When planning for a community engagement process, there are numerous methods you can use to increase levels of community engagement. One broad area, that you’ve likely experienced yourself without even realising, is gamification. What’s that you say? Is that even a word or did I just make it up?
What is Gamification?
Gamification is a strategy for harnessing external rewards and a sense of fun to encourage participation in a process. So what might that look like? Here are some ideas:
- Leveraging people’s competitive streaks – awarding status for participation/ideas contributed/value-added (things like points, leader boards, rankings)
- Acknowledging expertise – attributing badges or titles to participants (for example, recognising specialist contributions or particularly effective idea generation)
- Offering rewards – incentivising active participation through ‘real’ rewards (not just badges or other status items)
How does it work?
Does any of that sound familiar? Gamification is used to great effect is on traditional online forums and, more recently, in Facebook groups. Think about how these platforms award badges and status for quality engagement, where the community ‘likes’ (or doesn’t like) particular content. People who actively, regularly participate are rewarded through a range of subtle (and overt) encouragements to create a ‘fun’ experience. Have a think about apps and other services you use that deploy these strategies to keep you coming back and participating.
How can it increase community engagement?
Hang on, I hear you say, what if suddenly everyone’s participating for the reward and we don’t hear what we need to hear?
Well, like any engagement process, you need to first think carefully about your objectives. You want to ask yourself what behaviours you want to foster in your participants – for example, what’s more important, volume or quality? And how will you measure and reward that?
You also need to consider your audience. How will they react to the idea of gamification? We suggest that you need an enthusiastic, positive and engaged community to try your first attempt at gamification with – it might not be something you kick off with a contentious issue.
That sounds expensive!
You might by now be imagining that gamification is going to be expensive. Custom apps, fancy software…your budget is quivering in fear.
But the good news is, gamification doesn’t have to be expensive. There are tonnes of cheap and free apps out there you can utilise, or more comprehensive platforms for discussion with gamification features built-in (we like Loomio).
Or you can ‘build your own game’ in real life – perhaps a spin-off the idea of participatory budgeting, or maybe some kind of hands-on public space design within set parameters. Your whole engagement process doesn’t need to be gamified – a small segment of the process might have game elements.
Are you inspired to get a bit creative? I’d love to hear what ideas spring to mind. If you’ve got an upcoming engagement process you need help planning, we’re always here.