Playing the digital neighbourhood game

I’ve been thinking recently how to help people explore the ways in which social technology can benefits local communities – when those involved may not understand what’s possible with tools and methods ranging from websites to digital storytelling, e-democracy to outdoor screens.
It’s a theme I’ve worked on for more than a decade – but recent developments like the digital mentors programme, Talk About Local, and the RSA’s emerging plans, make it particularly topical. It certainly got on airing at the recent National Digital Inclusion Conference … dashboard here.
In the past, working with Drew Mackie and others, I’ve used card-based workshop games like those here to help people play through the possibilities. It all started for me back in Brighton in 1997.
However, it took a recent trip to Holland to give me some fresh ideas about how to scale-up engaging with technology at neighbourhood level.

Ed Klute of Mira Media invited me across to a conference for media coaches, who work in schools, libraries and other institutions to help colleagues, parents and students deal with the challenges and opportunities of the Internet and digital media. They promote practical projects too.
Ed is a fan of the social media game, developed with Beth Kanter in 2007. He suggested that we scale it up, and instead of having web tools and other activities on the cards, we include larger-scale projects that media coaches might promote in a neighbourhood … a kind-of tech-enabled version of the Regeneration Game Drew and I developed for NIACE a few years back.

We only had an hour at the conference: so here’s what we did.

First, Ed prepared a description of a neighbourhood, with a challenging social environment:

  • Large young multicultural population.
  • Little intercultural communication and dialogues
  • Lost of problems with youngsters in the streets
  • Because of tensions in the area lot of negative press coverage.
  • Hostile attitute towards the mainstream journalists and camera crews.
  • High unemployment rate, low positive identification with the neighbourhood.

Could digital media projects help? Ed then provided me with a set of project ideas, based on those already underway in the MEDIA4ME European project, that aims to empower minority groups through education and neighbourhood media. These ranged from computer and media awareness courses through to press agencies run by young people, as you can see here.

Card for neighbourhood media game

As you can see in the video, on the day of the conference we presented the scenario, and asked people to work in groups with the sets of cards to develop a plan for their neighbourhood. Each card had an image, a project description … and a budget of 1,2, or 3 points representing notional cost or difficulty. They had 12 points.
People in the groups were asked to each take on the perspective of a different type of coach – from a school, police, health service, library, for example.
After discussion, groups reported back on their plans. If we had been able to give more time, we would have asked them to tell the story of how the plans evolved, and how – as coaches – they would gain support within their organisations: maybe by playing another form of the game. You can can see a set of instructions for a similar game here.
In many ways we were just replaying a game that has served well in lots of situations – you can find variations here.
What was different – and gave me some fresh ideas – was playing up the role of media coaches from different organisations, scaling up some of the projects, and using examples from a trans-European programme.
That means that we could develop a “for real” version of the game that could be played in neighbourhoods, and then refer people to example of projects that they could follow up.

We’ll be playing a version of the game at the SHINE conference for social entrepreneurs on the morning of Saturday May 16 in London. I’ll have more details on that shortly. For the moment let’s say social media game meets Social Innovation Camp -style pitching, with some Dutch inspiration. Thanks Ed.

Details of the European network, including projects on which the cards were based


  • May 2, 2009 - 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Love this idea ..! Thanks for taking the time report on it. I added a link to the Game wiki

  • May 8, 2009 - 7:45 am | Permalink

    It was very inspiring to play this Game with a group of mediacoaches during the conference in the Netherlands. We intend the Game in the Mediacoach curricula and introduce it also in European conferences.

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