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Employ Games to Learn About Your Community

What is it? Games may be used to help citizens better engage in policy and governance.  Games may consist of a large-scale simulation, on-line session, or facilitated live small-group activity.  The element of play and interaction may make complex subjects or challenging issues more accessible to a wider range of participants.  Policy-makers and community leader may develop or adapt game-like activities to determine community priorities and build relationships among participants.  In some examples, individuals attend a gaming session (or visit an online site) in order to allocate community resources.  The activities raise awareness about public decision-making.  Players weigh alternatives, select criteria and make decisions, but in a fun, simulated context. 

How has it been used? The New River Valley Planning District Commission, in Virginia, used a game to help residents better understand community planning and learn more about local priorities.   In one part of the activity, facilitators distributed cards to participants.  The cards represented necessities, such as a grocery store, school or fire department. Players were asked to select precise community locations for the cards, using maps. The activity forced the individuals to think about questions such as the proximity of schools to residential areas, and the siting of industrial and commercial ventures. Participants were asked to work together to make final decisions and produce a unified vision.  The process helped increase understanding of local planning.  The Commission also used the results as input into the construction of an actual regional plan. (Source: New River Valley Livability Initiative)

Further Reading

Philadelphia 2035 – Community PlanIt

Urbanology Online – BMW Guggenheim Lab

Delivering Denver’s Future

BusMeister – Green City Streets