Josh Lerner, The Participatory Budgeting Project Gianpaolo Baiocchi, NYU Urban Democracy Lab Stephen Duncombe, NYU Gallatin School
Naa Hammond & Fred Ginyard, FIERCE
Anyone who has been to a public hearing or community meeting would agree that participatory democracy can be boring. Hours of repetitive presentations, alternatingly alarmist or complacent, for or against, often with no clear outcome or decision. Is this the best democracy can offer? In Making Democracy Fun, Josh Lerner offers a novel solution for the sad state of our deliberative democracy: the power of good game design. What if public meetings featured competition and collaboration (such as team challenges), clear rules (presented and modeled in multiple ways), measurable progress (such as scores and levels), and engaging sounds and visuals?
Drawing on more than a decade of practical experience and extensive research, Lerner explains how games have been integrated into a variety of public programs in North and South America. He offers rich stories of game techniques in action, in children’s councils, social service programs, and participatory budgeting and planning. With these real-world examples in mind, Lerner describes five kinds of games and twenty-six game mechanics that are especially relevant for democracy. He finds that when governments and organizations use games and design their programs to be more like games, public participation becomes more attractive, effective, and transparent. Game design can make democracy fun—and make it work.
Josh Lerner is Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project, a non-profit organization that empowers communities across North America to decide how to spend public money. Josh completed a PhD in Politics at the New School for Social Research and a Masters in Planning from the University of Toronto. Since 2003, he has developed, researched, and worked with dozens of participatory programs in North America, Latin America, and Europe. He is the author of the book Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics (MIT Press), and his articles have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The National Civic Review, YES! Magazine, Shelterforce, and the Journal of Public Deliberation.