UK Local Government Innovation Games at LocalGovCamp

Last Saturday, 18th June I attended Local Gov Camp in Birmingham with around 150 other local government geeks, influencers and ‘interested’ parties! The event was run as an unConference, I submitted a few session, some got interest and love and some didn’t. But one particular session that seemed to pique peoples interest was about ‘Innovation Games’ in the UK Public Sector.

Firstly a little bit of background as to why I suggested the session in the first place. 21apps have been focussing more and more on using visualisations and facilitation techniques in our consulting engagements, rather than boring meetings, pointless workshops and reams and reams of documentation that no-one reads. We’ve found that using facilitative techniques is far more effective when working with platforms such as SharePoint from the perspectives of engaging stakeholders, gleaning requirements and developing solutions. There’s certainly a more factual basis to our interest in Innovation Games other than our experience, but that’s subject for our upcoming book!

Specifically we at 21apps are focussing our ‘facilitation through games’ work on Luke Hohmann’s techniques and book Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products and Services. The book (and associated games) roots are in market research and product development, but the fit for platform requirements and technology projects is excellent in our experience.

Innovation Ganmes

I wasn’t expecting that many people to attend the session as it wasn’t particularly geeky and it is quite a broad subject area; we were allocated a room that seated about 15 people, when 30 people rocked up it was awesome and quite a squeeze, chairs stolen from other rooms and iPad’s balanced on knees as people sat on the floor (there were a surprising amount of iPads at the unConference)!


Lets get into the session. I hadn’t pre-planned a long presentation or anything, I’d got my roll of MagicWhiteboard, whiteboard pens and post-it notes just in-case we had a chance of a game like ‘Speed Boat’ or ‘Start your Day’, I even contemplated using the ‘name-cards’ as the bases of a quick ‘Product Box’ (or more likely Product Tent!), but the reality was this was a session for exploring and discussing concepts not ‘doing’. I just spent the first couple of minutes kicking things off explaining 21apps perspective on the subject, what I actually meant by ‘Innovation Games’ and how I saw it applying to local government, namely as a means of facilitation, shared understanding and gathering requirements.

The session quickly became a lively conversation and Q&A about all manner of ‘game’ related subjects and we discussed in no particular order:

  • How Innovation Games could be used in facilitation (and why traditional business analyst techniques are no longer suitable)
  • A number of participants had some great insights into Gamification and some examples of how Gamification could and is being used in local government
  • We discussed the basics of game theory
  • Lots of discussions about how Innovation Games can be applied to citizen engagement in policy making, consultations and local issues. It was agreed I think that open, long running games would need a layer of Gamification (rewards, recognition etc) in order to be successful
  • Finally we discussed the differences in adoption between commercial and local government and between internal and external participants.

Here’s some random snippets of the conversation that spilt over onto Twitter:

Local Gov Camp Innovation Games Tweets

During the conversation (over almost an hour rather than the planned 45 mins) we raised a great list of game platforms, examples, websites, books and presentations. I’ve tried to list as many as I could here, I will have missed some, feel free to add them to the comments!

That about sums up the session, I had a great time, discussions were awesome, the feedback was positive and I truly think theres a incredible potential for UK local government to adopt Innovation Games and ‘games’ in general to deliver serious benefits. A great example of using Innovation Games in local government is cited here when a group of community leaders and engaged citizens from the City of San Jose played a specially designed Innovation Game® to provide feedback regarding their budget priorities to the Mayor’s office.

Finally, here’s a quick video of me ;-) being interviewed by John Popham about the session - Ant talks about Innovation Games in UK Local Government


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