Designing interactions

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  • In the previous post, we described how focus groups can go wrong. Here, we’ll talk about focus groups as an example of an interaction that - when designed well - can yield useful and surprising results.
  • In the previous post, we described how focus groups can go wrong. Here, we’ll talk about focus groups as an example of an interaction that - when designed well - can yield useful and surprising results.
  • The City Council sits in their usual ceremonial chairs or a table at the front of the room facing an aroused audience of citizens. The question on the agenda is “How shall we create a budget for next year? What items can we cut? Which of our revenue generating measures is least painful for most people? How to assign limited resources to too many categories?” The city staff shows the Powerpoint presentation that’s been prepared. The council may ask a few questions, and then they open up the microphone to citizens.
  • The City Council sits in their usual ceremonial chairs or a table at the front of the room facing an aroused audience of citizens. The question on the agenda is “How shall we create a budget for next year? What items can we cut? Which of our revenue generating measures is least painful for most people? How to assign limited resources to too many categories?” The city staff shows the Powerpoint presentation that’s been prepared. The council may ask a few questions, and then they open up the microphone to citizens.
  • The City Council sits in their usual ceremonial chairs or a table at the front of the room facing an aroused audience of citizens. The question on the agenda is “How shall we create a budget for next year? What items can we cut? Which of our revenue generating measures is least painful for most people? How to assign limited resources to too many categories?” The city staff shows the Powerpoint presentation that’s been prepared. The council may ask a few questions, and then they open up the microphone to citizens.
  • The City Council sits in their usual ceremonial chairs or a table at the front of the room facing an aroused audience of citizens. The question on the agenda is “How shall we create a budget for next year? What items can we cut? Which of our revenue generating measures is least painful for most people? How to assign limited resources to too many categories?” The city staff shows the Powerpoint presentation that’s been prepared. The council may ask a few questions, and then they open up the microphone to citizens.
  • For the past 3 years, the City of San Jose (California), the 3rd largest city in CA and 10th largest in the US (as of this writing), has taken a different approach to getting citizen involvement in the budget process. With pro bono support from the Innovation Games® company and its non-profit collaborator, Every Voice Engaged, San Jose has played a version of “Buy a Feature” calling it “Budget Games”.
  • Specific: “The rules require specific cuts: “close libraries one hour earlier,” rather than “cut library budgets by 5 percent.” The results from each table’s play of the game are then collated (after the Saturday) and presented to the City Council as a report, which influences the Council’s decisions about how to proceed with the following year’s budget.
  • Citizens that are part of the local neighborhood associations are invited to come downtown on a Saturday morning in January. Instead of a free-for-all discussion, there are a dozen or (this year) 17 proposals for how to spend money, plus several candidates for raising revenue (bond measures, or increases to sales tax, for example). People are seated at tables of 8-10, with those from other neighborhoods. Each table has one trained facilitator and a notetaker from the external organizations. Each citizen is given some (play) money, but even combined, the whole table doesn’t have sufficient funds to purchase more than a couple of items on the list. Now the fun begins! City staff people from various offices are available to answer questions (“If we remove opportunities for overtime from these managers in law enforcement, will they leave San Jose? Will we actually save money?”).
  • In a period of approximately 60 minutes, each table must determine whether to raise revenue and how (within the constraints provided by the game), and how to spend that revenue. People quickly realize that they need to explain their support for particular proposals in order to sway others to their point of view and gain their contributions of “play money”. The benefits attributed to traditional focus groups also are true for this activity-oriented event: + Gather several viewpoints from many people at one time (info/unit time; listeners’ time) + Use the group setting to take the advantage of social interaction to draw out participants The expectation is people will have an ordinary conversation. “Yes, and what’s more...” or “No, I disagree, because...” While we rarely hear this kind of person-to-person discussion in a focus group, I’d argue that’s because of the design of the interaction and the kinds of questions that we ask “do you like X? or Y?”
  • An additional benefit is that this scales. Although it’s sometimes a little hard to hear, we know we’re getting perspectives from 20 tables of neighbors from across the city.
  • Additional positives about choosing this design for in-person interaction are + Games in small groups lead to compromise + Elected officials feel they’ve gained permission for some hard decisions + No fisticuffs (Civil engagement in civic affairs; all join to play this cooperative game)
  • This slide is about celebrating many ways to design the interaction for in-person (or online) small group activities. These forms of interaction can be considered participatory design.
  • Designing interactions

    1. 1. Focus Groups + Fun Activity = Useful ResultsIn the previous post, we described how focus groups can go wrong. Here, we’ll talk aboutfocus groups as an example of an interaction that - when designed well - can yield usefuland surprising results.
    2. 2. Focus Groups + What kinds of fun? = What’s a useful result?And you’ll ask “What do you mean ‘fun’?” and “What kinds of useful results”
    3. 3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jramspott/5714513775/in/photostream/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/jramspott/5715072036/in/photostream/ Typical Civic EngagementIn a typical civic engagement, the City Council sits in their usual ceremonial chairs or a tableat the front of the room facing an aroused audience of citizens. The question on the agendais “How shall we create a budget for next year? What items can we cut? Which of our revenuegenerating measures is least painful for most people? How to assign limited resources to toomany categories?” The city staff might provide a Powerpoint presentation. The council mayask staff a few questions, and then open up the microphone to citizens.
    4. 4. flickr.com/jramspott Citizens testify...Citizens are impassioned and rise to testify, likely on a single topic.
    5. 5. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bz3rk/3641520081/in/photostream/ ...one at a time...they come to the microphone one-by-one. This is a poor use of time, and what’s more...
    6. 6. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bz3rk/3641520081/in/photostream/ “...People can say whatever they want without having to wrestle with complexity. It encourages extreme thinking.” Kip Harkness, Senior Project Manager, City of San Jose http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-08-30/making-sense-of-the-games-politicians-playThis method of getting citizen feedback leads to extreme thinking and less engagement withthe full complexity of the budget.
    7. 7. And now, for something completely differentHow to change it up?
    8. 8. For the past 3 years, the City of San Jose (California), the 3rd largest city in CA and 10thlargest in the US (as of this writing), has taken a different approach to getting citizeninvolvement in the budget process. With pro bono support from the Innovation Games®company and its non-profit collaborator, Every Voice Engaged, San Jose has played a versionof “Buy a Feature” calling it “Budget Games”.[The image in this slide was created live at the event by Julia Feng]
    9. 9. City staff works with organizers: prepare spending & revenue proposalsThe organizers work with city staff to create specific proposals for generating revenue andspending it: The rules require specific cuts: “close libraries one hour earlier,” rather than “cutlibrary budgets by 5 percent.
    10. 10. Residents come downtown on SaturdayCitizens that are part of the local neighborhood associations, the youth commission or othercivic organizations are invited to come downtown on a Saturday morning in January. Insteadof a free-for-all discussion, there are a dozen or (this year) 17 proposals for how to spendmoney, plus several candidates for raising revenue (bond measures, or increases to sales tax,for example).People are seated at tables of 8-10, with those from other neighborhoods. Each table has onetrained facilitator and a notetaker/observer from the external organizations. Each citizen isgiven some (play) money, but even combined, the whole table doesn’t have sufficient funds topurchase more than a couple of items on the list. Now the fun begins!City staff people from various offices are available to answer questions (“If we removeopportunities for overtime from these managers in law enforcement, will they leave San Jose?Will we actually save money?”).
    11. 11. Brief engagement, many perspectives...In a period of approximately 60 minutes, each table must determine whether to raise revenueand how (within the constraints provided by the game), and how to spend that revenue.People quickly realize that they need to explain their support for particular proposals in orderto sway others to their point of view and gain their contributions of “play money”.The results from each table’s play of the game are then collated (after the Saturday) andpresented to the City Council as a report, influencing the Council’s decisions about how toproceed with the following year’s budget.The benefits attributed to traditional focus groups also are true for this activity-orientedevent:+ Gather several viewpoints from many people at one time (info/unit time; listeners’ time)+ Use the group setting to take the advantage of social interaction to draw out participants The expectation is people will have an ordinary conversation. “Yes, and what’s more...” or “No, I disagree, because...” While we rarely hear this kind of person-to-person discussionin a traditional focus group, I’d argue that’s because of the design of the interaction wherewe usually ask preference questions “Do you like X or Y?”
    12. 12. And it scales!An additional benefit to this format for interaction is that it scales: more than one groupmeets at the same time discussing the same questions, but possibly with different outcomes.Although it’s sometimes a little hard to hear, we know we’re getting perspectives from 20tables of neighbors from across the city.
    13. 13. Cooperation and civility rule (No Fisticuffs!) http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2459829190/Additional positives about choosing this design for in-person interaction:+ Games in small groups lead to compromise+ Elected officials gain permission for some hard decisions+ No fisticuffs (Civil engagement in civic affairs; all join to play this cooperative game)
    14. 14. Let the fun begin! Learn more: www.fishbird.comThese forms of interaction can be considered participatory design, a method that involves theusers of a product or service (in this case, “paying for city government and services”) to bepresent and participate in the creation or updating of the product/service. For more fromNancy Frishberg, see www.fishbird.com

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