Can a board game help people understand that their actions affect others?
That was part of the purpose for Heart and Soul to invite town trustees and mayors, town staff, county commissioners and staff, and representatives from Rural Development and the Department of Local Affairs to come play a board game about community development.
On hand also were several from the Orton Foundation and a team from Alchemy, the company that utilizes the game.
Barbara Peterson, who had the advantage of playing the game previously, explained the point of the game. "Hopefully you'll have a better understanding of exactly how assets, whether they are quality of life assets or whether they are economic assets, — and through the roles you'll discover the interdependence of how communities function and your decisions impact, one way or the other, the community."
Alexis Halbert, Heart and Soul project coordinator, said, "We expect you are going to have lots of critiques and things you're going to learn." It was also a time to learn if the game would be an effective tool.
Alchemy's website states the company "was formed with two ends in mind: first, to provide an exceptional level of consulting services to our clients by employing best-practice, skilled facilitation to accelerate results; and second, to empower our clients to create self-sustainable results."
Alchemy, which normally works with businesses, uses this game to help local governments understand their relationships with local communities and businesses.
An example of a game role, in this case local government services, states the rationale as, "Reputation [of the community] is generated by the quality of life of the community and is influenced by demand for that lifestyle. Reputation is lost when basic and unique services are not provided or there is a decline in demand for these services by people in the community."
All players hated to learn that a decision they had made ended up causing waste. But, players were pleased to receive money from a bag of chips labeled "Improvement."
The objective of the mayor's office was to "strike the appropriate balance between costs and expenses in the community, maintaining cash flow and attracting new economic development." Success was measured "by the resources available to invest in the city."
The players did three rounds of the game. It seemed people were making a real effort to make good decisions.
At the Crawford Work Session the night following the game, Mayor Susie Steckel said it was a "tremendous waste of time." She said the fact that the Town of Crawford doesn't have a railroad and not enough water will stop any manufacturing from coming to town. She noted the game wasn't even fun. Steckel was joined by trustees Larry Kontour and Wanda Gofforth.
Trustee Dustyn Foster represented the Town of Hotchkiss at the meeting. He serves on the Heart and Soul committee.
Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman was accompanied by trustees Amber Kleinman, Larry Wissbeck and town clerk Barbara Peterson.
Mayor Schwieterman said, "It was such a new concept of playing a game to simulate the interactions and interdependence of all the different factions that actually might affect a town or a government ... What I found ultimately, as we played those second and third rounds, we really started to see the patterns about how movement of town budgets affect things. To me the center of the board was most interesting because it dealt with quality of life and reputation. This was an attempt to quantify those."
Schwieterman agrees with local businessman Chris Yates who says that everything that is important here [Paonia], none of it is about money. "I took a giant pay cut when we moved here, because I wanted something better than what I had in a big city," Schwieterman said. "This is not a place to come to get rich."
For those who were engaged by the game, they would like to have the opportunity to play some more and learn how to excel at it. And the rest would rather not participate again.
It was an interesting attempt at trying something new, but it's hard to imagine that anything of real new understanding can be accomplished in a single evening.blog comments powered by Disqus