The World of GovCraft

Dave says: Carl is a local government blogging legend, who works at Devon County Council as an Enterprise Architect. This post originally appeared on his blog, but he graciously allowed it to be published here, too.

Inspired by the excellent Joanne Jacobs at the recent Likeminds event in Exeter to think more about the role of games and game play in solving problems and creating solutions.

I started to think about how Government in general could be seen as a game so that we could not only engage people in the problems and challenges we all face but actually inspire them to be part of the solution and help make changes happen.  In the lunchtime session that Joanne facilitated she spoke very passionately about the role of games and how we all play games all the time but just don’t realise it.

I kind of hit a blank wall as the big picture of Government is pretty boring, but the individual components that make it are actually interesting. So how do you start to get to a level of engagement and participation that inspires the average person on the street to want to get involved.

I then came across this excellent TED video of Game designer Jane McGonigal who spoke about harnessing the power of game mechanics to make a better world. Surely this is the stuff that Government innovators should be thinking about.

In the video she talks about “gamers” and the super powers they have developed and how these super powers can help us solve the worlds problems.

The 4 super powers that gamers have are:

Urgent Optimism – extreme self motivation – a desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.
Social Fabric – We like people better when we play games with people – it requires trust that people will play by the same rules, value the same goal – this enables us to create stronger social relationships as a result
Blissful productivity – an average World of Warcraft gamer plays 22 hours a week: We are optimised as humans to work hard and if we could channel that productivity into solving real world problems what could we achieve?
Epic meaning – attached to an awe inspiring mission.

All this creates Super Empowered Hopeful Individuals – People who are individually capable of changing the world – but currently only online /virtual worlds

So what is the chance of Government creating a meaningful game that inspires people to get involved, help change the world around them and contribute positively to the social fabric around them – Hold on a minute, haven’t we got something that is supposed to do this = Democracy? The challenge we have to make engagement and participation more engaging not just to young people but to people in general is to start inviting people into the game and make the game more interesting to start with.

So some observations:

If people have “Urgent Optimism” then what are we doing to tap into that to help solve and tackle obstacles?

if people have a “Social Fabric” what we are we doing to build trust with them and do we play by the same rules and share the same goals?

If people have “Blissful Productivity” then what are we doing to mobilise and optimise the people around us in our communities to work hard at solving real world problems

If people can be inspired around “Epic Meaning” what meaning are we providing in our engagement  and participation offering?

We should recognise that games are powerful in more ways than we can imagine, we need to think hard and fast about how we can develop the right kinds of games to engage people and to involve people in shaping their future and solving common problems

The video is 20 minutes but is well worth watching.


Dave and Mary at Likeminds
Learning Pool's Mary McKenna and me at Likeminds - photo by Paul Clarke

I had an enjoyable time at the Likeminds conference in Exeter yesterday (Friday 26th Feb). Before I start going on about the content of the event, I really ought to praise the organisers for the amazingly smooth way the event ran – it really was superbly run. One great innovation was the lunchtime sessions – focused conversations on a topic facilitated by an expert. I attended Lloyd Davis‘ lunch on cloud culture, which a lot of fun and on which I blogged earlier.

It was a little more marketing focused than the events I usually attend, which provided a different perspective on things – albeit not a perspective I was always terribly comfortable with.

I’ve never worked in communications, or PR, or marketing, or anything like that. I’ve certainly never used the word ‘brand’ in a sensible conversation, as far as I am aware. I’m sure all of this activity and discussion is vital, though, it’s just not one I feel I can really contribute to in a meaningful way.

What was interesting for me was the impression I got that, in some ways, the debate around the use of the internet to increase engagement, and the effect it has on organisations’ working culture, within the public sector might be slightly more mature than in the private sector. I could be wrong, and it could just have been because I was at an event focused on marketing and PR, but an awful lot of the conversation in government about this stuff is focused on issues other than how it affects external comms issues.

Public-i‘s Catherine Howe – who I was delighted to meet in real life for the first time –  really summed this up well in her post about the event:

Here it is – I do not want us to miss the enormous opportunity that the social web affords us to make social change by losing it in a miasma of attempts to sell stuff to each other.  I do not want to talk about marketing and how brands can influence people – I want to talk about people having more power over the world around them.  I don’t want to talk about social communications – I want to talk about fundamental culture change and how we can influence it.

This is a much more articulate way of describing something I mentioned recently:

…while the internet is undoubtedly important for communications, it’s a mistake to put all of this stuff in a box marked comms and assume it doesn’t affect or benefit other parts of the organisation and the way they work.

Organisations of any description have an awful lot more to learn from the culture of the internet than just how to either sell stuff or get people to like the stuff they do. The lessons that the internet teaches us are around the way being more transparent and cooperative in the way we do things is a more effective way of working. I’m repeating myself, I know.

Back to Likeminds. Jonathan Akwue from Digital Public gave one of the best talks, and it was the first one on the day, too. I grabbed it on my trusty Zi8:

Movements this week

Another busy week this.

Tomorrow I am speaking at 4Children’s 18th Annual Policy Conference, on the subject of engaging young people with social media. I understand Tim Davies was unavailable 😉

On Thursday Mary and I will be traveling down to Devon to hang out in Exeter for a couple of days. The Thursday itself will feature a networking event and lunch sponsored by Learning Pool, where anyone with any connection to the public and third sectors can come and meet other interesting folk – as well as Carl Haggerty. There are still one or two spaces left, so let me know if you’d like to come along.

On Friday we will be attending the Likeminds conference, which is shaping up to be an excellent day – I’m really looking forward to it. The speaker lineup is fabulous.