Playing the Social by Social Game


Full size image here

The Social by Social Game really took off at Net Tuesday this week when some 20 participants invented a south London borough, created a set of project ideas for better health, happiness and the environment, and then went on to plan how social technology could yield these social benefits. All within 90 minutes.

We did have the benefit of a set of props – more on that later – and lessons from the session that we ran at the SHINE09 conference a couple of weeks ago.

The core team was the same: me, Andy Gibson and Amy Sample Ward – all co-authors, with Cass Business School of the forthcoming Social by Social handbook. More on that here.

This time around Andy had added some improvements in both props and procedure. As you can see from the summary sheet above – click here for larger – the sequence was:

  • we all brainstormed the characteristics of a south London borough, with its share of unemployment, health and housing issues, transport problems plus some very positive community activity on the arts front.
  • groups formed around the issues, and developed ideas for project. We then handed out two sets of cards to each group: one about social technologies, the other about ways to engage individuals and groups  online, face to face and through traditional leafleting and other methods.
  • each card had a image, a brief description, and  budget of one, two or three points. The task was to choose cards totalling only 10 points from each pack.
  • the final task was to use a set of money and resource cards to balance the budget … and then report back to everyone on the proposals.

It was a lot of fun, and since Andy was doing an excellent job of facilitating, and Amy was mentoring the groups, I was able to capture proceedings on video. Here’s the first sessions:

And the the report back:

The game is a development of others Drew Mackie have created over the years – as you can see here – with the social media element added through work with Beth Kanter in 2007.

The greater value in the Social by Social Game as it has now developed is a clearer sequence for engagement, tech planning and funding, plus lots of new cards. Amy summarised it for me:

The grid sequence helps ensure that people consider first the problem they are tackling, then the way the audiences, community, or “people” will be engaged. After the problem and the people are addressed, then it’s time to consider the tech tools.  Lastly, we have added the budget cards to bring everything back to a realistic perspective, not to ruin the fun but show how these kinds of projects are still doable with the appropriate planning.

Our aim is to use the game as one of the ways to introduce people to the substance of the Social by Social Handbook. We’ll evolve versions for organisations and networks as well as localities, so it will be possible to play the game “for real” and then follow through with support from the handbook and our team.

As one option we are thinking about workshops that could run for a day, with game-playing to start things off, some hands-on exploration of different social media tools, followed by more detail on who might do what to put things into practice.

The clear separation of engagement and tech cards in the game was a big improvement … with several of the groups putting emphasis on the use of face-to-face as well as online methods. That produced one good talking point … which is the main purpose of the demonstration version. It’s a great way to start conversations in a neutral space where people feel free to ask each other for help on things they don’t understand.

Here’s the cards we used (with a couple of changes we made afterwards. Feel free to download from Scribd and try and game for yourselves … we would really like to know how it goes. Alternatively, you can of course  hire us to come and run a session! Either way, if you find this interesting, do drop a comment or question below.

Social by Social game cards by socialreporter


  • Pingback: Playing the Social by Social Game: London Net Tuesday at Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NPTech

  • June 7, 2009 - 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Hi David,

    What a great post (I linked to it from here Thanks as well for sharing all the materials.



  • June 9, 2009 - 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi David,
    what a terrific post! I linked to it from here (

    Thanks for sharing!


  • June 9, 2009 - 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Those cards get better every time I see a new iteration. A blog post on the development of the game over time would be welcome some time.

  • June 10, 2009 - 7:28 am | Permalink

    Hi David,

    thanks for putting this post together in your usual professional style. I enjoyed the session and will be looking for opportunities to run this game myself.

  • June 11, 2009 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    Thanks Giulio, Jeremy, Steve – encouragement much appreciated. There will be another run of the game at Scotweb2 on June 19 when we’ll be tackling the impact of the recession on Edinburgh, and then at Reboot Britain when we’ll be … not sure yet, but rebooting I guess. I’ll start digging into the archives for earlier version. As I remember Drew Mackie and I started this more than 10 years back around design of local online learning centres.

  • June 11, 2009 - 10:41 am | Permalink

    inspirational – I knew about these, but seeing this again at the PERFECT time.

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