In developing countries, citizen engagement in the rapid growth and development that many cities are experiencing is not a priority. Even when city governments want to engage citizens, finding methods that effectively do this are often quite challenging.
With “Block by Block”, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, and Mojang, makers of popular online game Minecraft, are exploring how the game could be used to find out how people want to see their cities develop in the future. Using the game, residents can build simple 3D models of their community. This is a simple and effective way to visualise future developments and create a consensus within the community.
In Haiti, the project worked with a group of fishermen who couldn't read or write and had never used a computer. They used the program to visualise the changes they would like to see in an area that had been badly affected by flooding. Using Minecraft they built a new seawall as well as adding public toilets to the area. This was then turned into a plan by architects.
In the Kibera district in Nairobi, Minecraft was used to settle disagreements over the use of the Silange sports fields. As one of the only public spaces in the area, a group of young people were using the field to play football and were resisting a plan to build an access road to a marketplace, fearing it would impact on the football field. By building the planned road in Minecraft, the young footballers were able to to see that the road wouldn’t affect their field, and this resolved the conflict.