Community PlanIt is an online game platform that fosters deliberation and civic participation in planning processes to engage as wide and diverse a group of stakeholders as possible. Community PlanIt not only facilitates trust-building between citizens and organizations, but is itself a powerful data collection tool that allows users to meaningfully analyze community input and truly engage the public in the planning process.
Within a series of time-limited missions, players compete with each other to earn influence in their community to fund local projects. At the same time, they learn about key issues related to the topic of the engagement process, connect with each other, and suggest solutions to problems. Each game culminates in a face-to-face community event, where players meet with each other and discuss the results of the process and next steps with curators of the game and other decision makers.
Community PlanIt aims to augment existing offline engagement efforts by stepping up where face-to-face meetings often fall flat. All too often planning meetings are beset by a lack of diversity, learning, and trust and a surplus of one-issue activists, incivility, and misunderstandings. Community PlanIt provides a framing that allows cities and organizations to guide constituents through the narrative of the planning process, creating opportunities along the way for learning, civil conversation, and meaningful input.
A Tech for Engagement Grant from the the Knight Foundation provided seed funding to develop the platform in 2012 with implementations in the Cities of Detroit (Detroit 24/7) and Philadelphia (Philadelphia 2035).
Since then, the game has been used in a wide array of contexts that go well beyond city master planning: from setting public health priorities in neighborhoods to addressing waste-water management at the regional scale, and from social media policy setting in individual schools to tackling the issue of youth unemployment in developing countries at the national scale.
Players get Coins for responding to Challenge Questions
Access a curriculum designed to guide youth through the process of using CPI
Players are incentivized to compete for community goals and individual awards
A leaderboard provides players with a real-time ranking of which individuals are in the Top 100
The leaderboard can also be viewed by affiliation, so groups can see their collective ranking
The Soapbox is a place where deliberation can spill over and players can initiate their own conversations
Post-Game Community Event in Detroit (Detroit 24/7)
Community members deliberate about findings in the game at a finale event
Looking at highlights from player comments at post-game event
High school students deliberate outcomes at a post-game meeting in Los Angeles
Cause winner receiving award funds for a local project at Hawkins HS
Everybody likes promo swag - especially when it features 'Crats
Boss 'Crat says, 'See you online!'
Players interact with each other's comments in the game, upload media in a continuous cascade of responses only visible after completing the Challenge Question
The Community PlanIt Curriculum
This curriculum describes the process of creating and playing a Community PlanIt game, detailing the sequence of activities for our partner organizations. It is made up of an introduction and seven modules that walk the user through the affordances of the game, the local research process, game creation, outreach, game play, and post-game reflection and action. Each module contains general advice, relevant examples from past games, and concrete tasks that account for all the “deliverables” required.
After each implementation of Community PlanIt, the Engagement Lab works with the game curators to summarize findings from the game, including a demographic analysis of who played, the major emerging trends from the wealth of qualitative data provided by players, and visualizations that make the input easier to parse and use in communications back to the public. Below you can download the reports from some of our most recent implementations of the game.
Cape Cod Commission engaged residents, business owners and visitors of the Cape to gather input on a regional plan for waste-water management.
A Community PlanIt game takes place over three missions that each last one week. To complete a mission, players must answer all challenges within the mission by responding to questions about their experiences and vision for their community. A challenge could be something as simple as dropping a pin on a map in their favorite place, or as complex as reading a series of informative resources, and then making a decision about a specific planned policy - or anything in between. After every three challenges, players must stop and answer a trivia question about their community, asked by the pesky but well-meaning 'Crats.
Complete challenge questions and themed missions to earn 'coins' that you can pledge to help win money for local causes while contributing a real-world planning process.
Real World Outcomes
Each challenge and trivia question players complete earns them virtual coins, which they can pledge to player-proposed local projects, or Causes. Players can also earn awards, which include a coin bonus, by participating in discussion and deliberation throughout the game, giving them even more influence over Causes. At the end of the game, the three top Causes will receive real-world funding to make their project a reality.
Community PlanIt not only helps build trust between citizens and organizations, but is itself a powerful data collection tool that allows users to meaningfully analyze community input and truly engage their publics in the planning process. To date, Community PlanIt has been used in more than 15 locations in the US and around the world. The platform is able to be adapted to fit the needs of almost any context or community, no matter the size.
What's "The Point"? The City of Salem engaged citizens around a visioning process facilitated by the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the North Shore CDC (Jan 2013). Number of Players: 727. Number of Comments: 5,172. The Point, a Community input from this planning process went into the creation of this report used to shape future plans for development of the neighborhood.
Philadelphia2035 The City of Philadelphia engaged citizens in long term planning for their local districts (Jan 2013). Number of players: 919. Number of comments: 8,211. As one part of a multi-year city planning process, the City of Philadelphia used Community PlanIt to find out how residents of the University Southwest neighborhood would like to see issues of transportation, land use and local business addressed. The master planning process is an ongoing effort in the City of Philadelphia, through 2016. The outcomes of the district plan, including input from data garnered from the Community PlanIt: Philadelphia 2035 are available here.
The region of Cape Cod in Massachusetts in a planning process facilitated by the Cape Cod Commission to draft a regional waste-water management strategy to protect the waters around Cape Cod (July / Oct 2013). Number of Players: 753. Number of Comments: 6,914. By January 2014, data and community input from the game was used to support the writing of the area-wide Section 208 Water Quality Management Plan. As of June 2015, the Regional Policy Plan was submitted by the Commission and approved by Gov. Charlie Baker for review by the EPA. in September 2015, the plan was accepted and endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Youth@Work Bhutan UNDP in Bhutan in collaboration with the Royal Government of Bhutan engaged the public on the issue of youth unemployment, especially in the capital city, Thimphu (October 2014). The UNDP in Bhutan was interested in using the game to expand their engagement with the community in Bhutan and cultivate an active group of youth leaders to continue contributing the process of reforming employment opportunity in the country. Number of Players: 1,126 Number of Comments: 29,785 Input from the game is being used to help shape policy recommendations from the UNDP in Bhutan to the Royal Government of Bhutan between now and 2020. Players from the game proposed over 70 community Causes in the game and rallied tremendous participation and support.