Main part of the project is a simulation game inspired by Budget Games (Polish: Gra o Budżet) created by Luke Hohmann and Innovation Games® in 2011. Budget Games helps residents and authorities of San Jose (USA) in the debate on the city budget.
Polish version of the game was prepared with the help of project partners experienced in this field: Citizens Foundation from Iceland and Association of Polish Cities. Prof. Alan Tomkins, director of the Public Policy Center at University of Nebraska, was also involved in the process of creating the game concept.
During the game players are divided into teams of 10. There are 8-10 such groups. Each group has to unanimously decide on urban investments and social services selection. Each participant has certain amount of money (game’s own fictional currency), but not enough to finance the projects they prefer.
The players will therefore need to work together to reach common solutions. Each team creates its own list of proposals. But the final ranking depends on the average from all tables.
The game teaches not only the cooperation, but also helps to understand that decisions on public issues stems from needs of different groups of citizens, and that finding the best solution is time consuming and requires flexibility. If the players are not be able to communicate, they won’t be able to convince other players to projects that are important for them. The principle of the game is good collaboration process, where all involved participants are equal partners.
Every game is moderated by two professional facilitators and there are trained moderators for each table. Over the course of the game, the representatives of urban institutions are available as experts in their respective fields (such as the police, communication issues, water & sewer, parks & recreation…). The presence of the experts helps the players to better understand the budgeting mechanisms and constraints related to managing complex urban organism.
The game offers a safe environment in which you can make mistakes without taking their consequences. Because of its interactive and involving nature, the game is seen as something that is happening for real. It allows players to internalize more information, learn faster and gain the ability to intuitively make good decisions.
But the Budget Game is not only a fascinating simulation with high potential – it’s also full of emotions and human interactions.
After the game even sceptically minded citizens begin to understand that they are entitled to vote in municipal budget matters and that they should benefit from it, but it also means that they have to share responsibility for city finances. The authorities convince themselves that the involvement of residents leads to reasonable solutions. In San Jose 80% of recommendations were implemented in the real budget.