OmaStadi budgeting game - An evaluation framework for working towards more inclusive participation through design games

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in New Media
102 + 22
Today, the notion of participatory budgeting has been implemented in more than 1500 cities worldwide. In Finland, the City of Helsinki’s new participatory budgeting process, OmaStadi, opens up an annual budget of 4.4 million euros to implement proposals suggested by citizens. For this process, the city has developed a design game, the OmaStadi game, to facilitate these proposals. The main goal of the game is to make participation in OmaStadi more inclusive. Therefore, it is designed to support qualities such as equal participation, improved discussion, creativity, citizen learning, and city perception. The fact that the game is specifically designed to be played by citizens as part of a participatory budgeting process, makes it among the first of its kind in the world. Thus, research into its impact are consequently unique. This thesis evaluates the OmaStadi game’s impact on the overall inclusiveness of the first year of participatory budgeting. This is done using a constructive and learning-oriented approach that focuses on the challenges (limiting factors), strengths (enabling factors), and achievements (impact) of the game. Research data are collected through qualitative interviews with five civil servants in charge of facilitating OmaStadi, the main designer of the game, and four of the participating citizens. The impact of the game is analysed using five identified goals and subsequently examined using three democratic criteria for evaluating participatory processes: participation (inclusion), political equality, and quality of deliberation. The evaluation results are then used to develop a broader evaluation framework with guidelines for how to plan, implement, and analyse further evaluation of the OmaStadi game. The research findings indicate that the game seemingly supports the overall inclusiveness of the broader budgeting process. Further, it contributes to making the gameplay, discussion, and idea development more equal for the citizens. Lastly, the game was seen to strengthen the discussion between citizens, improve the creativity of these, and enhance the overall quality of their proposals. However, in terms of quality of deliberation, high deliberative quality seems hindered by certain players’ strong attachment to their own ideas or tendency to give away their power very easily.
Leinonen, Teemu
Thesis advisor
Jaatinen, Maria
Rask, Mikko
participatory budgeting, co-creation, design games, design practice, democracy, citizen participation, evaluation, impact
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