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Collaboratively planning safer urban areas through serious games

Edited on

06 February 2023
Read time: 5 minutes

The topics of the UrbSecurity project experience in the city of Leiria and the participatory process for urban security

The participants were challenged to identify the main problems and the respective solutions in terms of security, in its broadest concept, in the areas under analysis, followed by a stage in which they individually and jointly took on the role of municipal executive, and in which they defined the priorities for investment in this area over the course of a legislature.

Collaborative planning: A viable option

What is a collaborative planning process?
    - The decision results from the decisions of the participants.
    - The final result is the fruit of the collective.
    - Applicable to complex situations.
    - Requires openness to learning.
    - Requires debate and negotiation.
    - Requires commitment.
    - Requires execution.

The benefits?
    - Appropriation of the solutions by the participants.
    - Different perspectives of the same reality.
    - Innovation and new approaches.
    - Resilience and cooperation for future projects.

Serious games: Consequential dynamics

    What is a game?
        - Interaction system.
        - Decision-making.
        - Model that simulates reality.
        - Returns results.
        - Motivation and involvement.
        - Alleviates conflict and generates empathy.
        - Provides answers to users.
        - Allows solutions to be tested and examples to be generated.
        - Allows you to learn by doing and learn from mistakes.
        - Allows you to see results without having to carry out construction work.

    Design and implementation of the UrbSecurity project. Requirements:
        - Analyse the security issues of 2 different areas of the city.
        - Participatory process giving voice and responsibilities to ULGs and just ensure the implementation of the project.
        - Be able to test some ideas through SSA.

Solution adopted in 5 phases:
    - Choose 2 work zones (one in the city centre and one in the urban periphery)
    - Use serious game methodologies to balance "fun" and results.
    - Analog games: easy to build, adapt to users and foster collaboration
    - To implement a co-creation process between the ULG

Phase 1 - Design-Thinking and collective decision
    - Balance of power of participation.
    - Creativity.
    - Collaboration.
    - Brainstorming
    - Active listening and interpretation
    - Collective construction of priorities and solutions
    - Voting on priorities
    - Development of proposals for the priorities with the most votes
    - Presentation and voting on the best proposals.

Phase 1 - Results

    Historic Centre of Leiria 
            - Lighting.
            - Accessibility.
            - Property Conservation.
            - Sustainable lighting.
            - Location-adapted transport system
            - Support programmes for urban regeneration

    Train Station Area
            - Green spaces.
            - Infrastructure maintenance.
            - Transport and accessibility.
            - Road signage.
            - Green and leisure spaces.
            - Reinforcement of public transport, connection to Polis, analysis of circulation directions.
            - Strengthening of social programmes

Phase 2 - Reinforcement of priorities and graphic expression

    - New opportunity to reflect on the territory.
    - Approach using maps and graphic representation.
    - Rethinking and re-examining the territory through creative expression.

Phase 2 - Outcome of ULG Proposals

    Historic Centre of Leiria 
        Proposals of the ULG Group 1:
        - Open the private green space of Quinta da Portela to the public.
        - Improvement of pavements, especially pedestrian ones.
        - Maintenance, cleaning, better enjoyment of the river.
        - Improve street lighting
        - Guarantee accessibility. 
        - Rehabilitation of the built environment
        Proposals from ULG group 2:
        - Public lighting.
        - Awareness and image campaign for the Historical Centre of Leiria.
        - Revision of the car park prices.
        - Conjugation of the car park with the public transports network.

    Train Station Area
        Proposals from ULG group 3:
        - Construction of a community centre
        - Local traffic signposting and speed control
        - Construction and maintenance of gardens and leisure areas
        - Improved policing
        Proposals from ULG group 4: 
        - Crossing pedestrian/cycling link and connection to the 'POLIS' green area.
        - Improve and create gardens and leisure spaces
        - Social/cultural/sports spaces and projects for youth activities.
        - Create digital applications and public WI-FI networks for young people.

Phase 3 - Decide with the ULGs what investment proposals should be made in the study areas, through the Collaborative Game

    - Quantify the priorities and locate them in the territory.
    - Negotiate and decide on investments.
    - Need to coordinate resources and create a solution/system
    - Several ULG groups and several solutions according to the type of participants.
    - Increased debate and need to reconcile agendas and visions for security in the territory.

Phase 3 - Results for the Historic Centre area of Leiria

    Converging proposals:
    - Parking near the town hall building and around the Castle.
    - Road rehabilitation near the town hall.
    - Pedestrianisation of the central street in the historic centre.
    - Creation of green areas in Quinta da Portela and near the Castle.
    - Public transport and improve pedestrian crossings.
    - Reinforcement of public lighting and cleaning of public spaces

Phase 3 - Results for the Train Station Area

    Converging proposals 
    - Reinforcement of public transport connecting to the railway.
    - Increase policing and video surveillance.
    - Creation of buildings to support and finance social/cultural projects
    - Creation of proximity playgrounds
    - Providing public WI-FI networks.
    - Connection to the green areas of POLIS by bicycle path and near the municipal urban vegetable gardens

Phase 4 - Technical sessions with the technical members belonging to the ULG group

    Session with the municipal executive.
    - Focus on the responsibilities of the municipality.
    Session with municipal leaders.
    - Focus on technical issues.

Fase 5 - Participation of children and youth members of the ULG

    9-10 years old
        - Simplification of the model for use with children.
        - Focus on the area around their schools
        - Safe street and fruition activities.
        - Play spaces.
    12-13 years old
        - Operation of the city and city systems and the transport system. 
        - Environmental issues.
        - Living in urban spaces in safety (rehabilitation and surveillance).

Some conclusions
    - Each ULG group generated different results highly dependent on the participants involved.
    - However, patterns emerged that can influence public policy.
    - The atmosphere was always positive and good humoured. Even in situations of divergence, the collaborative methodology allowed consensus to be reached.
    - Playable solutions proved to be suitable for all ages, social groups and territory.
    - The co-creation process emanated from the participants and the solutions were never imposed or forced.
    - The participants were surprised by the results obtained.

A few recommendations
    - Implement some of the measures and proposals identified, having been a concern of the participants (citizen participation has to transform participation into consequence).
    - Continue to develop this type of initiative, preferably with continued dynamics for the various territories, with citizen groups that serve as permanent consultation.
    - Use of these methods in all public processes, adapted to each reality, to generate consensus and improve solutions.
    - Use of collaborative methods to support participatory budget processes and other public consultation initiatives.

June 2022
Micael Sousa, CITTA Civil Engineering Department of the University of Coimbra
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