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@Stake: A Game to Facilitate the Process of Deliberative Democracy

Authored by Eric Gordon and Becky Michelson, as part of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, and Jason Haas, as part of The Education Arcade at the MIT Media Lab, and published in the Proceeding of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing Companion.

The article first introduces the game @stake, “a game designed to build deliberative capacity through role-play and ideation,” and describes its creation and purpose. To show the tool’s usefulness in building deliberative capacity and creating empathy and creativity, the authors conducted research on a number of New York Participatory Budgeting processes when @stake was used as an icebreaker. Their study used a number of methods, including “participant observation, pre and post surveys, and follow-up interviews […] during three budget delegate meetings in three distinct districts in New York
City.” Each district contained a treatment and control group, of which the former played @stake and the second played a trivia game based on neighborhood facts. The researcher methods aimed to assess “how much people understood about the group context, their willingness to listen to others, and their commitment to the fairness of the process.”

The findings from the study showed that “the treatment group demonstrated greater capacity for empathy and openness to new ideas.” Some players were able to better remember the ideas and personalities of others they had just met through the game and others compared it to a “rehearsal” for the later participatory budgeting process they later were a part of.

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