Residents Use Board Game to Build Community
Jones, Alice, Nation's Cities Weekly
At a time when a 30 percent turn-out at the polls for a primary election starts to look good, and pundits mumble about the future of American democracy, residents of Marlborough, Mass., found a new way to initiate meaningful political discourse and take an active role in the governance of their community. Through an innovative community assessment technique using a board game, people in this community of 32,000 residents 25 miles west of Boston helped local officials assess their city's needs and chart its future.
Marlborough's unique community forum climaxed a month-long assessment involving representatives from thirteen different sectors of the community. Amid the colorful trappings of a political convention, groups representing all. segments of the city-newcomers and long-time residents, the elderly, youth, Brazilian immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans, business leaders, and members of the religious community-brought their unique perspectives to local issues, evaluating the community's strengths and challenges in a frank exchange with city and state officials.
Hosted by U.S. Congressman Marty Meehan, the meeting allowed other key local leaders - Marlborough mayor Michael J. McGorty, State Senator Robert Durand, and State Representative Dan Valianti- the opportunity to explore with participants the possibilities of federal, state, and local partnerships to address challenges like educational funding and transportation needs that confront Marlborough.
More than 120 Marlborough residents got together to play CityScope, a community assessment game designed by the Carlisle Education Center, a program of Education Development Center Inc., of Newton, Massachussets. The game was played in focus groups of eight to ten persons, each group a cross section of residents from an important sector of the community. "This game is an unusual chance for some real, old-fashioned political discourse at the grassroots level," Meehan said.
The game overcomes many of the weaknesses of conventional assessment techniques like polls and surveys, since it brings people together to take responsibility for the problems that affect the quality of their lives.
The assessment exercise resembles a board game, in which players sort a deck of cards onto individual game boards. Each card represents a common urban issue. The cards are divided into three suits or categories examining different aspects of the community. Issues in the services category deal with local government; health care and social services; education; and public safety. …