2017 Semifinalist
City of Boston, MA
January 1, 2017

Community PlanIt (CPI) is an online engagement game platform designed by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College to create a new space for conversations within a community that is used around the world on local planning topics ranging from water quality to youth unemployment. Frequently, planning meetings are beset by a lack of diversity, learning, and trust and a surplus of one-issue activists, incivility, and misunderstandings; CPI augments existing offline engagement efforts by stepping up where face-to-face meetings often fall flat. Structured within a series of time-limited missions where players are prompted to complete an array of challenges and respond to questions, CPI provides a playful framing that allows planners to guide citizens through the narrative of the planning process, creating opportunities along the way for learning, civil conversation, and meaningful input. Typical CPI games last three weeks and require about one hour of gameplay per week. The outcome of gameplay is data that is directly applicable to the planning process. Community PlanIt not only builds trust between citizens and organizations, but also is itself a powerful data collection tool that allows meaningful analysis of citizen input to incorporate into the planning process. Players learn about local issues, connect with each other, and suggest solutions to problems. Each game ends in a face-to-face Game Finale, where players meet with each other and discuss the results of the game with planners and decision makers. A Tech for Engagement Grant from the Knight Foundation provided seed funding to develop the platform in 2012 with implementations in the cities of Detroit (Detroit 24/7) and Philadelphia (Philadelphia 2035), and most recently with the city of Boston and the World Wildlife Fund (2016). Since then, the game has been used in a wide array of contexts that go well beyond city master planning: from setting public health priorities in neighborhoods to addressing wastewater management at the regional scale, and from social media policy-setting in individual schools to tackling the issue of youth unemployment in developing countries at the national scale.