Demogames is an Erasmus+ Youth in Action project which provides educational tools, methods and materials for democracy education in non-formal youth work. It allows young people to approach democracy in a participative and engaging way through analog and digital games.
Problems and Purpose
One sixth of the world’s population is young. Their participation is fundamentally important for the economic, societal and political developments in the future. Democracy education enables young people to recognize and represent their interests, to participate in political processes and, in doing so, to meet their fellow human beings and their concerns with respect. DEMOGAMES promotes democracy education in youth work and non-formal education through several game-based learning tools. The main purpose of this project is to engage, connect and empower young people to effectively participate in society and political life.
In order to achieve these ambitious tasks, DEMOGAMES is working to realize different outcomes. The main end product will be a comprehensive “Democracy Game Box”, which will include a set of analogue and digital democracy games that practitioners (youth workers, trainers, and teachers) can use to teach democracy from different perspectives and to engage young people in a participatory way. Moreover, the box will be accompanied by easy and understandable training materials for practitioners with examples and exercises to use our democracy games.
Background History and Context
DEMOGAMES is a Youth in Action project within the Erasmus+-Framework. The Youth in Action Programme was designed to enable young people to attain key skills for their professional and personal development. Its goals are to inspire young people to actively influence the future of the EU and to convey a feeling of active European citizenry. It is part of Erasmus+, the EU Programme for education, training, youth and sport. DEMOGAMES can also be linked to the renewed EU Youth Strategy proposed by the European Commisssion for 2019-2027, as it provides substantive contribution to several of its areas, including: engaging, connecting and empowering young people.
The conceptual and structural context of DEMOGAMES derives from the Reference Framework For a Democratic Culture (RFCDC), that was published by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. The goal of the RFCDC is to carve out important competences, that will help young people to live democratic culture. The RFCDC enables a systemic and integral approach to teaching, learning and assessing competences for a democratic culture. Evidently, DEMOGAMES is embedded in a European tradition of democratic education in various ways.
This European tradition is emphazised by the large number of transnational project-partners that form the DEMOGAMES consortium. Six different project-partners from five different countries offer previous experiences, insights and Know-How to further the newly developed and innovative learning formats that DEMOGAMES has laid its focus on.
1) First, as part of the Leibniz network, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) follows the leading motto of "theoria cum praxi" and is actively engaged in policy advice and academic knowledge transfer into a broader public at different levels. GIGA staff members are sought-after experts among decision makers in politics, business, and civil society, as well as among media representatives and other stakeholders. Research-based policy advice and knowledge transfer to the wider public are essential elements of GIGA’s mandate. The GIGA has recently also begun to engage in the debate of the challenges for the participation of young people in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and beyond. The present project expands these activities, adds an applied element to it and strengthens the incorporation of the GIGA into a European network of practitioners. Dr. Saskia Ruth-Lovell and Prof. Dr. Sabine Kurtenbach will contribute with respect to their ample experience in the field of knowledge transfer of academic insights on democracy, in general, and youth participation, in particular.
2) Second, the project also builds on previous conceptual work of the Intercultural Institute Timisoara (IIT) as a coordinator organization of the “Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture” (RFCDC) of the Council of Europe in Romania, to which several members of the IIT staff have contributed substantially. The intimate knowledge of the RFCDC provided by IIT allows the consortium to develop educational tools and training methods against the background of a coherent framework. Especially the transnational perspective and the emphasis on four core competencies with respect to democracy education guides the consortiums efforts.
3) Third, the project builds on and expands previous experiences with analogue game development for democracy education in the field of formal education (both at the university and the school level) conducted by Dr. Rebecca Welge, Dr. Sabine Jenni and Robert Lovell from Demokrative – Initiative for political education in cooperation with Dr. Saskia Ruth-Lovell (GIGA) . One project is particularly important in this respect: “Democracy-Games – the research topic democracy in educational games” (2016-). Demokrative developed several educational games on the topic of democracy targeted towards formal and non-formal education settings. The most recent one was a set of “print & play” card games on democracy, which built on insights from the research project Democracy Barometer at the University of Zurich and was targeted for the use at the university and school level to teach about democratic processes and institutions. DEMOGAMES aims to make these games applicable to non-formal youth work.
4) Fourth, for the development of new digital games on the topic of democracy, this project builds on the lessons learned from earlier browser-based, social-impact games created by output-lead Amanda Warner from the European Network on Democracy and Human Rights Education (DARE). One of these games, “Fake It To Make It”, has been played more than 150,000 times by players in 170 different countries. In this simulation-style game, players take on the role of someone creating and distributing fake news for a profit. The purpose of the game is for players to leave with a better understanding of how misinformation is created and spread, so that they are more skeptical of information that they encounter in the future. The game is freely available to access online and is also used by teachers in the classroom.
Hence, DEMOGAMES benefits from the variegated knowledge, know-how and practical experience of the partners involved in designing innovative educational methods. The project results will add value with respect to the quality of teaching materials, which will be based on scientific insights as well as benefit from a coherent framework for democracy education. Moreover, the tools expand on previous developments and add new tools to them which will be targeted to non-formal youth in particular and reap the benefits of the best of analogue and digital worlds.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
As mentioned before, DEMOGAMES is a project of six partner organizations from five countries and is co-financed for the period 2019-2022 by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. The following partner organizations are part of the DEMOGAMES project:
- German Institute of Global and Area Studies, GIGA Hamburg (DE)
The GIGA is an independent social science research institute based in Hamburg, Germany. Its mission is to analyse political, social, and economic developments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as global issues.
- Demokrative – Initiative für politische Bildung, Zürich (CH)
Demokrative - Initiative for Civic Education is a non-partisan and non-profit association based in Switzerland. With its activities, Demokrative aims at contributing to the further development and strengthening of civic education, and thus strengthen democracy.
- European Network on Democracy and Human Rights Education (DARE), Brussels (BE)
The European network on Democracy and Human Rights Education (DARE) advocates for independent human rights and democratic citizenship education as an integral part of lifelong learning and encourages cooperation between formal, non-formal education and youth work as a contribution towards democratic resilient societies.
- Intercultural Institute Timisoara, Timisoara (RO)
The Intercultural Institute of Timisoara (IIT) is expert in Competences for Democratic Culture from Council of Europe and experienced with past projects on democracy education for youth and young adults (including the use of new technologies).
- DA2 Trucados, Almunecar (ES)
DA2 Trucados is an organization active on the local and regional level in the south of Spain and expert in game design and gamification of learning processes as well as another layer of contact with youth groups in schools and out of school learning contexts.
CGE Erfurt e.V. is experienced in the development and experimentation with various educational ICT tools such as mobile App, web based applications and has been frequently engaged in developing training courses as well as creating various tools and educational materials with high quality work and outputs.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
DEMOGAMES is designed for Young People (<25 years of age) in the countries of the Project Partners, Europe and beyond. It aims to include all Young People, wether or not they already have pre-knowledge of political, societal or democratic topics.
Methods and Tools Used
Several analogue and digital democracy games are currently in development; every game is developed by an international and interdisciplinary team of democracy experts, youth workers and game developers. As game-development is ongoing, selection and description of the games is provisory .
- Demodice: dice-based storytelling
From 1 to 10 players reflect and exchange their experience with democracy, as well as their desires and ideas for a more democratic future. The standard set includes 9 dice with six symbols each. Three dice on democracy as a political system (participation, rule of law, basic/human rights), three dice on individuals and interactions (actors, emotions, power relations). Three dice on contextual factors (social policy areas, places, challenges and threats to democracy). Special dice are available on sustainability and the pandemic. The game can be played with or without more detailed information about the symbols and its various meanings.
- Observers: riddles about democracy and politics
Observers is a game based on dark stories. Instead of detective stories, it contains stories about democracy and politics. Players have to find out the stories behind the riddles by asking the riddle master questions that can be answered with yes or no. It can be used for fun, as an introduction to specific topics or as a round-up exercise after a more theoretical discussion about the elements and principles of democracy.
- Participedia: set-collection game about democratic participation
Participedia is a card game about innovative ways to participate in democratic processes beyond elections for 3 to 6 players. Players become familiar with examples of innovative local, regional and national instruments for democratic participation from around the world. Participedia is a set-collection game; the player who collected most sets wins.
- Deckmocracy: card game about democratic events
Deckmocracy is an analogue 15 minutes long card game for 2 to 6 players. The player's aim is to complement democratic events, such as the fall of Berlin Wall, the introduction of the Euro or the organisation of a referendum. To complete an event, players compete, individually or in teams, for the concept cards that belong to an event. Concepts are elements of society and democracy such as a parliament, civil rights, or European integration. The player or team who gains more points completing events wins the game.
- Island Utopia: collaborative game about democratic institutions
Island Utopia is a collaborative card-based game for 4 to 8 players, which makes the players experience and reflect value and interest dilemmas inherent in many democratic institutions and rules. The players form the Utopia Council, are in charge of the establishment of the Utopian democracy as well as everyday decisions for the society of Utopia. Players directly experience value controversies and conflicts of interest as they all represent a group of current inhabitants of Utopia. The game is based on the ‘building blocks of democracy’ learning module with the same name.
- Draw the Line: board game about inclusion and exclusion
A short and simple board game to trigger discussions about inclusion and exclusion, descriptive and substantive representation, and the consequences of (political) entities on both. Technically speaking, a game of dividing lines between shapes and colours representing people, for differing reasons depending on the setup.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Currently, the above-mentioned games forming the D-Box are still in development. For game development, it is essential to test the games regularly. The following is an overview of the events that have taken place so far. The list is updated regularly.
Workshop “DEMOCRACY AND GAMES” at Radboud University, Nijmegen 19th November 2021
This workshop took place at Radboud University in Nijmegen and the participants were political science students. During this workshop, we approached the topic of democracy in a participative and engaging way by playing some of the above mentioned analog and digital games. Participants were able to play test custom-built game prototypes on different topics of democracy. The following games could be play tested: Participedia, Observers and Deckmocracy. After the respective test rounds, the participants gave valuable feedback that was incorporated into the further development of the games.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Analysis and Lessons Learned
 German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA). Democracy and Games: Analog and Digital Game-Based-Learning Tools for Youth Work. https://www.giga-hamburg.de/de/projekte/democracy-and-games-analog-digital-game-based-learning-tools-youth-work/
 Demokrative - Initiative für Politische Bildung. Demogames. https://www.demokrative.ch/index.php/de-de/projekte/demogames
 Erasmus+. Jugend in Aktion. https://www.erasmusplus.de/erasmus/jugend-in-aktion
 Internal document to be published
 Council of Europe. Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture. https://www.coe.int/en/web/reference-framework-of-competences-for-democratic-culture
 German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA). About. https://www.giga-hamburg.de/en/about
 Participedia. German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA). https://participedia.net/organization/6676
 Intercultural Institute Timisoara. https://www.intercultural.ro/en/home-page/
 Participedia. Intercultural Institute Timisoara - to be published
 Participedia. Demokrative - Initiative für Politische Bildung. https://participedia.net/organization/6800
 Demokrative - Initiative für Politische Bildung. https://www.demokrative.ch/index.php/de-de/
 Demokrative - Initiative für Politische Bildung. Projects. https://www.demokrative.ch/index.php/en/projects.
 Demokrative - Initiative für Politische Bildung. Let's Play Demokratiebarometer. https://demokrative.ch/index.php/de-de/projekte/db-spiele
 Participedia. Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe (DARE). https://participedia.net/organization/6907
 Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe (DARE). https://dare-network.eu/
 Fake it to Make it. https://www.fakeittomakeitgame.com/
 Asociacion Cultural Da2 Trucados. https://da2trucados.wormholepro.com/?reload=162994
 Participedia. Asociacion Cultural Da2 Trucados. https://participedia.net/organization/7121
 CGE Erfurt e.V. https://www.cge-erfurt.org/
 Participedia. CGE Erfurt e.V. https://participedia.net/organization/8012
 Internal document to be published