A main topic we’ve discussed throughout this class is how to increase citizen participation. We’ve discussed making community engagement more accessible and convenient, but citizens may still not see an incentive to participate. Therefore, we need to think outside the box in order to find a way to get people to participate and buy-in to community engagement efforts. This is exactly what Community PlanIt has done. They have made community engagement into a game, therefore citizens are participating because it’s fun, not a chore. “Community PlanIt turns planning into a story, structured through simple interactions and game mechanics, and invites the public to shape the narrative.” Communities can design a custom game tailored to the issues that they are facing and their planning efforts. Citizens participate online in themed games and missions to earn PlanIt Coins. In the games, citizens complete challenges by answering questions about their experiences and vision of their community. Citizens then use the PlanIt coins they earn to pledge to real-world local causes. They can earn extra coins by participating in discussion and deliberation throughout the game. At the end of the game, the top causes receive real-world funding for their projects. Therefore, citizens are able to see their participation pay-off.
This technology is a great way to strengthen community bonds and bring the community together to solve local issues. Moreover, Community PlanIt has addressed some of the underlying issues behind why citizens don’t participate. They’ve recognized that more citizens will participate if it’s “fun” and developed a community engagement technology that builds off this concept. In addition, by being able to see the results of their participation, further community engagement efforts will have positive outcomes.
Community PlanIt was used by Detroit to gather data for their master planning document called Detroit Future City. They had 1090 players and generated 8400 comments. While the idea of Community PlanIt is well thought out and addresses many reasons why community engagement efforts fail, the tool would be more successful and have more of an impact if more citizens participated. 1090 players is not a large number and would not produce an accurate picture of public opinion. I think once it develops a more solid foundation and becomes more well-known and recognized, it will see an increase in citizen participation. This technology is only just starting, but I think it has a promising future.