Using computer gaming to engage people in neighbourhood planning

Historically this estate has had multiple problems with poor communication between the local authority and residents. Part of the estate had been demolished, leaving a large area of empty land which ultimately will become an amenity for residents, and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council jumped at the chance of working with an independent partner to help them engage with the community and use artists to improve design quality in the area.

MADE commissioned interactive digital media company Digital Native Academy to create a virtual 3D map of the space using existing computer games technology. Seven residents volunteered for training in the software and then shared their new skills with others on the estate to experiment with designs for the public space. These volunteer facilitators were able to involve their own social networks - their neighbours and friends – to allow us to reach the most marginalised people living on this marginalised estate.

This is thought to be the first time computer gaming technology has been used in community engagement and consultation. It has proved to be very popular with residents, demonstrating that getting involved in regeneration can be fun. We are particularly proud that one young resident has now found paid work as a direct result of being a volunteer facilitator, and that two young residents were prepared to represent the estate at a regional symposium on ‘The power of young people to inform public space’.

Sandwell Council sees ‘Gaming the Tibby’ as ground-breaking as they have been able to “get the opinions of people who wouldn’t usually speak out”. It has opened doors with a previously disengaged community and “the doors are now open for future engagement”. The approach is being promoted through the Community Safety Partnership as a way of engaging with the most unreachable of people. The DVD of ideas and designs is feeding into the masterplanning process for the whole estate and training volunteer facilitators to deliver activities with other residents will be replicated at other regeneration schemes.

Gaming the Tibby was part of MADE’s Creative Communities project, funded by Arts Council England, and shortlisted for an HCA Academy Award for Investing in Young People. Gaming the Tibby has received much recognition through media coverage and awards, including

  winner of Most Innovative Use of Geographic Information from the Ordnance Survey

  shortlisted for a The Guardian Public Services Award for Partnership Working

shortlisted for a Local Government Chronicle and Health Service Journal Sustainable Communities Award