SIMAGES 2014.2 – Keep the River Flowing

Keep the River Flowing:

Creating a Board Game at the 2013 NASAGA Conference

By Jo Ann Froman

NASAGA’s 2013 conference Play by Design: a Bridge to Learning was held in my home town of Sarasota, Florida. As the Director of Learning and Development for Goodwill Manasota, Inc. based in Sarasota, Florida, I was very excited to have my team attend the conference.

For several years, our team had discussed designing a game for our employees that focused on the systematic way we process our donated goods. (Our donated goods system is called the Goodwill River.) The NASAGA conference was our opportunity to learn about game design, work as a team, and to focus on developing our game.

My team registered for the preconference workshop, “Games for Learning: Design, Theory, and Facilitation with Certificate Option.” Our referees were Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, Raja Thiagarajan, and Brian Remer.  The workshop focused on the elements of games such as narrative, metaphor, mechanics, simulation, and competition that increase participant engagement, enhance the play experience, and result in learning. In addition, we learned about game facilitation skills, group dynamics, timing, leading discussions, and responding to difficult participants and ways to create an environment for learning.


Using the The Board Game Sandbox Designer’s Playbook, we created a game design document that contained the following components:

  • Game Name: Keep the River Flowing
  • Game Type: Board
  • Timeframe: Estimated 20 to 30 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2 to 4; possibly small teams of 3
  • Target Audience: Donated Goods employees and store leaders
  • Organization Description: Goodwill Industries, Manasota, Inc., whose mission statement is “Changing Lives through the Power of Work”

Goal:  To reinforce and apply our company’s core values, donated goods guiding principles, safety protocols, and loss prevention guidelines in running a donated goods store.


By the end of playing the Keep the River Flowing board game, the player will decide if the situations represent the following categories:

  1. Core Values
  2. Donated Goods Guiding Principles
  3. Safety Protocols
  4. Loss Prevention Guidelines


Using a game board of the Goodwill River, players will use tokens for donated good categories and advance by using a dice. The players will use a scorecard to track their performance. The game is designed for two to four players. The players land on colored squares that represent the guiding principles, core values, safety protocols, and loss prevention guidelines.


Our employees’ performance gap is a lack of applying the organization’s core values and the donated goods guiding principles while working in their stores. The goal is to link our mission and reinforce our processes and procedures to run a donated goods store. The board game represents pre-retail, retail, and post-retail sections of our donated goods business.


Using the metaphor of a river, the board game applies to our business model and mission. It reinforces that every employee’s job is essential in keeping the river flowing and to the success of the business. It improves performance, reinforces required skills and behaviors, and workforce skills.


The board game follows the Goodwill River and player’s progress by rolling a dice. The players land on a space that requires them to pick a card from one of four categories, e.g., core values, guiding principles, loss prevention, and safety.  These categories could cause obstacles that prevent the river form flowing. The cards address situations that apply to each of the four categories (core values, donated goods, loss prevention, and safety). The tokens represent the seven donated goods categories (shoes, apparel, accessories, books, electrical, furniture, and wares).

We still have work to do on our board game that includes:

  • Develop a facilitator guide.
  • Write board game rules.
  • Write scenarios for the categories.
  • Write the answer key.
  • We believe that this game requires debriefing to reinforce concepts and clarifications of processes and procedures.

We plan to run a pilot test of the game with our workforce in the fall.  We will even consider branding the board game. As with any project, we still have lots of questions and next steps to consider.

The NASAGA conference gave my team the opportunity to focus on designing and developing our game Keep the River Flowing. The pre-conference workshop and certificate process made us grow as a team and it gave us the opportunity to focus on the development of our board game. Our referees, Thiagi, Raja, and Brian, gave us guidance, strategies, and suggestions.


Jo Ann Froman is Director of Learning and Development, Goodwill Manasota, Inc. in Sarasota, Florida. She was one of the 2013 NASAGA first time conference attendee scholarship winners and a participant in the pre-conference Game Design Certificate program.

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