A game for localism

Ian G Johnson

April 26, 2017, 4 p.m.
Room 9

In the UK, central government has been devolving power and responsibilities to local government, which in turn are looking to resident and community groups to take over certain decision-making responsibilities.

The Localism Act (2011) and Community Empowerment Act in Scotland (2015) commit local governments to actively engage communities and residents in public fund allocation and neighbourhood planning. Local authorities are thus motivated to both organise and document consultation processes.

This recent legislation follows on from the transnational, ideological and political shift towards localised decision-making — for example, the Bydelsråd experiment in Copenhagen and India’s Panchayati Raj system of hyperlocal governance.

While localism appears to promote democratisation, underlying these policies are significant economic drivers. In recent years, the UK — like many European nations — has experienced a period of ‘austerity’ and shrinking budgets. One response has been to support communities, social innovation companies and local groups to ‘do it for themselves’.

In this context, a hybrid table-top game and digital capture and review platform were built, designed to provide a flexible structure to consultation events related to ‘place’, and support the production, capture and review of deliberative ‘talk’ to support decision-making.

This paper studies the platform’s use in two consultation events, and discusses the implications of capturing and evidencing local people’s opinions for the accountability of decision-makers and community organisations.

80 participants over two towns engaged in the game. As well as allowing the captured data to be shown to decision-makers in a way they could search and filter to find trends and hot spots, the process showed that residents who participated were able to demonstrate a more ‘deliberative’ conversation than previous consultation events had allowed.