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Learning from the Land Down Under with Andrew Coulson, City of Salisbury

ELGL welcomes new columnist Andrew Coulson, City of Salisbury, South Australia community engagement officer. We first connected with Andrew via Twitter. He has agreed to provide a monthly round up on hot topics in Australia local government. As a preview, we present Andrew’s column on using gaming in your community engagement efforts.

Background Check


Connect: LinkedIn, Pinterest,  and Twitter

Andrew is the Community Engagement Officer for the City of Salisbury, South Australia. (Fun Fact: Salisbury was on of the first local governments to use Pinterest.) He has more than 12 years of public engagement experience in the areas of local government, housing, and charities.

4e21b7998ffa7303921ccbd10bebc3e4In Salisbury, Andrew has worked closely with the Councils Social Media and Web Officer to develop online opportunities and use of iPads in projects for on street engagement. He also has supporedt a small Community Engagement Group of ‘staff champions’ to develop ideas that make community engagement fun for participants. This has included a game around designing and budgeting for the renewal of reserves/play-spaces.

His career ambition is to understand more about the issues that affect vulnerable groups throughout the world and work with them to stand up, speak out and be listened to by supporting them with various co-production methods.

Andrew is a graduate of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Part I: Gamification in Community Engagement


by Andrew Coulson

Note: This article was originally posted on @commsgodigital, an Australian local government communications blog site. Make sure to check out the great work on commsgodigital

One of the biggest franchises at the moment in both literature and film is the Hunger Games. The story of how a world, not to dissimilar to ours, pits its own young against each other as a way of sorting out an age old issue between communities.

OK, OK I’m ad-libbing a bit and it has very tedious ties to engaging the community… but I need an edge for the blog.

Many games use:

  • strategy (Where to hide, what to take),
  • team work (Katniss and Peeta) and
  • problem management (How do we kill the others before they kill us)

Games help the player achieve goals (survival in the Hunger Games), if used in community engagement opportunities, allows the right decision to be achieved through understanding barriers, working together and setting joint achievable objects.

tumblr_m4x92dvB6K1qh24csGaming is not new but Gamification in Community Engagement certainly seems to be on the rise and being used more and more in issue management and relationship building between communities and their councils.

From early use of established offline games to newly developed all whistles blowing online options, games are now being used more and more in engaging the community or helping people understand and generally participate in having their say in the decision making process.

In this two part series, I am going list a number of Gamification offerings in the world of community engagement  in the hope you will like them, and in a spark of inspiration look at them as options in the your work.

My Frame of Reference


Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, such as to improve user engagement,physical exercisereturn on investmentdata qualitytimeliness, and learning. A review of research on gamification shows that most studies on gamification find positive effects from gamification.

A number of people have shared their experiences with me on how they had used games to:

  • Engage
  • Inform/build understanding
  • Build relationships/teamwork
  • Break the ice

Gwenda Johnson a County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, Kentucky said “I often use floor puzzles to demonstrate community and the role people play in building a strong community. Sometimes I reserve some pieces to start a conversation about people who don’t follow through with responsibility. The 48 piece floor puzzles works well in our small community. It’s a great inexpensive way to start conversation and build team work too.”

So a few of my favorite examples:

Example 1: The Public Space Trading Cards by Learning from Barcelona


Do you remember as a kid those card games where some cards ranked higher than others and the object was to collect them all by outwitting your opponent with a card that scored higher than theirs, we called it ‘Top Trumps’ in the UK.

Learning from Barcelona have developed a similar Trading Card game where neighborhood kids are tasked with collecting sets of cards depicting places in their neighborhood by answering questions on the back on how to improve the area. Once collected they can be played with and traded. Here’s a better description.

The game allows people to become a detective in the own residential area and look at the built environment in a different light as well as think how improvements can be made. This informs them on issues facing the area. while the cards’ questions help the local authority/project management to collect useful insights for future development. The game also builds in a sense of ownership for the area.

Cards games are also popular with David Wilcox at socialreporter.com, London who via LinkedIn shared examples he had developed as well as others he had come across. Take a look at Useful Games and Ingredients and tool cards for examples.

I have used the card option in a game format when supporting the engagement of a community around the renewal of a small reserve in Salisbury, South Australia. Using cards with potential options for renewal (trees, equipment, amenities etc) as well as a hypothetical budgetary value we gave players a map, a budget and a shopping list as well as a stack of cards. They then used the cards and map to plan what they would buy and then place in the reserve. Adding an element of role play encouraged discussions on the needs and wants of the community for this space. There was also a wild card that could be used if we had missed anything or they had a great idea they wanted added to the discussion.

Example 2: Game of Urban Renewal by Flavio Trevisan, Toronto Visual Artist


This game builds on the traditional board game structure and is a cross between Monopoly, puzzles, and Legos. Who doesn’t like that combination!

As a board game, it allows players to take on the role of those involved in a councils planning office-making decisions, for instance, players decide what to build and what to knock down in their local area to make the community a better place to live. Players use cards that depict tasks on developing areas with specific functions such as public spaces, schools, commercial buildings, and housing using a real satellite imaged map of the area and 3d blocks to represent urban development.

The game aims to get players discussing and visioning possible solutions to urban development and renewal. Find out more about the Game of Urban Renewal.

Via LinkedIn Paul Tucker, a Partner a GRIN SW, Exeter mentioned Boom Town from 1990 which seems to have similar feel. Here’s the games description:

“Famous rare game from Ian Livingstone’s company, players construct a 1950s English new town by laying tiles to show housing, shops, factories etc. As parts of the suburbs are completed, scoring goes to the majority holder, but there are spoiler tiles, like the rubbish dump, which will reduce your score. There’s a strong element of mutual caution until somebody steps over the brink and lays those bad tiles.”

Example 3: Whose Shoes? Toolkit, My Life, My Budget and the Last Straw!

?kinci Adresiniz {www.TurkComic.com}

These three board games/toolkits are personal favorites of mine. Each helps players build a better understanding around a certain topic. Often these games don’t have outcomes (as in there is no individual winner at the end) but educate those playing through promoting discussion about the topic; building empathy and encouraging learning in a fun and supportive environment.

All three are based around the health and social care of people in the community. Each was born out the many changes happening around the world in social care due to aging populations and the effect of the worldwide recession on social care resources.

Whose Shoes? is a tool that encourages debate and understanding around social care and personalisation (UK) and has been used extensively in challenging Dementia. Developed by Gill Phillips during the introduction of Personalisation in Adult Care, the toolkit has been developed now as an electronic version in partnership with TLAP and is used by many local authorities and a number of Universities in the UK to help students and staff understand the service user journey as well as grasp the idea of co-production.


My Life, My budget was also developed around the same time as Whose Shoes in response to the Personalisation of care in the UK. The board game helps service users understand the concept and how personalised budgets work and can affect their lives. The game is no longer available but if you’re lucky and in the UK your local council may have a copy.

The Last Straw! is a fun and exciting teaching tool on the social determinants of health developed by University of Toronto’s Dr. Kate Rossiter and Dr. Kate Reeve as part of a health promotion class. The website says “Feedback consistently demonstrates that players gain a better understanding of the social determinants of health and the interplay between forces at individual and community levels.”  Shared by Catherine Laska a Community Developer, Ottawa via LinkedIn.

Parting Shot


Thanks to all who contributed to the discussion on games in Community Engagement on LinkedIn. I apologize for not being able to mention all the contributions, however if you would like to follow the discussion and see some other examples please visit http://linkd.in/1g1XKiD. There are also a number of other examples via my Innovative Community Engagement board on Pinterest including the brilliant use of a ball pit by Soulpancake, Lego pieces by Intelligent Futures and even some of my own concoctions including the award winning Heyford Reserve community engagement project where we used a board game to help gather and develop ideas with local school kids for the renewal of a small reserve and playspace in the City of Salisbury, South Australia. See more on my innovative community engagement Pinterest board.

Supplemental Reading


City of Salisbury film – where do my rates go?

Recipe to Work

Stakeholder Engagement memory book

Making Care Personal

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