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Games, apps and maps for the Commons

David Wilcox and Drew Mackie June 2019


The aim of the Commons games is to enable the design and development of environments for conversation and collaboration, through the use of maps, apps, stories and self-organising.

This note outlines how we are developing online and face-to-face games based on our work over the past 20 years, and our recent exploration into making London a more Networked City. We have, under development, prototypes of the games and an online app, and demonstrations of local and collaboration mapping.

We are seeking partners to test and invest time, expertise or funds in the games and learning spaces to support their use.

The idea of the Commons is an environment within which connections and collaborations can take place. Practically it is a set of connected online and on-the-ground spaces and activities where people can use a range of methods for conversation and collaboration, often supported by community connectors or network weavers.

See end note on terms used.

Participants on our game to design London civil society support system


We are developing three games that have elements in common. These cover:

  • How to develop a local hub and platform, that supports the Commons for a neighbourhood
  • How to develop a networked hub and platform for collaborations within and between networks, and networked organisations
  • How to support Commons connectors in localities and networks - the people who help build relationships and collaborations

Each game will have

  • a Living Lab workshop version that can be played in a group using cards and other paper-based materials.
  • an online app that replicates the workshop game, and which can be used both on its own and to facilitate workshops
  • Back-up learning resources
  • An online space to share learning

We are drawing on 20 years experience in developing a wide range of Living Lab games and our recent Networked City exploration into connecting Londoners. We have the prototype of a Commons app. We are starting work with a group of networks on shared communications and a learning space.

Poster summarising Connecting Londoners

More below on Networked City and our development approach.

Framework behind the games

Each game will be based on a methodology developed through our Living Lab workshops:

  1. Describing the setting - either a real place, organisation or network, or a fictitious scenario
  2. Establishing the values for the Commons - the expected norms of behaviour, and design criteria for the platform
  3. Identifying who will benefit from the development of the Commons. Again these may be real people or groups, or personas
  4. Detailing the social, environmental or economic challenges within the Commons that will be addressed by development of the platform, and support for connectors
  5. Outlining activities that could meet these challenges, whether carried out by individuals, groups or organisations
  6. Choosing methods that can be used by connectors and others within the Commons. These will be in four main categories of finding, sharing, collaborating and managing.
  7. Prioritising the methods against criteria of importance and timescale.
  8. Reflecting and learning through the resources and online space.

Examples of personas


Overall the game design, support materials and learning opportunities will be based on these principles:

  • Understand the existing assets and collaborative connections within a locality, organisation or network - so map the social infrastructure and social ecology
  • Where possible encourage use of existing assets
  • Blend methods - online, face-to-face and print
  • Support people in telling stories about their interests, needs, successes, failure
  • Respect existing cultures, while recognising that new forms of organising may be needed to address challenges

Development approach


We have a lot of game materials, experience and resources developed over the past 20 years, detailed on these Living Lab wiki pages. These include:

  • the use of personas to explore digital inclusion for older people, and Living Well in the Digital Age
  • use of technology by organisations and networks
  • online methods for community connectors
  • design of London social infrastructure

Over the past two years we have led an exploration into how to make London a more Networked City, which has led to a set of resources and online tools:

As part of the exploration we:

Network map of people interested in mapping

Through work with local development organisations in Clerkenwell and Barking we have evolved:

Our latest development, in association with Founders and Coders and technology coop Outlandish, is the prototype of a Commons game app for designing a hub and platform, and support for connectors.

Further development

Our aim is to develop the games, apps and support systems within an open framework that enables people to contribute and build on our work, using Creative Commons or similar licenses.

At the same time, as freelances, we need to cover our costs and those of people working on the maps, apps and other elements. Current plans are:

  • Discussion with local projects and networks that we are already working with to explore scope for further development.
  • Building on the Clerkenwell trail mapping with further demonstrations, and exploring scope for collaboration with the Layers of London mapping programme.
  • Re-purpose our Networked City sites to support Commons games and maps.
  • Exploration with technology partners and funders of the scope for app development.
  • Inviting those who have joined our networks map to meet and discuss their interests in further development.
  • Running workshops and undertaking map development for clients.

Terms used

We are using the term Commons to describe the collaborative community or network environment - but the game and app can be rebranded as appropriate for different client groups.

The hub and platform model is a way to describe how an existing organisation, or new team, will need some core organising resources for mapping and comms, and support systems for people on the Commons.

Community connectors and network weavers may be newly-paid roles like community organisers, or people already acting in professional or voluntary capacity to build connections and collaborations.

  • David Wilcox
  • Drew Mackie
livinglab/commons.txt · Last modified: 2019/07/18 11:13 by davidwilcox