for a four-week project is no small feat. Lela Heerkens attributes this success to one key factor: the community managers. These managers, individuals with a pre-existing affinity for sustainability across different departments, played a pivotal role. Armed with the necessary information and materials, they easily connect with employees in their respective areas. With their enthusiasm, these community managers were instrumental in recruiting participants and ensuring the success of the project. Installing these managers also encourages word-of-mouth, which is one of the most important forms of marketing. When people hear that a colleague is taking part, their interest is piqued, and they start to recruit and organize their team.    

In addition, Lela recommends that future organizations running a program start communicating and promoting early and on an ongoing basis. This will ensure that as many people as possible hear about the game, and by keeping players up to date, it will also increase engagement throughout the run. A good example of this is sending an email after each challenge to announce the weekly winners and congratulate them on their performance.  

Another factor that has helped people get motivated and excited is the weekly prizes. Every week after the challenge, the team that did the best wins a sustainable prize for the team, like a vegan cookbook or a ticket to see a documentary about sustainability. Lela said: “Even though winning prizes is not the main goal, we notice that it motivates the participants, within the team people help each other because they really want to get more points! Even during the coffee break, employees were discussing issues and the results of their challenge, showing that conversations and connections were being made across groups.” 

The first signs of success?   

On the 30th of November, a closing session has been hosted to mark the end of the race. The winners were celebrated, fun experiences were shared, and the game was evaluated by participants. However, according to Lela Heerkens, there have already been signs of success in the early stages of the game. Lela: "Many people started playing the first challenge right after the kick-off session. This really showed their genuine enthusiasm and willingness to start playing!” 

In addition, the community page has been overflowing with posts from participants sharing their opinions, ideas and tips. For example, a photo shared by one participant showing a weatherboard they have installed at home has received many likes. By week 2, there were already 15 pages of comments. So, the program started conversations and sparked interaction between colleagues from different departments, creating a sense of community.   


JenV's success story with the Sustainable Games by PHI Factory is a testament to the power of gamified learning in engaging and mobilizing a diverse workforce toward sustainability. The four-week program, tailored for the Ministery of Justice and Security, cleverly addresses the challenge of making sustainability accessible and appealing to a broad audience. By infusing fun into the learning process, the initiative not only reached 700 participants across 71 teams but also fostered a sense of community and collaboration within the organization. The Sustainable Games at JenV not only achieved its goal of raising awareness about sustainability but also exemplified how innovative approaches can transform a traditionally perceived heavy subject into a shared and enjoyable journey towards positive change within an organization. 

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