About Community PlanIt

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.

  • Community PlanIt - Full Curriculum
  • Summary Reports of Past Games

    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.

  • CPI Summary Report - Cape Cod (Dec 2013)
  • UNDP engaged Romanian- and Russian-speaking residents of Moldova to address the issue of youth unemployment.

  • CPI Summary Report - Moldova (Dec 2014)
  • Engaging the current students, faculty, staff and alumni at Emerson College to inform strategic planning across the institution.

  • CPI Summary Report - Emerson College (Mar 2015)
  • UNDP engaged youth, educators, government officials and entrepreneurs in Bhutan to find solutions to the high rate of youth unemployment, particularly in the capital city.

  • CPI Summary Report - Bhutan (Mar 2015)

How it Works

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.

The Goal

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.

Neighborhood Scale

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.

City-wide Scale

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.

Regional Scale

Cape2-O 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.

National Scale

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.

Community PlanIt News

Community PlanIt Semifinalist for 2016 Ash Award for Innovation in Goverrnment

Community PlanIt Semifinalist for 2016 Ash Award for Innovation in Goverrnment

Community PlanIt has been named a semifinalist for the Innovation in American Government Awards, a n...

The Climate Minute Podcast feat. Community PlanIt

The Climate Minute Podcast feat. Community PlanIt

Planning a sustainable future for the City of Boston is no game, but for the next few weeks you can ...

Community PlanIt | Climate Smart Boston Launches in Boston March 25

Community PlanIt | Climate Smart Boston Launches in Boston March 25

Climate Smart Boston is the latest game being played on the Community PlanIt platform. In collaborat...

Engagement Lab Game to Help Boston Address Climate Change

Engagement Lab Game to Help Boston Address Climate Change

Engagement Lab partners with WWF and the City of Boston to engage public in climate action planning ...

Knight Foundation - Assessing Civic Tech

Knight Foundation - Assessing Civic Tech

Case Studies and Resources for Tracking Civic Outcomes featuring work done with Community PlanIt

Community PlanIt in Moldova

Community PlanIt in Moldova

The UNDP, the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, and the National Council of Youth from Moldova, all...

The Guardian spotlights Community PlanIt

The Guardian spotlights Community PlanIt

Introduces a number of new engagement techniques and games that are helping Europe's youth get back ...

How Gamification Helps Governments Engage Citizens and Employees

How Gamification Helps Governments Engage Citizens and Employees

Spotlight of the "What's the Point" project, a part of Community PlanIt

Emerson Game Lab Aims To Fix Local, Global Problems

Emerson Game Lab Aims To Fix Local, Global Problems

Detailed coverage of the lab, its goals, design philosophy, and projects, especially our flagship ga...

FastCompany - Connecting Citizens - CPI

FastCompany - Connecting Citizens - CPI

Overview of Community PlanIt and how it's being used to engage youth and adults in civic life.

For Urban Mechanics, City Hall is a Place to Experiment

For Urban Mechanics, City Hall is a Place to Experiment

New Urban Mechanics teams up with The Engagement Lab, highlighting Community PlanIt.

24/7 Detroit and the Future

24/7 Detroit and the Future

Eric Gordon joins Craig Fahle of WDET in-studio to discuss the Community PlanIt game, Detroit 24/7.

Quincy Community PlanIt

Quincy Community PlanIt

Quincy gets it's own version of Community PlanIt with NoQuWo

Community PlanIt Turns Civic Engagement Into A Game

Community PlanIt Turns Civic Engagement Into A Game

Community PlanIt is discussed in regards to the Boston city hall meetings.

Civic Involvement with Quincy's Asians

Civic Involvement with Quincy's Asians

Civic engagement through projects such as Community PlanIt are helping diversify city hall meetings....