Making of Eurbanities – Supporting Local Participation through Gamification
The Eurbanities game based learning method is the result of a co-creation process involving 7 partners, working together in the frame of participatory workshops and remote co-working periods. The process was divided into 4 main phases:
1) construction of a set of local experiences representing different situations of citizen participation in neighbourhoods in European cities. 20 local experiences were analysed based on a storytelling approach.
2) Based on the stories, different scenarios of participation were identified through the assessment of the initial state of affairs, the turning points of the stories, tools of participation used by stakeholders and the outcome of the participation experience. The complex outline of these scenarios became the base of the storyboard of the game.
3) The storyboard, the characters of the game and the main dialogues were identified in the frame of a co-construction process during several partner meetings and remote work. Eurbanities game is the result of a one and a half year design process.
4) The creation of Eurbanities curriculum took place parallel to the game development. The curriculum was developed following the main steps of the game. The curriculum was tested at two test trainings and was improved constantly during the last year of the project.
The above described process resulted in the preparation of three pedagogical tools:
From local experiences to scenario building
In the first phase of Eurbanities, partners were involved in identifying, analysing and evaluating existing experiences of citizen participation in different European countries. The main product of this phase is a booklet entitled “Our Neighbourhoods’ Heroes”, containing the description of 20 cases from 9 European countries representing Northern, Western, Southern, and Central and Eastern Europe.
The experiences represent a large variety of urban situations, from the very small city (Rónakeresztes in Hungary for instance) through middle sized regional centres (Brighton, Sassari, Krakow), to large-scale European capitals and urban regions (Budapest, Berlin, Bucharest or Ile de France (Colombes)). They all reveal some specific social conflict between local stakeholders, civil society and local inhabitants, whose resolution unfolds in the course of the development project.
Experience has been defined as a process that can last over an extended period of time (years) and is affected by several external and internal factors, changes and events. The experience narratives describe processes in diverse contexts and present the way the positions, objectives and strategies of different stakeholders transform as they attempt to achieve their goals.
The narratives apply the methodology of storytelling. They focus on the logical construction of the experiences, the successive follow-up of actions and their consequences and are destined to lead to the elaboration of different types and scenarios of participation. In order to ensure a general pattern for comparability of different routes and outcomes designed by the experiences, a single structure (grid) was developed for each narrative.
In the grid and the narratives of Eurbanities, neighbourhood level development is considered as a long-term, non-linear process, during which actors – stakeholders in the story – interact with each other in different ways and to various degrees. As the story of development and of the interaction unfolds, the process can be organized into phases separated by turning points. A turning point can be an event such as a sudden change in the general political or economic context, or the breakdown of negotiations between stakeholders that transforms the positions of stakeholders in a way that affects the entire development process and its outcome. The position and points of view of stakeholders (civil, public, private) are redefined at each turning point.
THE TYPOLOGY OF THE EXPERIENCES OF CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
Based on the initial state of affairs and on the evolution of the analysed processes, a typology of the cases of local experience has been identified and tested by the project partners. The 20 cases were classified by forms of participation, referring to the general direction of stakeholders’ interactions and the kind value of this interaction.
A bottom-up state of affairs concerns actions initiated by actors without political power, such as NGOs or citizens. Projects initiated by an intermediate NGO can also be considered as bottom up, even if they are not rooted in the given community. Exceptions are the cases when the NGO is acting through an assignment on behalf of the local government or any other local authorities.
A top-down state of affairs describes all projects initiated by the local governments or other stakeholders with political power. The top down character does not directly qualify the local embeddedness of the project: in several cases the local government is an important element of the local community. However, political power enables the initiators to implement the project even if the other stakeholders or/and citizens are against it.
Furthermore, stakeholders’ interaction can also range from reactive to proactive according to their position in the given situation. A reactive state of affairs describes the initial nature of the participative action that responds to an exclusionary policy decision or step of another actor (e.g. local government). A proactive state of affairs concerns a situation, when the participatory or developmental process was triggered as a response to an existing urban or social problem of the above types. Proactive initiatives can be regarded as forms of innovation.
The distribution of the cases of experiences shows a relative balance among three states of affaires (Bottom Up Proactive, Bottom Up Reactive and Top Down Proactive), with a slight over-representation of the top-down proactive type. Here, 7 from the 9 experiences are from Central and Eastern Europe. This might reflect the different socio-political background of these post-socialist environments, where NGOs have less financial resources to launch independent participative processes and therefore the civil sector is more dependent on the local authorities’ initiatives and assignments, then in other European countries.
The fourth quarter of the matrix (top-down reactive) could not be filled as such cases only exist when a public authority intervenes as a reaction to an external event, e.g.: a natural disaster, a strong political conflict or a social conflict caused by political circumstances - for instance the refugee crisis. These cases mainly happen at a higher territorial (administrative) level, such as the national, regional or even international levels. However, these situations can be the base of local projects (on neighbourhood level) initiated by NGOs (for instance, education or integration programs for refugees living in a neighbourhood).
Turning Points are crucial elements of the stories and the scenarios as they introduce a change in the flow of events. They lead to a cut of the logical sequence of stakeholders’ actions and reactions and often a more or less radical change of their position and mutual relationship. Turning points might be crucial with regards to the final outcome of the processes, they can turn a positive process into a negative one and vice versa.
The local experiences include a large variety of turning points, such as different events, decisions, changing attitudes, arrival of new stakeholders etc. Overall, turning points can be classified according two main types of transformations:
Internal transformations: These changes are related to the reactions of the stakeholders included in the story: reactions of local stakeholders to a social issue or to the behaviour of other stakeholders in the course of the story. Each story begins as a reaction to a pending social issue or challenge of either one of the two major types of stakeholders (the NGOs or the local authority/local government). In this sense, the coming about of the initiative can be regarded as the first turning point in the flow of events, in the sequence of the narrative.
2. External changes: These transformations denote events external to the jurisdiction of stakeholders within the community that local actors cannot influence but that can have an impact on the evolution of the development story. External changes can be, for instance, the appearance of a new (external) stakeholder or a facilitator who can help local actors redefine their goals and points of view or can introduce new ideas that both sides of stakeholders can identify with. Turning points can also be triggered by external events, such as the transformation of the political context as a result of municipal or regional/national elections; a sudden change in the financial capacities of either of the participants; a general economic and/or political crisis, a transformation of the physical environment or the social composition of the area, the appearance of new funding tenders.
Tools of participation
Tools are types of actions and mechanisms deployed by local actors in their reaction to each other’s initiatives, proposals, actions and/or to the new situation triggered by internal and external events. Tools can vary according to the status of the actor who uses them (actors with and without any power) and the situations in which they are used. Some tools can be used by both types of actors and in several scenarios, others are specific to the actor and the situation. Based on the narratives of experiences the following types of tools can be identified:
Constructive tools : used in case if both parties with our without power agree and cooperate
Recalibration tools: helping to renegotiate some problematic issues between the parties.
Protest tools: used in case if no negotiation and compromise is possible.
The above presented typology has been elaborated according to the initial state of affairs and turning points as they appeared in the experiences. From the relative common starting points, the stories may follow very different paths, determined by the different turning points that cut the story into phases. Identifying these paths has been a first step in the building of the scenarios of participation.
Scenario building can be regarded as a practice of simplification: the main objective is to draw general development paths based on the stories. As typologies in general, instead of highlighting the small differences between the experiences, scenario building also intends to create large categories and thus to hide the small details. This exercise has been an important step towards the creation of the game tool, in which the processes are by definition presented in a simplified way.
Scenarios for storytelling were developed through the assessment of the initial state of affairs, the turning points of the stories, tools of participation used by stakeholders and the outcome of the participation experience. The scenarios are not isolated from each other: at certain points, there are possibilities for passing from one scenario to the other. Depending on the evolution of the initial state of affairs, the position of the stakeholders and the tools used by them, one scenario may turn into the other at certain points of the story. For instance, a bottom-up reactive scenario may turn into a bottom-up pro-active one in case of a positive collaboration between the stakeholders and the strengthening of the local community. Or, a bottom-up state of affairs might change into a top-down situation in case the local authority takes over the initiation as a result of financial, political or other reasons. Based on this logical reflexion, different variants of possible scenarios have been described in the case of the three initial states of affairs represented by the narratives presenting the experiences (bottom-up pro-active, bottom-up reactive and top-down proactive models).
A combination of these variants resulted in the creation of a complex scheme of participatory processes. This complex outline of the scenarios became the base of the storyboard of the game.
Locations of the Case Studies on urban participation
Kolb's experiential learning
The design of our training curricula is based on Kolb's experiential learning theory. Kolb's theory is typically represented by a four-stage cycle in which the learner 'touches all the bases':
1. Concrete Experience - (a new experience of situation is encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience).
2. Reflective Observation (of the new experience - of particular importance are any inconsistencies between experience and understanding).
3. Abstract Conceptualization (Reflection gives rise to a new idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept)
4. Active Experimentation (the learner applies them to the world around them to see what results).
What does it mean for Eurbanities?
Inexpereinced learner will feel the rejection, find new strategies and finally feel the success of the stimulated project. This knowledge can be transferrred to similar situations in reality (What did I do at the training, what did I change? How could I apply the experience on my reality?) and helps trainer to understand the urge of the experienced actors, they will teach.
Experienced actors can take their real cases, compare them with the game, reflect on improvements and apply them on reality. The training module is for them a reflection and expereimental sandbox. Thus, it is important not to let them go through the „Concrete Experience“ station, as they have this experience and another confrontation causes further frustration.
Classification of Eurbanities experiences according to the forms of participation
The three streams of participatory processes
The monomyth, or the hero's journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.
In the departure part, the hero lives in the ordinary world and receives a call to go on an adventure. The hero is reluctant to follow the call, but is helped by a mentor figure.
The initiation section begins with the overcoming the threshold to the unknown world, facing tasks or trials - alone or with helpers.
The hero reaches the central crisis of his adventure, where he his true mission is revealed and must overcome the main obstacle or enemy, undergoing a transformation and gaining his reward.
In the return section, the hero is returning to the ordinary world with the treasure he gained, which he may now use for the benefit of his fellow man. The hero is transformed by the adventure and gains wisdom or spiritual power over both worlds.
Narrative Base - The heroes`journey
What does it mean for Eurbanities?
The Heroes Journey is the narrative guideline for the game, the training course is reflecting on this, as the learners (the mini-NGOs) will experience a similar journey, meeting similar character (mentors, opponents, helpers, villains etc.)
The Heroes Journey will secure that all participants will feel the „Abyss“, the dark moment, but will also overcome the frustration an alter the „Known World“ with the experience they gained on the „journey“.
The Heroes Journey is related to Kolbs Experiental learning circle, and provides not just for the training, but as well the developed participatory model and the game a perfect thread, connecting all products of the project.