Gaming at 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, as I explained here.
At 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.
I 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.
Storytelling proves more engaging than a survey
Sometimes 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.
I 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
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.
Regeneration game reaches China
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."
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.
Spanish e-learning gameParticipants at an e-learning congress in Barcelona April 15-16 2004 will be playing a project planning game developed by David Wilcox and Drew Mackie. The game cards are in Spanish and English. More details and downloads here >
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 .
Business planning for centres
DirectSupport have produced a business planning exercise for UK online centres, based on the sustainability game.
Here are the materials used recently at a session in Kent. Use the cards from the sutainability game.
Sustainability presentation Powerpoint 500 K
Business planning presentation Powerpoint 550K
Funding ideas and sources Word
Workshop plan Word
Game activities instructions Word
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
* Look at the games page on our other site Making the Net Work
* Read the general games instructions
* See how we used games for digital champions
* Download cards sets from here
... and then choose an appropriate set, or make up your own. 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 email@example.com