Drew Mackie and I have been funded over the past year to developed a game for designing engagement, by what is now the Department of Justice, previously Department for Constitutional Affairs. The other day we went back with a version that aims to meet current Government interest in using a mix of social media and other methods.
The first version of the game focussed on face-to-face engagement methods, and had quite a complicated board - as you can see from this report of an earlier session.
This time we added in blogs, online forums, MySpace, wikis, social bookmarking and other goodies from the world of Web 2.0, to complement workshops, exhibitions and deliberative processes. We also made the sequence of play simpler, and were able to bring in elements from the Digital Challenge game developed for the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Ian Johnson and members of his team took 90 minutes out of their busy departmental reorganisation schedule to develop a scenario around energy policy, and then set-to choosing appropriate methods to engage a wide range of interests, Drew livened things up by throwing some challenges into the emerging storyline ( new climate change study produces gloomier results).
I can see how the game would have real application within government, as well as outside, in helping policy teams to understand the importance of designing engagement programmes strategically and considering all possible options before they go diving in.
In particular, the inclusion of many social media methods into the game was instructive - not least because it teaches participants that none of this is an add on and that all activity requires resource, commitment and time.
Since Jeremy is also helping Cabinet Office assess the opportunities for government communications of social media we were doubly pleased.
Our next step is to tidy up the various versions of the game, and make them available on this site. Meanwhile you can download, as pdfs, the game cards and the game instructions.
Our experience is that effective engagement is as much about attitude as method. Too often consultants are hired to run programmes with the client at arms length ... with the result that when the results come in the response is inadequate. That's even more likely when new media is part of the mix. OK ... I know they are paying us ... but it is heartening that DCA/Department of Justice officials are prepared to try the techniques that we and others are developing, and that through Jeremy they are out there actually using some of the new ways of engaging.