Chinese 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.
Jane'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."