Fire Starter — Scotland, a country where a postcode really matters!

Guest Blog by Chris Muir, original post on

Trying out a new game to connect across communities a Fire Starter Festival 2020 event, focussing on bringing together citizens, data and design to make change for the right reasons.

A room with a view — the Edinburgh skyline

Friday 7th February 2020, brought about an early start filled with nerves, excitement, and a great big dollop of the unknown. Designing a new game and trying it out with a community of people was a bit of a risk as they were giving up their time, first and foremost.

Inspired by a participatory budgeting game designed in Helsinki called OmaStadi, the SDA team collaborated with colleagues from ISD Scotland, to look specifically at how our country can bring citizens, data and design together to influence what really happens in our communities.

The game was prototyped and tested in-house 2 weeks prior to the event which gave us the opportunity to makes changes and improvements in the actual gamification. This would be it’s first outing with a real life brief.

The vision for the game was relatively clear, how can communities across Scotland buck the trend? The trend being; Your Postcode really matters. Where you live in Scotland and how that directly influences lifespan and quality of life.

In Scotland right now, the difference in life expectancy for those living in the ‘Most versus Least’ deprived communities is clear, 14.3 years (males) and 11.7 years (females).

Depending on what station you get off at may result in living longer. (ISD Scotland, 2020)

The saying ‘Data is the new gold’ isn’t a revelation, it has been around for a few years now. The provocation data, used at the start, was selected specifically to paint a true and honest reflection of where we are at as a nation.

Data is now being collected at astronomical rates by all sectors. This game will look at the role data plays in bringing change for the right reasons, it’s not just about statistics, its about recording human experiences and interactions.

The game is designed to increase democratic engagement amongst citizens and for them to feel empowered in providing solutions to real life discrepancies across our societies.

What is it really like for citizens who live in our most deprived areas? (Source: More than Metrics)

After a fun warm up and group forming, we settled into the game and got to work. All groups were encouraged to select a country card at random with the cards providing a brief on what Scotland might look like in the future. Brain-writing on their chosen theme occurred before selecting 3 National Performance Framework cards. Using the 3 cards players brainstorm on how they shape and influence your new country going forward.

The cards used in the game.

Who are you designing for is the most important component of this game. Generic citizen cards have been pulled together but how do you bring real life citizens into this game?

Using a create your own citizen card each player selects a person from their everyday life, draws them and provides a little background information whilst protecting their identity. Combining them with a number of pre-populated citizen cards and before you know it, you have a mini Scottish community with each group member having personal link to what they are designing and who they are designing for.

Idea generation through “Yeah, and……………….”

The next 2 parts of the game used a couple of ideation tools, encouraging the players to come up with lots of ideas around how they meet their citizens need’s and align that to the country card they chose at the start. Each group then selected their top ideas and progressed them to the next stage.

Consider cards were then introduced asking each group to consider what role data has to play in all this. What data is currently available, what still needs to be collected, who needs to be consulted in the development of their new country?

Pulling all their hard work together, each group delivered a ‘Dragon’s Den’ 90 second pitch into what their new country looks like. Everyone had one vote and subsequently voted for what country they would most like to be part of in the future.

Designing a smooth country group

Each group came up with some fantastic suggestions for creating a better country. From radically re-designing the political system through to creating a more diverse and inclusive nation.

Evaluation and feedback was collected through the ‘rose, thorn, bud’ technique.

Overall, feedback was extremely positive, with lots of rose comments including; “learning in a fun and creative way”, “great format, content and fun had by all”, “loved the new ideation techniques”, “ a lot better understanding of how big data is used by people” and “great way to think about other perspectives”.

Underneath the thorn heading were comments like “simpler descriptions on personas”, “some of the wording on the cards seemed a bit off” and “would have liked longer to work on the presentation”.

From the bud remarks. “I learned about service design and data”, “ I want to take this game back and use it immediately”, “Play this game more and see where it takes us”, “I liked how everyone took part and were encouraged to express opinions openly” and “lets take these suggestions out to the community together”.

As I look back over all the feedback and reflect on how the game was received, I can see nothing but positives in moving forward with the development of the game. Yes, we have areas of development to work on, for a 2nd prototype though let’s celebrate on how the experience was for the participants and how it ignited a spark in people!!! It was after all… event held at the Firestarter festival.

Do you want to find out more about this area of work?

If you would like to join Chris and his team on Friday 22nd May for “Connecting Communities through Design” version 3, you can sign up here:

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