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
  • 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