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
(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
Download all materials (zip file)
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:
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: