Gamification of Civic Engagement via Technology

Gamification has come up in conversation half a dozen times in the last month – in short it’s using game theory (or not even theory just the idea of a game) to encourage increased participation – maybe in school or in this case with use of apps developed to facilitate citizen engagement. For me it’s come up in the world of hackfests – lots of developers are interested in the idea. It makes sense, almost by definition these hack attendees are techies who are interested in getting more involved in the community. So they’d love to get others involved in the community. For many of them gaming is fun pastime. So gamifying civic engagement is a perfect solution. And I’m not here to say it isn’t. I’m here to spread the word – and David Asp sent me a great article from GCN with some tips on building better civic apps…

Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics together with researchers with Emerson College’s Engagement Game Lab recently released a “lessons learned” booklet for developing and deploying innovative tools for engaging citizens. After many years of collaboration, the partners wanted to document their projects and processes to help other cities build on what they had learned.

The Design Action Research with Government: A Guidebook calls for collaboration between academic researchers and government offices, citizen-centered and research-based approaches well as a process that includes both research and iterative design and code.

One example…

One tool DARG is working on is StreetCred. It is based on Citizens Connect (CC), which was originally designed as a 311 app to help residents report graffiti or potholes directly to the right person at City Hall. However, in a survey of CC users, Boston found that, while CC had social features, people weren’t using them; 38 percent of users had never used the app to look at other reports; 41 percent reported they used CC “a minority of the time” and people reported items close to their home.

So when the city designed Street Cred, it incorporated gamification features such as allowing citizens to earn badges, compete with neighbors and share civic accomplishments. It also integrated Foursquare, Instagram, SMS and email to leverage existing mobile social sharing.  A new version is due out this spring

This entry was posted in Government, New Media by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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