Our games

Over the past ten years we have developed a wide range of workshop games, using cards, role play and story telling. You will find them listed below, within each section there will be descriptions, materials and blog items. Still under development, so sparse in places. The latest is the Digital Challenge Game.

About games

About games

Why games?

Drew Mackie has written an article on how games can bring benefits to professionals and activists working on local projects. You can download the pdf here.

Business planning games

Business planning games

People-centred business planning

David Wilcox and Ann Holmes were asked by the UnLtd programme - which helps social entrepreneurs - to run a session on business planning 'as if people mattered as much as the figures'. You read about the day and workshop tools they used in October 2003 here.

Conference games

Conference games

Games at conference

Games can be used even when you have a large number of people at a conference, and not much time.Here's what we did for the National Housing Federation when their information technology specialists gathered in Telford for their annual event earlier this year.

Salon goes with a swing

Last's night Salon about public participation at the Civic Trust went really well ... subject of course to any contrary opinions participants might wish to add below. Our engagement technique was simple and well-tested - ply people with lots of free wine* and encourage them to circulate. We added a few props ... over-sized badges, and flags.

SalonThe idea of the badges was that people added a few words about things they might wish to discuss with others. My designer friends at the Civic Trust took to the idea enthusiastically, and provided people with mini-placards which certainly did the job effectively.
The flags idea was something Drew Mackie and I have done before to help people cluster into groups ..... find a few other people with a shared interest and you get a paper flag to write your interest on and wave to attract more people.
In the event everyone was so gregarious that not much was needed to encourage circulation. We got into the appropriate frame of mind right from the start with some excellent jazz piano from Charles Condy, husband of the Trust's Heritage Days Manager Katya.
The Trust has been around for nearly 50 years, encouraging high standards of planning and architecture. It's had its up and downs over the years, but I sensed a lot of energy among its staff. The Trust's director Peter Bembridge has a technology background, unusual for an organisation in the planning and environment field - so I'm hopeful we'll see more of the Trust's activities reflected online. I know there is interest in equipping the hundreds of local civic societies, supported by the Trust, with better communication methods.
Amidst all the fun we also talked about participation, engagement, co-creation and such. Apart from one dissenting voice there was general interest in how to mix online activity with face to face workshops and other techniques, and I promised to set up a site where anyone interested could try blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools. My son Dan is grappling with Drupal modules and Flash plugins, and we should have a sort of online salon running soon. Quite what we'll do about the wine, I'm not sure.
* Thanks to sponsor David Prichard of Metropolitan Workshop


Technorati Tags:

Digital Challenge Game

Introduction

The Digital Challenge is a UK government-funded programme within which local partnerships compete to develop plans for technology programmes that will improve delivery of public services, and also ensure the benefits of the online world are widely available. We are working with the Challenge team to create a game that will help partnerships develop their plans, involve local people, and later share their experience with others.

Below is the invitation that we extended to partnerships to join in development, originally posted in our project space on the Digital Challenge website. We'll provide updates on game development both there and here.

You will find on this site:

Invitation to partnerships to develop the game

The ten partnerships in the final round of the Digital Challenge are invited to collaborate in development of a workshop game that will help to "reality test" their proposals, and also start the process of sharing experience gained during the Challenge process. Others in the network are also invited to join in.

The Digital Challenge Engagement Game, currently under development, will help people explore the benefits that new technologies and social media can bring to their lives - at home, work, leisure and learning.

It will do this by enabling people to "play through" the type of projects and programmes being developed by the finalists in the Digital Challenge programme, matching personal and group needs against the services, communication and other facilities offered by the technology.

The challenges in the game will include: showing how technology can be relevant to social inclusion; making sure that technologies are tailored to people's individual preferences; dealing with programme crises like loss of funding. It will be deliberately low-tech, and run face-to-face in a workshop setting rather than online.

Development of the game is being funded by the Digital Challenge team at the Department for Communities and Local Government, and builds on earlier work with the Department for Constitutional Affairs. Game developers Drew Mackie and David Wilcox have developed a range of workshop games and simulations over the past ten years.

When complete, the game will be freely available as a download, and designed so that it can be run by anyone interested in digital inclusion - whether professionally, personally or in a local or interest group.
We have an outline of the game, and are looking for people interested in helping with further development and testing. This will involve some or all of:

Participants in the Challenge are committed to sharing ideas and experience as well as competing, and we hope that the game will contribute to this. The game can be one of the ways in which the group can spread their ideas and experience more widely by embedding that in the game compontents.

The game kit will include the following components:

* potential challenges to programme development

Bridging the people-technology divide ... with a few bits of paper

Bristolworkshop-1Last night I witnessed an impressive example of the power of collective intelligence at work on how social media and other technologies can change people's lives and benefit local communities.
The setting was not a high-tech lab or forum of Web 2.0 developers ... it was a community centre in Bristol, and the experts combining their wisdom were local residents.
We got together to help the city council develop its bid to win the Digital Challenge, a competition among ten finalists to show the UK Government how well they are improving online services and ensuring all citizens benefit from the Net.
As part of the bid - due in January - the finalists have to include storyboards showing how the wireless networks, access centres, e-learning, e-democracy, e-commerce ... e-whatever projects will be used by different people in their area.
CardexamplesThe difficulty in doing this exercise is combining two areas of expertise, and two groups ... those who understand the technology, and those who understand people and their everyday lives. There isn't always enough overlap.
Last night we started from the people side, and offered the local experts of Lawrence Hill, meeting at Community at Heart , some props to help them get to grips with the technical. We didn't say so at the beginning, but it was the first time that Drew Mackie and I had tried out the workshop game we've developed for the Digital Challenge project team. Here's how it worked.
Before the event, we assembled a set of over 30 cards which represented the range of projects that any Digital Challenger might consider in their bid. You can download the cards as a pdf here.
Kevin O'Malley and Steve Parry, who are working on Bristol's bid, pulled out ones that most matched their ideas. They included community access, wireless networks, mapping linked to social media, storytelling and a content aggregator.
Then after an introduction to the Digital Challenge and the purpose of the game, the locals split into two groups to work with Steve and Kevin.
We gave each group a set of cards split into the pre-determined "must haves", plus optional extras. We also provided a cast of fictional characters - download here.
The first task was to review the characters - who should benefit from the Challenge programme - and make sure there was a possible match between their needs and the ideas on the cards. Additional ideas could be added.
jennysheehanThen came the creative part. In smaller groups of three or four, our local experts developed storyboards showing how the character they had chosen - or invented - could use the technology. Just to liven things up - and add to the rising tide of giggles and laughter - Drew threw in a few personal crises or opportunities that might crop up for the characters ....serious illness ... offer of a college place ...
It worked really well. Not only did everyone manage to understand enough of the technical options to contribute, they were able to turn these into life-enhancing stories any of their neighbours could understand too.
The secret, of course, was conversation. People could fill in gaps of understanding for each other, and spark ideas.
We only had two hours for the whole exercise, so the stories were outlines. Given more time, perhaps on another day after time for reflection, I'm sure we could have filled them out substantially ... and the local Connecting Bristol team will continue the discussion. I asked two people how they thought the event had gone.
kevinomalleyLocal artist Jenny Sheehan (left) said she felt that the exercise helped to make a connection between technologies and people, and trigger thinking about how it could really help transform people's lives. A collaborative, community approach meant there was scope to bring costs down, to create a resource bank, and encourage skill sharing.
Kevin O'Malley (right) is one of those responsible for developing the Bristol bid, and he said that so far a lot of the bid development had, inevitably, been technical. The evening's exercise provided a way of bring this work into the realm of real people, with real issues, in a real community. Drew and I felt some satisfaction that a low-tech set of props (bits of paper) had help bridge the people-technology divide.
We'll revise the game in the light of helpful suggestions from the players - who said they didn't mind being first testers - and post it here with results from Bristol and revised instructions. In January we are running a session in Manchester.

Comments on the Bristol session on my other blog.

Digital Challenge Game Overview

Here's an overview of how we see the game operating. We'll be developing more detailed instructions

INTRODUCTION
The purpose of the Digital Challenge Game is to help teams who are developing bids to involve other interests, and also test their proposals against possible problems. It should help in the development of storyboards for the final submission.
The game components include cards for personas, projects, and problems, and a story-boarding sheet. The game takes about two hours, and works for any number of people working in teams of 5-6.

GAME SEQUENCE

Planning Phase
The game begins with a Planning Phase, in which teams build a programme out of a number of pre-designed cards which illustrate:

  • The target audiences for the programme. These are represented on "persona" cards giving personalised characters with histories and needs. Player must decide which audiences are targeted by their programme and prioritise cards accordingly.
  • Another set of cards indicates the technology projects and other activities that might be part of the programme. Some may involve substantial investment, other little or none. Cards have budget points. Players will build their programme (or model their existing programme) from this set of projects and activities assessing:
    • How the selected project or activity fits the needs of the target audiences
    • What are the likely cost and resource implications of adopting this project
    • How the projects fit together to form a coherent programme.
  • At the end of this Phase players present their programme to the other groups

Development Phase
Players now "run" their programme through several years. This is done by telling the story of the programme as it progresses from bid to set up to implementation. Players are encouraged to think through the pitfalls and opportunities that might occur. As this story is being recorded on a "timeline" sheet, the game facilitators will feed in "crisis and opportunity" cards representing external factors that may affect the programme. These are designed to trigger group debate. Players develop storyboards for the personas.


Scoring Phase
Each group will now be asked to score the project history they have created according to a number of factors including:

  • How well it has served the target audiences
  • How robust it has been in the face of external shocks
  • Its potential for the future
  • What real effects has it had on the Environmental, Community and Economic performance of the area it serves

 


See also:

 

Digital Challenge Game Personas

ROLE OF PERSONAS
As the game overview sheet explains, one of the first tasks for players is to develop or choose some profiles of people who will benefit from the programme under development. The personas will feature in the development phase of the game, and storyboards are developed showing how people use different technologies.

CREATING PERSONAS
You can create your own personas, or select some as starting points. If you are developing your own, write a couple of paragraphs covering these points:

  • What is their age, gender, ethnicity, life circumstances?
  • What are the challenges that they face?
  • What skills and interests do they have?
  • What level of experience and confidence do they have with technology?
  • What are their preferences for communicating - e.g. face-to-face, phone, text, e-mail and web, audio/video

You can use the personas below as they are presented, or as a starting point. When we develop the full game instructions were will put these on cards.

  • Yvette is 14, and spends a lot of time online in mySpace. Her mother is worried that she may be at risk from pedophiles in chat rooms.
  • Tracy is 18, and lives at home with her parents and young baby. She's worried about losing touch with friends, and also wants to get a job and a place of her own. She uses her mobile phone to keep in touch.
  • Beryl has just retired from factory work, and lives alone. She has some mobility problems, misses her work friends and has difficult with shopping. She has never used the Internet.
  • Aziz runs a neighbourhood convenience store, working long hours with help from his wife and older daughter. He is well-liked in the community, but worried that Tesco are going to open a small store nearby and he will lose customers.
  • Jenny has been heavily involved in local community groups for many years, and now finds that as a representative on partnership bodies she is expected to use email and the web. She believes she has a right to paper communications, and is resisting using any technology.
  • James is a neighbourhood renewal worker, keen to ensure that different interests in the community find their voice and gain recognition for the contribution they can make. However, he can't get people to turn up to meetings.
  • Jackson, unemployed, is a member of a band who are now getting some local gigs. He is keen to make more of this opportunity, but doesn't feel he has the necessary business skills.
  • Sonya is deaf and wants to gain some qualifications and then a job using the Internet - but doesn't know where to start.
  • Jack is a single dad with twin daughters. He is unemployed with a respiratory disability. School teachers say the twins, Paula and Louise, are bright but not interested in learning. The household doesn't have a computer.

 


See also:

Digital Challenge Game Project Cards

Project cards

As the Game Overview describes, during the planning phase of the game participants first develop Game personas to represent people who should benefit from the programme, and then choose a set of project cards. These represent technology projects and other activities.

Each card shows

  • A cartoon to make it easily distinguishable from others
  • A project title
  • A brief description of the project
  • The type of resources that will be needed to complete the project
  • A budget of 1,2, or 3 points

Participants are given a budget - say, 15 points - and asked to choose project cards appropriate to the personas.

Blank cards enable participants to suggest additional projects.


CARD CONTENT

Below is the content of cards developed so far. Please suggest changes, or leave more ideas, as comments. These won't appear immediately because they require approval to avoid spam.

THIN CLIENT SOLUTIONS
Computers are able to run centralised "thin client" services to reduce equipment costs
Needs : technical development
Budget 1

SERVICES ONLINE
Public bodies coordinate delivery of services over a range of media channels.
Needs: leadership, technical and editorial resources
Budget 3

KIOSKS
Kiosks and other systems provide public access to information
Needs: online services
Budget 2

CAPACITY BUILDING
Local individuals and groups are offered training and support to help them engage more fully in local projects.
Needs : staff, programme
Budget 2

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES
Technology is designed to ensure usability
Needs: development work.
Budget 1

E-PARTICIPATION
E-participation is used to deliver wider social and economic change
Needs: systems, support
Budget 2

MULTIMEDIA PROJECTS
People have access to multi-media facilities to develop their own projects.
Needs: facilities, expertise
Budget 2

SELF-PUBLISHING SUPPORT
Individuals and groups are offered help in developing weblogs and other forms of self- publishing.
Needs: volunteer or staff expertise.
Budget 1

NETWORKED ACTIVISTS
Support for activists with a range of communication tools - email, forums, web - and print
Needs : Co-ordinator, ICT support/training
Budget 2

FACE TO FACE NETWORKING
Regular events are organised to help people make new contacts
Needs: organiser
Budget 1

COMMUNITY STORYTELLING
People can use audio, video and web pages to raise issues of personal and community interest in their own words.
Needs: mentors, equipment.
Budget 1

CONTENT AGGREGATOR
A specialist search engine and aggregator provides a dynamic shop window for local content - and highlights self-publishing efforts
Needs: major development initiative and maintenance.
Budget 2

TELEPHONE SERVICES
Telephone information services complement online systems
Needs : staff
Budget 2

"E-RIDERS"
Technical support staff are available to visit groups, organisations and businesses in need of help
Needs: skilled staff and subsidies
Budget 3

NON PROFIT SUPPORT
Nonprofit organisations are given help to improve their administration and effectiveness by using technology.
Needs: support programme
Budget 2

SHOWCASE AREAS

Resources are concentrated in several neighbourhoods, which then become demonstrators
Needs : community engagement and local management
Budget 3

COMMUNITY ACCESS
The project co-ordinates and increase public and community Internet access in a wide range of locations
Needs : staffing, equipment.
Budget 2

DIGITAL TELEVISION
Interactive digital television provides information and also community broadcast opportunities for local groups
Needs: Cable or other access, set top boxes, programmes
Budget 3

SMALL BUSINESS ONLINE
Support provided for small businesses in using the Internet.
Needs : advisers/partners
Budget 2

MEDIA CENTRE
Local centre provides training and support in web design, digital arts, images, video production, community radio etc
Needs : equipment and staff
Budget 2

SELL ONLINE SERVICES

Project sells online services to local groups and businesses, including web hosting
Needs : expertise, facilities
Budget 2

GROUPS ONLINE
Funding, services and support provided to help community groups and voluntary organisations get online
Needs: online services, support programme
Budget 2

WIRELESS BROADBAND
The project manages and develops a wireless broadband system.
Needs : equipment, technical and business skills
Budget 2

MOBILES
Mobile phones and PDAs are a major channel for community information and conversation
Needs : Messaging system, co-ordinator.
Budget 1

VOLUNTEERS/ MENTORS
Volunteers and mentors help users with technical and other problems.
Needs: organising and support
Budget 2

AFTER SCHOOL CLUBS
After-school recreation programmes are developed as part of a package of measures to reduce juvenile crime
Needs : partners, volunteers, ICT room
Budget 2

EQUIPMENT HIRE
Hire out laptops, projectors, cameras to paying customers
Needs : marketing, insurance
Budget 2

LEADERSHIP TRAINING
Community leadership training linked to programmes in community mapping, advocacy and lobbying skills
Needs : Partners to provide training. ICT room/support
Budget 2

ONLINE CENTRES
Online centres for access and learning are at the heart of a digital inclusion programme
Needs: equipment, staff, premises
Budget 3

E-LEARNING
Course material and informal learning systems are developed with colleges.
Needs: staff, equipment
Budget 3

COMMUNITY RESEARCH
Training courses to help local people use computers and the Net to research local issues for
themselves and prepare action plans.
Needs: research trainers, partner input, ICT room , interested activists
Budget 2

JOB SEARCH ONLINE
Setup a job club using the Internet and CV advice/design.
Needs: Trainer/support worker. Links with partners.
Budget 2

NETWORK CHAMPIONS
The project recruits, trains and supports a network of people who will champion the use of the Internet.
Needs: Training and support programme, equipment.
Budget 2

ONLINE MAPS 
Online maps are created with layers for different issues - e.g. safety, environment, cohesion
Needs: research, technical development, access
Budget 3 


See also:

 

Digital Challenge Game Storyline

Once game participants have created personas and chosen project cards - as described in the overview - their main task is to play through what is likely to happen within the programme, and what benefits it will offer to the people described in the personas.

This is done by telling the story of the programme as it progresses from bid to set up to implementation. Players are encouraged to think through the pitfalls and opportunities that might .

As this story is being recorded on a "timeline" sheet, the game facilitators will feed in "crisis and opportunity" cards representing external factors that may affect the programme. These are designed to trigger group debate. Players develop storyboards for the personas.

Project cards


See also:

 

Digitial Challenge Game Crisis Cards

While game participants are developing their story of what's happening to the programme - and to the people profiled in the personas - they will be encouraged by the game facilitators to think about various opportunities and crises that may occur. The facilitators may feed in some cards outlining possibilities.

Crisis cards

So far we have the following cards:

  • Partnership disagrees on roles/responsibilities
  • Problem with private sector contributions
  • Project required to justify environmental impact
  • Problems with procurement processes
  • Hitch with legal/state aid issues
  • Evaluation calls for non-technological intervention
  • Technology becomes irrelevant/obsolete
  • Service users not interested in the project
  • Unfavourable Press coverage

If you have other ideas, please add a comment below.

 


See also:

 

E-learning

Games about e-learning

E-learning, Web 2.0 ... and games as mud maps

Here's a lengthy item, first posted at Designing for Civil  Society, about using a game to help teachers think about the use of Web 2.0 tools for e-learning. I think it is interesting for several reasons:

  • It produced a new set of cards around e-learning
  • I used some Approach cards to help people think about their design strategy
  • The idea of three journeys in developing systems gave me a clearer idea of how a game can be used right at the start, and then in the designing process

This is the story of how I began to discover the way Web 2.0 may change learning for college students, the three journeys involved in building online systems, and why a workshop game may be a mud map. Oh, and how the Open Innovation Exchange model may be the way to tie a lot of these things together.

I recently ran a workshop at a college that is planning to develop its online learning system to take in more Web 2.0 tools - blogs, wikis, social networking and the like. Instead of material being developed mainly centrally, the idea is to harness the increasing capacity of students to generate their own content, and learn in part through sharing with others in the college and elsewhere. It's what many already do in MySpace and other sites, learning as I am here.

PleThe key word is personalisation, and that means a big change for teachers, who become guides rather than instructors, as well as having to learn how to use a lot of new tools. It also presents a challenge to college management, who have to work through what it is acceptable for students to access and publish, and how potential employers will view this shift to more self-directed learning.

I was a bit anxious about running the session, because educational technology and e-learning is a huge field. I read the excellent edutech blogs of Ewan McIntosh and others, but there was no way - within time and budget - that I could research and develop a substantial presentation, or even invite in a co-presenter. I found a really useful explanation of the move from virtual learning environments and e-portfolios to personal learning environments by Ron Lubensky with a great little diagram. However I didn't feel confident about trying to translate that into the college situation, or pretending to be expert in something I'm not.

Cardfan-2Clearly the solution was to follow the general principle of open processes, and believe in the knowledge and commitment of the dozen staff coming to the event. In fact, to model what we were talking about, and create a framework within which people could add their own content to some initial material that I brought along.

I did that by modifying an earlier presentation that I had done on Web 2.0 for nonprofits, drawing on material from the socialmedia wiki, and creating a new game based on those Drew Mackie and I have developed over the past 10 years. You can find them here. They are all available for downloading, and further development, as I'm delighted to see the ever-inventive Beth Kanter is doing for documentary filmmakers.

I drew some additional inspiration (not for the first time) from the guys on the other side of the world at Anecdote. Shawn Callahan had written a piece about  Knowledge strategy - three journeys. It made me think that there were three stages for the college which mapped closely to theirs (which I summarise - do read the full post):

Three 20Journeys Small

The first journey is designed to help the organisation's leaders develop a common understanding of what they would like to achieve and defining this end-state in broad terms, while knowing that detailed plans are unlikely to be achieved (the world is too unpredictable for a simple, linear view).

The second journey involves the rest of the organisation (or a representative subset) planning how they will get to the desired state.

The third journey is when the organisation actually embarks on implementing the ideas developed in the first two imaginary journeys.

What we were doing in the workshop was just starting on the first journey. As Shawn says (with the diagram above):

We encourage the leadership group to develop a rough mud map of the journey from the current situation to this desired end state while resisting the urge to fill in the details. The staff fill in the details as part of the second journey.

Got it! Games as mud maps. (I'm supposing that means drawing maps in the mud .... )

We had three hours for the workshop, and it ran like this:

First, a presentation  to explain the session, a bit about Web 2.0, and the way that we were going to run the game. You should be able to see that here, but if not go to slideshare where you can view this pdf full screen and download. It includes the game cards. There's also a Powerpoint version without cards.




Second, a run of the game, which (almost) went like this, as you can see from the presentation (which I have amended slightly for this post):

  • Share our understanding of where the college, its students, staff and management are now, and then break into three groups each taking one of those perspectives.
  • Take the pack of game cards that represent three things: possible approaches, development activities, and system building activities.
  • Choose cards that will address the challenges you shared, within a budget of 15 points (development and building cards have 1,2, 3 points on each representing level of resource). Organise the cards in a way that enables you to describe to others what you are planning.
  • Then in each group develop a storyboard of what happens from your perspective - a student, teacher, manager - over the coming months and years.

Thirdly, share insights from that discussion, and consider what is needed to continue this first journey and to plan how to move to the second.

In practice we didn't have time for the storytelling, and so moved to the "what next", which will involve development of a first report and continuing discussion online with a wider group of staff.

I was running the workshop as part of my work with Steve Moore and Roy Charles of Policy Unplugged. Roy knows the college education scene well, and as well as providing all the introductions made sure in his contribution and guidance that we were rooted in the current policy, finance and political realities.

We suggested that one of the ways that the college might like to continue it's first journey, and move to the second, could be by creating an open co-design process, rather like that we've been running at the Open Innovation Exchange, using a Drupal-based multi-blog system developed by my son Dan.

In this instance the college preferred to use it's own system, but the discussion really highlighted for me the potential of the three-journey model, using games as mud maps and an open process online.

Phew, it took me a few hours to put this post together, and as so often I didn't really know what I wanted to say until I had written it. Now I understand. I guess that's personalised Web 2.0 learning.

Please feel free to use the game with acknowledgement, or let me know what you think of it. I would love to hear from anyone in this field interested in improving it.

Engagement game

Summary

The engagement game is designed for situations where one group wishes to involve a wider range of interests in something that they are planning to do. This might be, for example, a programme of neighbourhood improvements, a policy discussion, or development of an organisation. We have tried to make the game as flexible as possible.

The organisers - who we have called the programme team - might be open to a wide range of ideas for the start, or they might only be prepared to offer some limited opportunities for people to provide suggestions. They may offer involvement though a range of methods: surveys, events, online discussions.

The game is played in a workshop setting, with groups of 4-7 spending at least an hour with a set of cards and other "props". They first explore the situation, and the purpose of engagement, then use the cards to generate ideas for involvement and action, and finally move to generating stories about what may happen.

The game can be played "for real" to help design an engagement programme, or as a simulation at a seminar or conference with a larger number of people. It's a good way for people to start exploring the wider issues of participation and engagement.

Development of the game during 2006 was funded by the UK Department for Constitution Affairs - now the Ministry of Justice - as part of their democratic engagement programme. We built on this game development with further funding from what is now the Department for Communities and Local Government as part of the Digital Challenge programme. That led to the Digital Challenge game, which you can find out about and use here.

Playing the game

These pages provide specific instructions for the engagement game, and more general information about our games.

Read about participation and engagement

Communications and engagement game

who and why matrixThe other day I ran a workshop for PR and communications staff who are working in housing associations, and I've put the presentation and game that I used on the social media wiki.

The cards are much the same as those used in other games, but after groups had invented the scenario (a housing organisation wanting to improve communications) I asked them to think about two dimensions. First, who was the main focus for improved communications (Board, staff, residents, others) and then what benefits were they looking for: improved consuming of information, better communication, and/or collaboration. After that the groups considered what communication methods would be most appropriate.

Overall the game sequence was:

  • People break into groups of 6-8 and invent scenarios around local housing organisations and their residents
  • They then present the scenarios as challenges to a pair group
  • Groups use a matrix to think of who they are trying to engage and why: consume information, communicate, collaborate
  • They then choose communication methods from a set of cards. Each card has 1, 2, 3 points - budget is 15.
  • The develop a plan and present this back to the "client" group
  • Group split into sub-groups and tell the stories of how this works for different characters, and the project

... although we didn't get time for the storytelling.

I think that it should be possible to develop this game for The Membership Project, where as I reported earlier we need some ways to help organiaations explore the implication of social media, and how to use it. Meanwhile you can download everything from the wiki.

Engagement game instructions - real situations

Playing the engagement game for real

You can use the engagement game "for real" to plan how to engage a range of interests in any project or programme of activity. More here on the background and general description of the game,  here for questions and answers about our games, and here for using the game for simulations

The engagement game described here is a strategy tool, rather than a way of involving people in a specific project. It might be used , for example, by a public agency to plan how to involve residents, businesses and other interests in a local economic, social or environmental programme. Other games might then be run around specific areas of interest. ideally some of these interests might also be involved in engagement game sessions - because they will know best how to engage others.

A session of the game will take at least an hour and a half - and ideally should run over two or three hours if you want to use it for real-situation planning. During the session you should:

1. Bring together the key interests involved on the project or programme. You can do this with the core team planning the programme - or with a wider range of interests.

2. Use a room where people can split into groups of 4-7 and work around small tables or flip charts.

3. Start by asking those involved to describe the current situation so they develop a shared understanding of who is involved, what you are trying to achieve, what is the history, when things have to be done.

4. When people are in groups of 4-7, provide them with a set of cards with ideas for engagement. Use the set provided here, or produce your own using a template.

5. Ask groups is to choose a sub-set of cards to address the engagement issues described earlier by the group. Each
card has a resource cost of 1,2, or 3 points. Give the groups a budget
- say 15-20 points so they can't choose all the cards. Ask them arrange the cards to produce an engagement plan. They can draw
links, alter cards, add their own ideas.

6. Once groups have a plan, they change mode and start storytelling. This can best be done by breaking into smaller groups of two or three. Each group takes a character representing a programme participant, and describes how they will be involved over a period of months or years.

7. Facilitators may throw in crisis or opportunity cards, representing events that may impacy on the engagement programme.

8. Groups then report back on their plans and stories, and discuss next steps

Games materials

(to follow - except cards files at bottom of page)

Checklist for planning the game.

Briefing notes for facilitators

Engagement methods cards (download from bottom of the page or click here)

Template (Word) for creating cards

Character examples

Planning sheets

Story sheets

Download all materials (zip file)

Additional guidance

Bringing together key interests

You can use the game "for real" in at least two ways. You can either just play it through with "insiders" - the programme team who are planning and managing the engagement process. Or you can involve some of the wider interests - the potential participants - in the planning the process. That way you bring in greater understanding of how people are likely to respond, and grant people some early ownership of the programme. The challenge is that bringing participants into the planning process means the "insiders" giving up some control. Our advice: play the game with the programme team first, then run it a second time with the wider group if the team agrees to this.

In order to decide on who to involve beyond the team, you will need to do some research into who's who in the programme area, perhaps mapping connections so you understand who might influence who.

Appointing a facilitator

One or two people, respected by participants, should act as facilator(s). They should ensure that participants are briefed; organise the room; manage the flow of the game without being directive; and make sure that any report back and final discussion relates to the purpose of the exercise. They should check that people are clear about the purpose of the workshop, and help them reach useful conclusions.

Choosing the room

Choose a room with flexible seating so that people can work in groups of about 4-7. They can do this around a small table, or just by grouping chairs together. It helps for each group to have a flip chart on an easel, but
if necessary they can work on the table or even on the floor. What doesn't work (at all) is theatre style seating. Big tables (like those used for banqueting) can be a problem because people are too far apart
for easy conversation.

Describing the current situation

You can either do this on the spot, as a first stage of the game, or do some preliminary research into who's who, challenges and opportunities, past history. Even if you do some research - which could be circulated beforehand - disuss this on the day so that everyone has a shared understanding.

Agreeing purpose and stance

One of the main reasons for engagement programmes going wrong is lack of agreement on why people are being involved, and how much say they should have. Why do you want people to be involved? Is it for their expertise, because they will be dissatisifed if they are not involved, or because without their involvement the programme cannot function? What "stance" are you taking to involvement on a spectrum from consultation (here's some options) through to co-design and co-creation? The reading materials listed on this page have more on this.

Using the cards

The set of pre-prepared cards we offer cover some activities early in development of the programme (interviews and mapping for example), and a range of face-to-face, online, and other methods. To use the cards:

  • first review whether the range we offer is appropriate. Discard some, add others if necessary
  • on the day, organise people into groups of about 4-7 around a small table or flip chart
  • after describing the situation, agreeing purpose and stance, the facilitator gives people a set of cards. Explain that they should choose activities and methods to address the challenges previously discussed. Each card has a budget of 1,2, or 3 resource points. Groups should be given a budget of, say, 15-20 so they cannot choose all the cards. Groups can amend cards and add their own, though if they do that they should check with the facilitator what resource points (1,2, or 3) to add to their card.
  • some of the cards describe optional approaches. These should form part of the plan, with an indication of what direction the group has decided on.
  • after groups have chosen their set of cards they should organise them into a plan, drawing links and adding other points.

Telling the story of what happens

In our experience the richest discussion about engagement occur when we ask groups to move from project planning, with cards, into creating stories of what may happen to different interests during the engagement process. In order to get started, ask groups to identify and describe some key "characters" - a range of people who may be at the core of the programme, or less involved. Then split into smaller groups of two or three people and describe over a period of weeks or months what happens if the programme develops as described in the card-based plan.

If some of the characters are core to the programme - perhaps working for agencies or organisations - while others are initially less involved, you can get different perspectives on how things may develop.

Introducing some challenges

If discussion would benefit from some stimulus, the game facilitators can introduce some challenges by giving groups cards with a word or two describing a crisis or opportunity, which they then have to weave into the story.

Report back and next steps

By the end of the session groups should have a plan and set of stories to share with others. Issues to address are likely to include:

  • were groups clear about the purpose of the engagement programme, who should be involved, and how much influence they are prepared to offer to participants
  • have groups chosen methods that reflect the purpose and degree of influence
  • in what sequence should the methods be used, and do some methods depend on others
  • what skills and resources will be needed to put the programme into operation\
  • what are the risks likely to emerge

Engagement game instructions - simulation

Playing the engagement game as a simulation

You can play the engagement game "for real" - as described here - or as a simulation at a conference, or training session, for example. It's a good way to help people understand what may be involved in participation and engagement programmes.

You can run a simulation session in about 45 minutes, but you will get more value from the game if you can allow about an hour and a half. During the session you should:

1. Use a room where people can split into groups of 4-7 and work around small tables or flip charts. You can play with any number of people - but may need more than one facilitator if you have a lot of groups.

2. Start by inventing a situation - the context for the game. We find it is better to invent something on the spot rather than use pre-prepared situations, so people feel involved. It can be done group by group, or as a whole. More below on this.

3. When people are in groups, with an understanding of the situation they are planning for, provide them with a
set of cards with ideas for engagement. Use the set provided here, or
produce your own using a template.

4. Ask the groups is to choose a sub-set of cards
to address the engagement issues described earlier in the invented situation. Each
card has a resource cost of 1,2, or 3 points. Give the groups a budget
- say 15-20 points so they can't choose all the cards. Ask them arrange the cards to produce an engagement plan. They can draw
links, alter cards, add their own ideas.

5. Once groups have a plan, they change mode and start
storytelling. This can best be done by breaking into smaller groups of
two or three. Each group takes a character representing a programme
participant, and describes how they will be involved over a period of
months or years.

6. Facilitators may throw in crisis or opportunity cards, representing events that may impacy on the engagement programme.

7. Groups then report back on their plans and stories, and discuss next steps.

If you are short of time, you can do the report back after 4 ... but we find a lot of insights come when groups move from the project planning mode into storytelling.

Games materials

(to follow - except cards )

Checklist for planning the game.

Briefing notes for facilitators

Engagement methods cards for download  click here

Template (Word) for creating cards

Character examples

Planning sheets

Story sheets

Download all materials (zip file)

Additional guidance

Organising the event

Before the event, check the room to make sure you have a flexible space where people can break into groups of 4-7 around tables or flip charts. We find it is best to keep people in the same room if possible - that generates more buzz, and is easier to manage. Peoiple can work in groups around a small table, or just by
grouping chairs together. It helps for each group to have a flip chart
on an easel, but
if necessary they can work on the table or even on the floor. What
doesn't work (at all) is theatre style seating. Big tables (like those
used for banqueting) can be a problem because people are too far apart
for easy conversation.

You then need:

  • A presentation or script to explain the game to participants
  • A set of cards and other materials: character examples, planning sheets, story sheets.
  • Flip charts, pens, sticky putty to attach cards to charts

Acting as a facilitator

The role of facilitator is to ensure that participants are briefed;
organise the room; manage the flow of the game without being directive;
and make sure that any report back and final discussion relates to the
purpose of the exercise. The facilitator should check that people are clear about
the purpose of the workshop, and help them reach useful conclusions.

Inventing the situation

We use two methods for this:

  1. Spend about 10 minutes inventing a situation with the whole room, which everyone then plays through. Use this if time is tight. Use the check list below to ask people to offer up suggestions.
  2. Ask each group to invent a situation which they then pass on to another group as a challenge - "make it as tough as you like, you won't be solving the problems". Of course, each group gets someone else's challenging situation! This is more fun, and you can suggest each group invents a different situation, by giving them a headline about the locality, organisation, group.

In either case, cover:

  • Where is this - locality, organisation, network?
  • Who is involved - the key interests you wish to engage.
  • What is the history?
  • Why are you doing this?
  • What is the timescale - when does this have to be completed?
  • What are the main challenges?

The rest of the game then addresses the "how". 

Agreeing purpose and stance

One of the main reasons for engagement programmes going wrong is
lack of agreement on why people are being involved, and how much say
they should have. Why do you want people to be involved? Is it for
their expertise, because they will be dissatisifed if they are not
involved, or because without their involvement the programme cannot
function? What "stance" are you taking to involvement on a spectrum
from consultation (here's some options) through to co-design and
co-creation? The reading materials listed on this page have more on this.

Using the cards

The set of pre-prepared cards we offer cover some activities early in
development of the programme (interviews and mapping for example), and
a range of face-to-face, online, and other methods. To use the cards:

  • first review whether the range we offer is appropriate. Discard some, add others if necessary
  • on the day, organise people into groups of about 4-7 around a small table or flip chart
  • after
    describing the situation, agreeing purpose and stance, the facilitator
    gives people a set of cards. Explain that they should choose activities
    and methods to address the challenges previously discussed. Each card
    has a budget of 1,2, or 3 resource points. Groups should be given a
    budget of, say, 15-20 so they cannot choose all the cards. Groups can
    amend cards and add their own, though if they do that they should check
    with the facilitator what resource points (1,2, or 3) to add to their
    card.
  • some of the cards describe optional approaches. These
    should form part of the plan, with an indication of what direction the
    group has decided on.
  • after groups have chosen their set of cards they should organise them into a plan, drawing links and adding other points.

Telling the story of what happens

In our experience the richest discussion about engagement occur when we
ask groups to move from project planning, with cards, into creating
stories of what may happen to different interests during the engagement
process. In order to get started, ask groups to identify and describe
some key "characters" - a range of people who may be at the core of the
programme, or less involved. Then split into smaller groups of two or
three people and describe over a period of weeks or months what happens
if the programme develops as described in the card-based plan.

If some of the characters are core to the programme - perhaps
working for agencies or organisations - while others are initially less
involved, you can get different perspectives on how things may develop.

Introducing some challenges

If discussion would benefit from some stimulus, the game
facilitators can introduce some challenges by giving groups cards with
a word or two describing a crisis or opportunity, which they then have
to weave into the story.

Report back and next steps

By the end of the session groups should have a plan and set of
stories to share with others. Issues to address are likely to include:

  • were groups clear about the purpose of the engagement
    programme, who should be involved, and how much influence they are
    prepared to offer to participants
  • have groups chosen methods that reflect the purpose and degree of influence
  • in what sequence should the methods be used, and do some methods depend on others
  • what skills and resources will be needed to put the programme into operation\
  • what are the risks likely to emerge

 

Engagement game reports

Below are links to blog items about the engagement game

Designing mixed media engagement, with Government

Dcagame1-1

Drew Mackie and I have been funded over the past year to developed a game for designing engagement, by what is now the Department of Justice, previously Department for Constitutional Affairs. The other day we went back with a version that aims to meet current Government interest in using a mix of social media and other methods.

The first version of the game focussed on face-to-face engagement methods, and had quite a complicated board - as you can see from this report of an earlier session.

This time we added in blogs, online forums, MySpace, wikis, social bookmarking and other goodies from the world of Web 2.0, to complement workshops, exhibitions and deliberative processes. We also made the sequence of play simpler, and were able to bring in elements from the Digital Challenge game developed for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Ian Johnson and members of his team took 90 minutes out of their busy departmental reorganisation schedule to develop a scenario around energy policy, and then set-to choosing appropriate methods to engage a wide range of interests, Drew livened things up by throwing some challenges into the emerging storyline ( new climate change study produces gloomier results).

Dcagame2We felt it all went rather well, and were delighted to get confirmation of that on the new blog started by one of the players, Jeremy Gould, who runs the websites for the department:

I can see how the game would have real application within government, as well as outside, in helping policy teams to understand the importance of designing engagement programmes strategically and considering all possible options before they go diving in.

In particular, the inclusion of many social media methods into the game was instructive - not least because it teaches participants that none of this is an add on and that all activity requires resource, commitment and time.

Since Jeremy is also helping Cabinet Office assess the opportunities for government communications of social media we were doubly pleased.

Our next step is to tidy up the various versions of the game, and make them available on this site. Meanwhile you can download, as pdfs, the game cards and the game instructions.

Our experience is that effective engagement is as much about attitude as method. Too often consultants are hired to run programmes with the client at arms length ... with the result that when the results come in the response is inadequate. That's even more likely when new media is part of the mix. OK ... I know they are paying us ... but it is heartening that DCA/Department of Justice officials are prepared to try the techniques that we and others are developing, and that through Jeremy they are out there actually using some of the new ways of engaging.

Gaming at Together We Can

Together we can

Drew Mackie and I ran two sessions of the Engagement Game yesterday at the Together We Can conference organised by the Home Office - and generally felt that it went pretty well with about 15 people in one workshop and 20 in the other.

The format was similar to the first session we ran with Civil Servants back in February. We first invented a scenario - a goal for the engagement process. In one case it was illegal use of motorbikes on open space and in another "youth nuisance". The task was then to plan a process by which a whole range of different interests - from government departments through to local groups - might be involved in tackling the issue.

As before, we split into four team, each dealing with different phases of the engagement process - inception, preparation, involvement and delivery/evaluation. However we improved the run of play by tailoring instructions for each group, and controlling the rate at which we handed out cards so people were not too overwhelmed by bits of paper.

One of the first tasks for groups was to decide on purpose cards, which indicated how much or how little involvement people were going to be offered in their phase of the process ... information, consultation, involvement in decision making, collaboration, empower,

They then went on to work out which groups should be involved and finally what methods to use, governed by a budget set by the preparation group.I've uploaded the game instructions and cards, with links below. I should emphasise, however, that the game is still very much under construction. Drew and I will be tidying things up into a more comprehensive package, and looking for more opportunities to pilot. If you are interested, do contact us. We can spend some time on this, because game development is supported by the Innovation Fund of the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

DeanthugginsAt one of the sessions I was delighted to meet Dean T. Huggins, a trainer and consultant specialising in community engagement, who is a co-author of the excellent course being run by the Home Office. You can download the materials here. One of our ideas with the game has always been that it can be a '"front end" to other material, with links from the cards to other resources, so I was really pleased Dean thought that could work well.

DrewmackieI also persuaded Drew to give his view on camera on how things went, and what changes are needed. We only had about an hour today to run the session, and we would really like to thank those who participated for compressing some rather complex tasks into a tight timetable. But then that's usually the case with real engagement processes too.... Thanks also to Justin Merry of the Home Office who helped us with facilitation, and to Charles Woodd and the rest of the team there for inviting us along to the conference. Click the photos for video - which needs Quicktime (download free). Comments below welcome from anyone who participated - and indeed anyone else.

Engame3006-2.zip Engagement game instructions and cards (zipped folder of pdfs)
More photos
Guide to Effective Participation
Earlier session

Governance games

Governance games

How to play the governance game

Report at Designing for Civil Society on how we developed and played a governance game, with instructions. There's also a report on a session at the same conference to develop communities of practice - fast.

Neighbourhoods, governance and games

I'm looking forward to the conference on neighbourhood governance and community engagement organised for CDF by Kevin Harris next month. If that sounds bit challenging, but be assured that Drew Mackie and I will aim to liven things up with our Neighbourhood Governance Game. As Kevin reported previously, we had a lot of fun with a dry run last November, when groups invented semi-fictitious neighbourhoods and then planned improvements together .... or not very together.

As a simulation it was uncannily realistic. The policy people struggled with the slight vagueness of their brief and worked away at trying to clarify it without going to talk to the service reps or the residents’ groups. In one locality, the service and community groups began by swearing undying mutual support but before long had drifted apart. The community group in this case struggled very realistically to agree on things. At the other locality, the reverse happened: they began deciding independently what they were going to do, but in due course came together harmoniously and creatively. And on one side we had this exquisite example as participants worked on the timeline: in one locality in the fictional year two, the residents came up with a stack of initiatives (orange post-its - click on the image to enlarge) while the agencies' sole initiative was ‘Progress report and evaluation.’

Drew and I have since produced a brief report, which you can download as a zipped pdf here, including my favourite observation:

One participant honestly reported at the end: “we found it so difficult managing internal stakeholders we never got round to talking to external ones; we started consulting people at the end of the process as a way to generate consensus, not the beginning as a way to frame the task. Personally I was appalled by own behaviour - I started off accusing my colleagues of slipping into policybabble rather than plain english, and yet happily charged through to the end of the process without once asking anyone in the other room what they thought”.

The conference takes place at the Resource Centre, Holloway Road, London, 14 March 2006. As Kevin says:

The event will be chaired by Carol Hayden, Associate Director, Shared Intelligence. Speakers include Mark Hitchen, ODPM Neighbourhoods Team, providing an update on the government proposals; the Young Foundation's Paul Hilder giving an update on the Transforming Neighbourhoods programme; and Susie Hay, regeneration and participation consultant, discussing the importance of informal networking at local level.

On that form, the rest of the conference will be both lively and enlightening. Bookings and enquiries: Cheryl.Roberts(at)cdf.org.uk, 020 7833 1772. There's a leaflet here.

Playing through double devolution

Dsc 4084The go-between wears out a thousand sandals, according to a Japanese proverb. In deepest Holloway last week that fate befell those playing the role of councillor in our game simulating the government's new neighbourhoods policy.

As conference organiser Kevin Harris reports, the game aimed to simulate what will happen in a few years when "double devolution" takes hold, and public service delivery moves down the ladder beyond councils to offer more contracting opportunities to nonprofits, and more opportunities for active citizens.

NegameDrew Mackie and I were relieved when participants readily agreed to move from presentations to interaction, to form groups, and develop descriptions of fictitious (but pretty realistic) neighbourhoods. To spice things up, they threw in plenty of problems and then passed the challenge to another group, while inheriting someone else's neighbourhood. After that, their task was to come up with ways in which different agencies, organisations and community groups would plan and carry out improvements. It was a revised version of our first run last November. As Kevin reports:

The first version of the game had been uncannily realistic but we had struggled to integrate the policy role. On this occasion we diluted it but Drew introduced a role for ward councillors - and it was fascinating to watch how, in two of the three groups, the councillor ended up being a butt for complaints from the community groups and systematically ignored or by-passed by the service agencies. Watching one group was like watching a game of tennis, and reminds me that I've often been puzzled as to why anyone would want to become a councillor. It just doesn't seem a pleasant way to spend one's evenings.

Earlier Kieran Drake, from Neighbourhoods and Citizen Engagement at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, had provided a full briefing on how policy is developing, and explained the enhanced role councillors might have. They would move from the back benches to the front line, becoming leaders of communities and empowered advocates, while calling on support from council officers running neighbourhood management. You can download the presentation here, together with others from Gabriel Chanan and Paul Hilder.

It all sounded fine in theory, but then things don't always turn out the way the policy makers hope. Games are one way of testing out what may happen. In this case it seemed that councillors could end up being pulled in two directions, trying to build bridges but just as likely to get in the way. Is that a mixed metaphor? I'm not sure, but it was all pretty hilarious since people managed to have fun exploring the future of Slaghampton.

Kevin highlights the complexity of what the government plans:

Presentations and discussion at the conference, as well as the game, confirmed that this agenda packs a hugely complex set of issues. The scope and power of agencies, the formality of neighbourhood agreements with service providers, the skill-levels of councillors, the worries about burn-out among activists, and so on - all sorts of unanswered dynamics and tensions. To their credit, the ODPM have long-since recognised the importance of strengthening local government and enhancing the role of councillors.

While there were clearly a lot of tough issues, I found some support for the way things may develop. I asked two people from what could easily become opposite sides of the fence what they thought. Folake Segun works for Croydon Voluntary Action, and Theo Fasoyiro for Croydon Council. They were very positive about the new policies and the benefits they may bring. However - and this to me is the key issue - they emphasised that it is because the public and nonprofit sector have a good working relationship at present. Where different sectors don't get on so well the new arrangements are going to be pretty challenging, and the role of councillors particularly so. In that case, start ordering sandals now.
More pictures here

Telling the lifestory of a local forum

Neighbourhood forums are one of the methods for local participative democracy promoted by UK central and local government - but what do they mean in practice? We found out by inviting people to invent a place, create a forum, and tell its lifestory - all within an hour.

Nbhd Govnce Game Bath.Jpg-1As Kevin Harris has mentioned on his Neighbourhoods blog, we both ran a little storytelling game this week on the theme of how to set up a local forum. It went really well, proving to me anyway that an hour's conversation among a few interested people can provide as many insights as a manual that probably won't be read much anyway.
The occasion was a Quest Trust networking event, and the reason for the particular game was that UK central and local government is pushing hard their local:vision policies for more effective citizen engagement in neighbourhoods.
One mechanism for this will be establishing neighbourhood forums to discuss local issues and action.

AreaThere'll be a national framework, and neighbourhoods charter, and locally citizens could have a chance to deal with issues like anti-social behaviour, delegating budgets to ward councillors, model byelaws, and neighbourhood contracts with service providers.
The think tank Demos has produced a learned pamphlet on Everyday democracy, and a Conservative group is promoting Direct Democracy with an agenda including local decision-making. Participative democracy is very fashionable, probably because of rising concern among politicians that people are losing interest in the non-participative kind.
Our challenge at the Quest event: how do you help people plan some practical action, and bring the policy ideals down to earth? We used a technique developed by my colleague Drew Mackie, and quite simply asked people to tell the story of a forum.
First of all, as a group of ten people, we invented a local ward - with roads and rail, schools, church and mosque, homes good and bad, greenspace and grot.... inevitablely call The Sink.
ForumWe then split into two groups each with a poster-sized sheet of paper divided horizontally into sections: starting, setting up, developing, running.... and just talked about it. Although people hadn't worked together before, the groups rapidly pooled their experience to come up with a narrative taking the forum from initial inspiration through to the very real challenges of accommodating different views and interests while dealing with the complexities of local government and public agencies.
Kevin and I spiced things up a bit by throwing in some crisis cards: bad media coverage, demands for a representative constitution, forum chair runs off with a grant....it was a lot of fun.
As Kevin reports, one of the issues to surface was that it is unrealistic to think that just living in the same place is enough to bind people together into a forum. People respond to the issues that affect their lives, or form linkages with people who have similar interests.
As one person remarked, you may be able to pack a meeting with people when the residents' parking plans change, but find only a few next time for business as usual.
We had some good ideas about how to deal with this by forming smaller interest groups that could report back to the forum, and a lively discussion about dealing with the 'loud mouths' who can take over events and turn other people off. On the other hand, without the enthusiasts you can soon run out of steam....
Kevin and I will be developing the game further with Drew, so do get in touch if you would like to know more or try the game for yourself.
More games on this site

Housing games

Housing games

Making the Net work for homes

We have done two substantial pieces of work using games to help people plan how to use the Internet in social housing. The first was a study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which you can read in full here. The second was some follow-up work for Communities Scotland , where we developed a planning toolkit. Although the subject was technology and how to use it, the planning tools of a development route map, cards and planning sheets can be used more generally.

Social housing explores social media

Cardfan

A conference workshop last week gave me an insight into how far we have travelled in the past few years in the possible use of new media in the public and nonprofit sectors, and how we might explore this further.

It's a few years since I did much work in the field of social housing, when I co-authored a book on how Internet technologies could offer benefits to residents and their landlords - so I was particularly interested to catch up by running a workshop at a conference of the National Housing Federation last week. We played an updated version of a card game I had previously used in 2003 at an NHF IT conference.

HousinggameFour years ago there was emphasis on giving people access, conventional web sites, training and support - plus ideas for community storytelling and multimedia. This time I had thrown in cards about blogs, wikis, social networking - plus wifi, mobile phones and Internet TV. How engaged would people be with these possibilities, I wondered?

At the start of the session I asked how familiar people were with these new media tools, and saw a sprinkling of hands - maybe a quarter. Others had heard of them, but few were generally using them in the workplace in order to communicate internally, with residents, or other organisations.

PresentationWe then spent five minutes inventing a typical housing association - with a mix of rented housing and leasehold, some units for older people - and broke into five groups. I handed each group a pack of cards, and invited them to choose those most relevant to the situation, and also add their own ideas. As you can see, each card had an image - so they didn't all look the same - a brief description, and a number 1,2, or 3 giving a rough estimate of cost. Groups were allowed 15 points - so they couldn't choose all the cards.

There was a great buzz as everyone read read cards and discussed how they might be applied, then created a story to present back to other groups.

We ended up with a discussion, and the discovery that even after a few minutes conversation those not too familiar with the tools could learn enough from those who were, and see how they might be used in their work. It was really all just a conversation-starter, but convinced me yet again that helping people talk to each other is usually a lot more fruitful than talking at them. I've listed the card content below, and you can download a pdf of them here. Those at the top of the list below were chosen over those at the bottom. There was general agreement on the use of new media for engaging residents and other stakeholders, and often the need to move to a new content management system with more interactivity. There is high usage of mobile phones among residents, so text and voice messaging would be important. More services online was no surprise - but I was interested that several groups felt they should have a presence in MySpace or a similar social network. Clearly the message of go where people are, rather than expect them to come to you, is getting through. No-one felt that their chief executive would write a personal blog: as someone said, it would just be written by a press officer.

The workshop game, played at the housing conference, was just one of suite of methods Drew Mackie and I have developed over the past few years, which you can find at this Useful Games blog. We used a longer version of a similar game with Digital Challenge finalists: you can read about the Manchester session here.

The main difference with the Digital Challenge version was that we spent time after the initial selection of cards developing stories of how different people in the community could use the technology tool set. That gave a fresh set of even more useful insights into usage.

Reflecting on the workshop session - and others that we have run - it struck me that with a little development we could use this for some qualitative research into the potential for the adoption of different communication and collaboration methods in different settings. The virtue of these workshop games is that they offer scope for exploring most of the relevant issues: the context, history and culture (in the scenario setting); the different roles and beneficiaries (if you bring in characters); the range of possible methods (on the cards). In longer versions we throw in 'crisis' cards to the storytelling, and extend the stories told to impact on programmes.

Drew wrote a paper on Why games a few years back, which you can find here. 2003! Time for an update, highlighting yet again how effective a few bits of paper can be in getting people talking. More so than Powerpoint.

Housing cards content. Download pdf.

  • E-participation: E-mail, blogs and web site used for engagement with residents and other stakeholders
  • Content managmenent system: Move to content management system, with scope for blogs and forums as well as static pages.
  • Focus on mobiles: Mobile phones are a major channel for information and communication.
  • Services online: More services are available online
  • Community content: Residents encouraged and supported in developing content online - text, audio, video, photos - through blogs and wikis.
  • Wireless broadband : Residents and staff can dispense with landline phones and use wireless network for free calls and Internet access
  • Video storytelling: Staff and volunteers use video clips to tell stories
  • Free Web services strategy: Cut software costs and support collaboration online by using new free web services.
  • Instant messaging: All staff are encouraging to be available online for chat - speeding communication and reducing e-mail
  • Social networking: Set up a site on MySpace - or similar - and network there.
  • Information kiosks: Information kiosks provide information and some communication facilities
  • Podcasts: News updates and stories from the organisation - and residents - can be downloaded for playback on iPod or similar
  • Free Internet phone calls: Staff switch to free Skype calls where possible - with instant messaging too
  • Exploration: Staff encouraged to spend time exploring blogs and other social media to help plan new development
  • Chief executive’s blog: The chief executive has a public blog to provide a personal view on developments.
  • Online maps: Web services can be combined to create online maps and other ways of combining data
  • Use feeds to cut e-mail: Staff are encouraged to reduce e-mail by using RSS feeds from new system.
  • Internet TV: Interactive digital TV provides web services and broadcast opportunies without the need for computers
  • News on tap: Use - and add to - news from 24dash on blog
  • Photosharing: Staff and residents are encouraged to upload and tag photos for public sharing.
  • Project collaboration system: Project management and collaboration system like Basecamp used internally to improve team working
  • Wikis for instant web sites: Wikis provide groups with collaborative publishing and workspace - and instant web sites
  • Virtual worlds - Second Life: Engage people in the Second Life virtual world
  • Other Ideas: Selling the additional benefits of going online - shopping, family/friends, family trees; Train the staff and residents; Setting up our own ISP; SMS updates; Online forum - means for residents to interact with each other; Free map services.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Local online community games

Local online communities

Games to develop online communities

We have a range of card sets that can be useful for groups that are thinking through how to get their organisation or neighbourhood online - or, for example, are rethinking their community web site as part of a wider communications network. If you are interested in this, I suggest:

Most of the sets are a mix of online activities and other things that you will need to do to get people involved. You might also take a look at the sustainability game developed to help UK online centre think about how they may fundraise, attract volunteers, trade or get help in kind.

The cards have backs with fundinbg ideas (for the UK). Do email me if you have any queries, suggestions or experience of using the games David Wilcox david@partnerships.org.uk

New cards set for community networking

We have developed a new set of cards for the community networking game, to play with participants at a community technology conference in Brighton, UK.

 

Networking games

Networking

Planning a network

I recently put together proposals for a potential client on how to set up a network for practitioners working in the field of community participation, and as part of that outlined a possible network planning game.

Here's how to use it: Take a look at the general game instructions here or download Why games - pdf. Download the networking cards - 700K pdf Download planning sheet - pdf

Follow the instructions for a real or fictitious but realistic situation. Briefly:

  • Work in groups to invent or describe the situation (what is the network for, who might be involved, what are the challenges etc)
  • Give each group a set of cards, explaining they have a budget of, say 15, and that they can add their own ideas on the blanks
  • When groups have chosen a set of cards, give them a planning sheet to work out priorities and timeline. You'll need to redraw the download A4 on an A1 sheet, or use a copier to enlarge
  • Add up the 'needs' on the cards to show staff, funding and other resources needed. There's a space at the bottom of the planning sheet.
  • Present, discuss

Comments, queries welcome below. You can download a short guide to setting up a network here .

Regeneration games

Regeneration

Buy the Regeneration Game

The Regeneration Game, which enables groups to plan a programme of projects to improve their neighbourhood, is now available as a boxed version with four sets of cards, instructions and planning sheets.
You can order from the NIACE site.
Questions and answers about the Regeneration Game
If you would like us to run an event using the game, contact David Wilcox david@partnerships.org.uk

Launch of the Regeneration Game

We are launching a boxed version The Regeneration Game in November and also running our first two training events with our partners NIACE.Regen game Participants will be able to use the game cards, planning sheet and instructions to develop neighbourhood renewal plans for some fictitious - but realistic - communities that they will invent. You can now buy the game online from NIACE. For more about the game, read on...

The Regeneration Game is based on a range of games developed since the mid 1990's by Drew Mackie and David Wilcox - many of them designed to help groups plan technology projects. You can see some of those at the Making the Network site with free cards and instructions.
The boxed game includes sets of 52 cards with ideas for regeneration projects, planning sheets, and instructions for facilitators.Game cards It also has a booklet on how games can be a highly effective way of helping groups solve problems, and information about where to get funding for many of the project ideas on the cards.
The Regeneration Game has been developed with Jane Thompson and Cheryl Turner of the adult learning organisation NIACE, that has also designed and published the game.
They write: "Participation and partnership are accepted as fundamental to successful neighbourhood renewal and yet on the ground, residents are increasingly sceptical and tired of 'being consulted', activists are overwhelmed by the demands of more meetings, and policy-makers are frustrated by delays in achieving crucial results. Doing more of the same is not enough. We need credible and imaginative new ways of supporting diverse groups of people in working and learning together.
"Endorsed by the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, this exciting resource offers a refreshingly different approach to achieving proper collaboration between diverse groups of people. Using a card game format, it enables people to understand the problems of regeneration better, to plan feasible solutions, and to appreciate alternative perspectives. Ideal for staff development and for use in 'real' situations with residents, activists and professionals, it is simple to use, fun to play and above all, highly effective." Questions and answers about the Regeneration GameFor more about games, contact Drew Mackie drewmackie@m2ud.com or David Wilcox david@partnerships.org.uk

Learning at lunchtime

PrplunchThe brief: provide a group of big-practice architects with some latest thinking on community engagement and social media. Time available 45 minutes. Budget: modest.

Solution: carefully crafted presentation and hand-outs? Not my favourite approach. Game with lots of props? Tight on time, and difficult to get right without a lot of research.
I was a bit stumped ... but the location and time-slot gave me the clue: lunchtime and a flexible corner of the office.
Time was when people in offices had enough time at lunch or coffee break to catch up on the gossip and also share some insights and news of what's going on in different areas. These days it seems to be grab a sandwich, get back to the cubicle, and keep ticking off the 15-minute slots on the timesheet.
So - why not re-invent the learning lunchtime?
Fortunately my clients, PRP architects, in the form of Alexandra Rook and Lesley Gibbs, were happy to try something different. Alexandra, in her previous post with the Civic Trust, had been a strong champion for the salon we ran there successfully ... but you can't bring in the bottles at lunchtime.
We came up with a simple formula: create the outline of an only-slightly-fictitious scenario about community engagement on a housing estate, then invite 20 people to split into groups once they had grabbed their lunch. Three people stood in for the development group: contractor, council and housing association. Others were residents, architects and evaluators.
Simple briefs explained that the residents were disgruntled after initial consultation raised expectations but didn't deliver good results - and invited each group, in slightly different ways, to think what to do next. You can download the briefing notes here, and a note about engagement methods (both pdfs). I also offer presentation notes from this item on Relationship-based engagement.
People quickly got into their groups roles, and the evaluators stirred things up with questions about how things might be improved. Alexandra, playing her real role of participation specialist , was pulled between development group, residents and architects ... which seemed fairly realistic
After half an hour we stopped to share some insights, and that sparked some stories about real-life programmes. I particularly liked the one about the team who used the talents of a cartoonist to develop big King Kong posters to advertise events and planned changes. The local kids whipped them off the notice boards and on to their bedroom walls ... parents got talking ... people turn up. The poster about the concrete-nibbling monster had crowds on the street awaiting the arrival of the demolition equipment.
I hope the modest exercise helped people make a few new connections in the office, and that other events may follow. Or alternatively, as someone who previously worked in the construction industry said: "We always had a tradition of going down to the pub at Friday lunchtime, and staying there. That way you always found out what was going on." Too simple, much too simple.

Q and A about The Regeneration Game

We have developed a set of questions and answers about The Regeneration Game, and would welcome more of your questions and comments. Read on below, or download Q and A here. More here about the launch of the game. Please add comments and questions on The Regeneration Game by clicking 'Comments' under this item.
You can now buy the game online from NIACE.

Questions and Answers about The Regeneration Game
David Wilcox and Drew Mackie

The game – and why it might be useful for you
Just what is The Regeneration Game?
It is a card-based game to help groups discuss how to improve neighbourhoods, and then develop action plans.

How can the Regeneration Game be used?
It can be played ‘for real’ in local communities, or in training sessions to help people understand the challenges of neighbourhood renewal.

Who might use the game?
Anyone who is trying to get different interests involved in planning neighbourhood regeneration – adult and community learning practitioners, development workers, activists, residents, trainers. In addition, anyone training people in community engagement techniques and processes.

What’s in the box?
The main components are packs of 52 cards with project ideas, action planning sheets, instructions on how to play, and information about where to get funding for projects.

How many people play?
The game is best played by a group of about eight people. Each game box has materials for up to four groups to play at the same time.

How long does a game take?
A game session depends on the complexity of the situation, and the length of discussion generated – but it is best to allow at least two hours for play and discussion.

What is involved in the game?
Groups identify problems they want to address in their neighbourhood, choose project ideas from cards and add their own. They then develop an action plan, and look at the skills, funding, and partnerships that might be needed to make things happen.

Where can I get the game?
You can buy the game online from NIACE.

Why use games?
Games can produce rich discussion and consensus in a short time; they create a level playing field for professionals and residents; they help people get to know each other. They are also more fun than most other meetings.
Download article on Why games?

What special about this game?
It combines a number of well-tried techniques to promote group discussion; it is designed for use in a wider process of community engagement; it offers high quality materials that can be used in community and training sessions.

Is the game only for use with community groups?
No – because effective regeneration depends on a wide range of interests developing a shared commitment to change. The game is designed for use within regeneration agencies and partnerships too. By playing the game different interests can develop a shared vision.

How was the game developed?
The design of the game is based on workshops run by Drew Mackie and David Wilcox over the past ten years. You can find similar – but less polished! – games on their web site . This version, and supporting materials, was developed with Jane Thompson and Cheryl Turner of NIACE, and their design team.
Playing the game
Does a game session require skilled facilitation?
No – there are full instructions on how to plan and run a session. Because the cards are pre-prepared groups have plenty to talk about from the start.

Do the pre-prepared cards lead to standard solutions?
There are blank cards for new ideas, and participants are encouraged to amend cards using Post-it notes. If you like the game, but want to start with a different set of ideas, you can make up your own cards.

What sort of venue is best for the game?
Somewhere that people can work in groups of about eight people in the same room. You will need flip chart paper – and easels if possible. You can sit people around tables – but the best sessions are often when people just spread the cards on the floor.

What other props are needed?
As well as flip chart paper you will need Blu-tak or similar to stick cards on the paper, pens, and Post-its or other sticky notes for adding ideas.

Can the materials in the box be re-used?
The cards can be re-used, and there is a template for copying new planning sheets when you need them.

What makes for a good session?
We offer advice in the instructions. Generally, make sure people know the purpose of the session, make it an enjoyable and creative experience, and be clear about what happens next – if the game is part of a development process.
The game as part of a process
Is there a danger the game will be used as a ‘quick fix’ for community participation?
There’s always a danger that workshop tools are seen as ‘the’ answer, when real participation takes time. David Wilcox has written The Guide to Effective Participation, available as a free download from http://www.partnerships.org.uk/guide/index.htm, which deals with these issues. We think there’s less danger in using The Regeneration Game because it is unpretentious and encourages wide-ranging discussion and questions.

How might the game be used as part of a longer process?
We give some suggestions in the game instructions. You might use the game as an awareness-raiser early in a process to start people thinking about issues, possible projects, and priorities. You might use it later when project ideas have started to emerge. And you might use it at several events, with agencies as well as community interests, to develop shared visions.

What is important before and after a game session?
Before the session – if played ‘for real’ - get to know who’s who and make sure people who might be interested are encouraged to participate; find out what is already happening in the neighbourhood; make sure people know the session will be a creative event not a standard public meeting. After the session keep in touch with those who participated and follow through on any commitment made. Think about how to engage other interests necessary to the success of neighbourhood regeneration.

Useful Games

David Wilcox
020 7600 0104
david@partnerships.org.uk

Drew Mackie
0131 445 5930
drewmackie@m2ud.com
Published on the original Useful Games blog

Regeneration game reaches China

Jane BerryChinese social entrepreneurs now have the benefit of some innovative (and fun) planning tools to help improve urban and rural neighbourhoods, thanks to my friend at ruralnet|uk, Jane Berry. I think Jane picked up some ideas too.
A couple of weeks back Jane called to say she was off to Beijing, and please could she have some games to take. No surprise, since she has been a collaborator with Drew Mackie and I over the past few years in developing workshop techniques to help people work out how to set up everything from online community networks to technology centres and one-stop rural service hubs.
Fortunately our development partners NIACE rushed over a couple of boxes of The Regeneration Game, and you can see the hand-over here. Jane says it was rather more than a formality, and local people at the Shining Stone Community Centre quickly put together their own version of the game which, as her official press release says, led to "heated discussions" into the evening. Some things are the same the world over.
The trip for three UK social entrepreneurs was organised by GLI - Global Links Initiative - and was supported by the British Consulate-General, Shanghai.

FlipchartJane's sessions went beyond the Regeneration Game, and in the pictogram on the flip chart (right) I can identify an attractive and intriguing version of ruralnet|uk's model for a sustainable multi-use service centre.

The various games developed with Drew and Jane use cards to represent project ideas, with cartoons, budget points, descriptions, and hints about resources needed. The group playing the game has the task of choosing projects to address challenges in their situation within a given budget, and then turning the choices into an action plan. For the Regeneration game we had the added expertise of NIACE, and the particular pleasure there of working with Jane Thompson and Cheryl Turner. We've found games worked well in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Spain and no doubt other places too, since many of the games are available online. They have the added advantage of being a fun way of getting to know new people, and leaving them with something that is hopefully useful when you go. I hope Jane has brought back some useful contacts.....
Update: Jane told me: "I was delighted to find Chinese community groups much more open and dynamic than I had expected, unexpectedly vocal in their insistence on participation, self-determination and the need for change, and anxious to learn lessons both from within the country and beyond. There is a strong recognition that the next steps for Chinese non-profits are to work more closely with each other, as well as to find ways of reflecting the needs and wishes of their target groups."

Ruralnet|uk press release
Download an article on Why games (pdf)
Questions and Answers about The Regeneration Game
Where to buy the Regeneration Game

Social capital games

Social capital games

Explaining social capital

Drew Mackie and David Wilcox ran a session at the Ruralnet conference about social capital, and used simple scenario development to help people explore how social capital relates to physical, human, financial and environmental capital. You can download their presentation and instructions here.

Storytelling games

Storytelling games

Storytelling proves more engaging than a survey

PendleconfSometimes challenging the brief provided by a client pays off for all concerned - and so it proved yesterday when Drew Mackie and I were invited back to Pendle for a conference on community cohesion.
The event featuring work we had done aiming to help different communities - white, Asian, rural, urban, young, old - understand each other better following riots in north west England a few years ago.
The brief put out to tender by Pendle council last year was fairly conventional - carry out a study of local attitudes that could be used as a baseline to see how far new programmes to promote cohesion increased neighbourliness and trust.
We've never been ones for clipboards on the doorstep, and prefer doing projects that lead to action and not just another report on the shelf... so we suggested something entirely different. As I've written before, we proposed that we run workshops at which residents invented fictional characters and told their life stories, so we could analyse the issues that surfaced. To our surprise, we got the job - and pressed ahead with a storytelling kit developed by Drew that we could use and also hand on to local groups to use. It's the sort of thing that could fall flat, lead to pieces in the paper about wasting money on tale-spinning focus groups, or at best a polite thank you for the report but no follow-through.
In fact it all turned out really well, thanks to the enthusiasm of those taking part, support of the council and Pendle Partnership and some excellent local voluntary groups like the multi-faith organisation Building Bridges. You can download our report here (4M pdf).
Yesterday Pendle council proudly invited groups from around East Lancashire to hear what had been going on. We did a presentation along with others, but the most interesting parts were the reports from groups who had developed stories using the kit - without our help - and the discussion among participants of what other techniques were working well. Roy Prenton, editor of the Nelson Leader, talked about the "myth busting" cartoon strip they were now running as a result of our work, and there plenty more new ideas bubbling up around the tables.

SarahgaskillI think the whole exercise was successful because of two things: first that there were some individuals and organisations in Pendle ready to try something different and carry it through. Second, the technique that we used was designed to stimulate the sort of stories and conversations that are part of people's day-to-day lives.

Drew and colleagues are now using similar storytelling techniques in Blackburn and Bolton. Clearly it's something that appeals to Lancashire culture.
Programmes for social inclusion, community cohesion, civil renewal and regeneration operate at two levels: that of the official policies, targets and consultancy speak; and that of the people living in communities being studied, renewed and evaluated. The easy option for public bodies is to stay in the comfortable setting of the first levels - but more is likely to happen if they support ways of doing things that are part of the second.
You can hear first hand what the council thought of it in this Quicktime movie from Sarah Gaskill (right), our main contact during the work. I'm editing more videos to post in a day or so.
Previously published at Partnerships Online
Update: more movies

Quicktime Playerscreensnapz001-1Quicktime Playerscreensnapz004Quicktime Playerscreensnapz003-1

Brian Astin, Pendle council corporate strategy and partnership manager, says that storytelling provides a useful complement to harder edged policy and legislation. Both carrot and stick are needed.
Rauf Bashir, from Building Bridges, explains how they used the storytelling approach in primary schools.
Marcia Allass, developing the Pendlelife portal, explains how the Internet can help with community cohesion.

Technology centre games

Technology centres

Sustainability game for online centres

Jane Berry and the team at DirectSupport have developed a sustainability game, based on others we have done, that helps online centres plan their future now that funding from the New Opportunities Fund is coming to an end. We recently played one version with about 100 people from libraries, colleges and community projects at an event near Bolton organised by Learndirect. Participants first audited their own experience in different field likes e-learning, e-government and social enterprise support. They then worked in groups to pool that knowledge and use cards with sets of development ideas to develop project plans. The pair on the left are presenting their group's ideas for a 'desktop pub' that would engage people in using digital cameras and other equipment to develop online history and stories about their part of Liverpool. You can download the materials that we used here. There are Jane Berry's opening presention, facilitator's notes, templates and the four card sets explained in the notes. You'll need the free Acrobat reader for the pdfs. Presentation - pdf Facilitation notes - Word Personal audit template - Word Group audit template - Word Project planning template - Word Download blue cards - pdf Download yellow cards -pdf Download red cards - pdf Download green cards - pdf Other related DirectSupport materials for mentors and centres available here

Technology planning games

Technology planning games

Designing for social action

I recently ran a game at the  first workshop of a new UK programme on Technology and Social Action which was a development of other early games. I wrote on the programme blog:

The game aims to help people design a programme ... which might include regeneration projects, participation activities, or technology development. In this case we'll be looking at how groups or organisations might use social media, and other activities for ... well, whatever they want to achieve.

I ran something similar at the Circuit Rider conference back in January, as you can see here, and it went pretty well. This time I've done more work, talked it through with Ann Light, know there will be some really buzzy people taking part, so I know it's going to be fun.

Put simply we'll start by inventing a scenario, and some characters, then look at a set of methods on cards , choose those that could be useful, put them into some sort of order, and tell the story of what happens to the programme and the characters. I'll be throwing in a few challenges to liven things up.

I've uploaded the full instructions here (zipped pdfs 2M), and you can see other similar games on our usefulgames site, including one developed for the Digital Challenge programme.

I think it went pretty well on the day: we tackled two scenarios ... one about conflict over water rights in Spain, and one on climate change.

Local tech planning with a pack of cards

We recently ran another session of our Digital Challenge workshop game, used to help plan area-wide technology programmes. Last time it was Bristol - this time we were at the Manchester Digital Development Agency, which is one of the most experienced outfits in this field. Could our simple set of project cards, used to prompt discussion about how technology might benefit local people, bring anything to the techie toolkit?

MangameDrew Mackie and I were delighted to find that they could, not least because of the enthusiastic way in which Dave Carter (with Gary Copitch in the picture) led his colleagues in stories about Jack, lone-parent with twin daughters, and the Malis, recently arrived from Somalia.

As before, we asked participants to work in groups and follow this sequence:

  • Describe an area - who lives there, and its characteristics
  • Invent a local character or characters
  • Choose from a set cards those projects you think will benefit them
  • Tell the story of how they use the technology ... while we throw in a few life crises and opportunities along the way.

This led to:

Jack has severe health problems and no computer skills, but with local support ends up in a self-help online health group, and running an E-bay trading setup with his daughters.
Mr Mali becomes a local councillor running online services for his constituents, while Mrs Mali uses the Internet extensively to further her career as a health care professional.

You can download the game kit we used, and the stories that resulted, from the links at the end.
The stories will help Manchester in developing storyboards for its Digital Challenge bid, and once that is out of the way I think that Manchester, Bristol and others may be interested in how these workshop techniques could be used to help local organisations and residents explore what digital development programmes will mean in practice.
We received a further boost when Gary Copitch, director of the Manchester Community Information Network, used the game himself for a workshop. He reported back:

We got six people from different Black and Minority Ethnic groups and I split them into 2 groups. I did a bit of a brief on the bid itself as people were interested in what it was. But it also gave a concept on what was possible within Manchester.
I then asked participants to come up with an identity. This they did with not too much trouble. One group developed a profile for a Somali women with 2 children who was an asylum seeker and the other group came up with a single Polish worker who was a migrant. They then filled in the year 1 and the impact of the technology on people's lives. I then gave them a number of scenarios. These included: where asylum status was approved, problem with a child in school, computer was stolen, the situation in Somali got worse, the Polish worker decided to bring his family over, there was a backlash against migrant workers in the press.
They all responded to this and changed their use of ICT. Overall the game worked really well in helping them define their problems and thinking about how ICT could be used in each case. What was interesting was that all the cards came into play. Once the infrastructure was in, and training given, both groups quickly went towards the social media type work and producing content. I would definitely use the game again.

Gary also gave us some valuable feedback on how to improve the mechanics of the game, including changes in the timeline, and different ways of handling scenarios.
From our experience so far it seems to me that the game offers particular benefits in a situation where the aim is to benefit excluded groups, and involve a wide range of people and organisations in planning and delivery of technologies that few people understand:

  • The format creates a level space in which the simple cards and instructions (we hope) make it easy for everyone to join in
  • Working in groups means those with more understanding of technology can explain to others.
  • The range of cards means it is easy to describe what may be planned "for real" in an area, while also enabling people to ask "why can't we do that too".
  • Moving into storytelling about local characters means the language and discussion is more likely to be in terms anyone can relate to - or challenge.
  • The game sessions are not intended to lead to any firm decisions, but rather to trigger conversations that can continue afterwards. That allows time for reflection and evolution.

You can download the game kit, and stories developed in Manchester as pdfs:
Instructions (1.2M)
Project cards (1M)
Characters (22K)
Stories (120K)
All these as zip file (1.2 M)
See also: Running the social media game

Running a planning game workshop

dchamp.jpgFor an good example of how our our technology planning game can be used, take a look at the web pages we developed after a day with Digital Champions on the west coast of Scotland. They were helping other residents take advantage of Scottish Executive funding that provided 2000 homes with free computers.

Running the social media game

Beth Kanter and I had a couple of great workshop sessions at the UK Circuit riders conference yesterday, talking about social media and nonprofits - and I think the participants enjoyed it too. We tried to make it as interactive as possible. Beth live-blogged the opening session.

For our workshops, Beth had slimmed down her 81-slide Powerpoint presentation (it is a real work of art) to a "Wikitation", which is slides on the wiki organised so it is easy to jump to examples. That way Beth was able to run through the main social media tools and explore how people were trying these in practice. You can see both see both here.

MarcostenWe then ran our newly-develop social media game, in which groups invented an organisation or network and then each took one of three challenges:

  • Improving internal communications
  • Improving external communications and engagement
  • Using social media as an individual - maybe a circuit rider, for example

Many of those present had experience of social media, and were able to offer explanations and tips to others during groups discussions. The different scenarios offered some fresh ideas and insights too, I think. You can see another US presenter at the conference, Marc Osten of Summit Collaborative, getting into the gaming sipirt.

FlipchartWe had a wifi connection, and by the end of each session Beth had taken and posted pictures and results of discussions to the wiki. Nothing like showing what's possible on the spot. You'll see those on the wiki too.

There's so much blah-blah-hype around social media is was wonderful to work with someone who has so many of the tools at their finger-tips - and is prepared to share. Beth and I had not met face-to-face before the event, but were able to work online to develop the presentation and game. Beth's use of the wiki during the event (subject to some dropped connections) was amazing. OK, we need to clean it up a bit, but that will be done with the energy and insights generated on the day. I'll reflect further later on the scope for integrating workshop activities and online tools ... and will be looking for other opportunities to experiment.
The other delight at the event was a chance to meet up with fellow UK enthusiasts for social media including Steve Bridger, Miles Maier, Paul Henderson and Nick Booth. We can't rival Beth's US fellow social media bloggers yet, but I think a little blog community is emerging here around social media and social network where the focus is nonprofits and civil society. Drop a comment in here if you are interested in linking up - we hope to have a get together fairly soon. Beth suggested we start tagging social media posts with nptechuk ... the standard US tag is nptech.
If you want to try the game for yourself, all materials are available here, free to use with attribution under a share alike license. Do get in touch if you are interested in discussing
Previously:
Next game - demystifying Web 2.0