Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Open letter to US Senators

Dear Ms. Murray and Ms Cantwell,

i am a managing partner of Games for Democracy, a non-profit organization recently created to employ the techniques of serious play and serious games to refresh and renew public engagement in public policy. We ran a first trial of the Innovation Game, Buy-a-Feature on a list of features in a health care system, using features culled from the summaries of the House and Senate health care proposals. As you can see in the summary results at this web page the players were given a feature list with prices associated to each feature. They were then given a small sum of monopoly money and were asked to bid on the features they wanted to see implemented.

This is qualitative -- not quantitative research -- but the results were striking. You can see the feature ranking in column S. A feature distinguished by its absence was the mandatory individual insurance. Other points easy to spot in the results summary include the level of collaboration to ensure that an insurance pooling mechanism was purchased, as well as the strong interest in prevention and wellness and long term care. Perhaps the most striking result of all was the near universal statement of the players at the outset of the game that they knew very little about the legislation being proffered by there representatives, and how at the end the near universal sentiment that they had learned more about the issues in 35 mins of play than they had in several weeks of listening to the news coverage. Or perhaps the most striking was that 6 people from fairly different walks of life (engineers, owners of a local bakery, home-makers and bachelors) with fairly different political views could sit together and exchange ideas and information, recognize what they knew and the limitations of their knowledge, and come away evidently energized and motivated.

Of course, a game of 6 players is hardly worth the attention of a US Senator. However, it is the aim of our organization to run games of this kind on a nation-wide basis. We work with the Innovations Games Company, who provide an online version of this and other games. Our remit in this initial phase of our endeavor is to utilize in-person events and online tools to take this kind of approach to the people nationally and globally.

We are few, with very little resources. Just to get this crude instrument together has taken many, many person hours of our staff. We could use help from our representatives. We could use help getting better summaries of features of the health care system legislation. We could use help getting a more accurate representation of the relative costs of those features. We could use help finding people who would like to participate in this effort to bootstrap our understanding of these very important issues. We could use the very informed and experienced views you might bring to playing the games themselves.

We are running our next game on Jan 25 and intend to include community leaders from Seattle, the Bay area and Boulder Co.

Best wishes in the New Year,


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