Don’t be afraid to mix politics with a little fun.
Citizen participation is a powerful tool. A participative society is healthier, safer and happier. Also a government that opens up to its citizens strengthen its own position and therefore should have a better chance to get re-elected.
It is not really surprising, that in recent years several governments around Europe decided that they need a platform in order to engage with their citizens and harness their power.
So in many cases (though there are other examples) the government had an agency build up the platform and implemented it on the city's website. Sometimes these were discussion platforms, some were idea platforms, other were places for complaints and most of the time they were all these things combined.
Here is what happened then: Nothing.
Much too often the platforms became digital wastelands with a couple of people passing by every once in a while but far from having a representative and impactful citizen participation. And this is the status until today.
So what is the problem here? In our opinion there are several but one of the most important ones is, that these platforms are not engaging. They lack features that intrigue the user to participate regularly.
In order to change this, it would be a good idea for the public sector to implement something that we know very well from the Private Sector - gamification.
As Wikipedia puts it: “Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people's natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, or closure, or simply their response to the framing of a situation as game or play.”
Or in other words: Put a little fun into the desired behaviour and you will drive engagement. Works on Facebook, Instagram etc. but also works for citizen participation.
Examples for the use of Gamification in citizen participation
So how can you enrich your citizen participation projects?
Start with basic elements. For example there could be a upvote system for other citizens contribution. The most upvoted is on the top of the page. This triggers competition, achievement, status and socializing at the same time. You could also implement a notification system where the little red number disappaers when the user did all open tasks in order to trigger the desire for mastery. Which is also true for implemente questionaires and profiles you can fill out.
When you feel more comfortable with this field you can become more sophisticated. Why not have a trivia quizz about your community or participative democracy. Or engage the users offline by a “30-days enhance your city” challenge. If you want to go all the way you could even think about a “Sim-City” type of game in order to make your citizen more empathetic towards the challenges of your work. Really, there are no limits when it comes to useful measures to make your citizen participation project the most engaging one ever.
Our experience with gamification and citizen participation
At Civocracy we saw some great results when we implemented gamification elements on our platform. For example at Monheim am Rhein we are using a system where everyone can contribute ideas but only when it received 50 upvotes it is transformed into a discussion and people can really talk about it.
What happened was that not only a lot of people contributed, they also told their family and friends to sign up and upvote and came back regularly to check on their votes and at the same time engage in discussions on the platform.
An this was not just for the fun of it. This system produced astonishing results. Already after one year, three ideas became real-life city project.
Let’s crack the code
So is this the end of the story? Has civocracy cracked the code on gamification in citizen participation? No, we haven’t. Nobody in the Civic Tech field did.
Because not everything that works in the private sector is applicable on the public sector. Goals and desires of the ones involved in participatory platforms are different than on Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter. Therefore the public sector needs individual solutions in order to drive engagement.
For Civocracy this means that we have to keep going and create even better ways to drive engagement. But Gamification will stay one very important element that we will continue to implement.
If want to know more about our approach and other tricks in our bag to drive engagement for citizen participation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org