What’s in a city budget? And why does it matter? Since taking office in the City of Saint Paul, Mayor Melvin Carter and his staff have sought to help community members understand this important decision-making process. The Budget Game was born as an in-person event where people from all over Saint Paul could gather to share their priorities for what gets funded, negotiate with their neighbors, and learn about budgeting while adding their voices to the discussion.
When COVID-19 shut the city down, the mayor’s team organized virtual events to keep the budget engagement going. And they saw the possibility for an even more accessible Budget Game — online and self-directed, allowing community members to learn and share their opinions at any time.
Software for Good’s software development and strategy interns took on the challenge of translating the Budget Game from facilitated group activity to solo game. Our team researched other educational web-based games, and walked through the Budget Game several times to understand its ins and outs. Our UX intern mapped the journey for game players and designed screens with the city’s branding. On the development side, the team built the database to store each player’s budget priorities as they progress from round to round. They also developed front-end animation that allows people to “flip” cards displaying information about each budget category.
Before the end of the summer, our strategy and human-centered design intern, who joined us through a UX training program from Saint Paul Right Track and Prime Digital Academy, led a series of usability tests to invite feedback on the game.
Near the end of the summer, the Software for Good interns met with Mayor Carter, Saint Paul’s Chief Information Officer Sharon Kennedy Vickers, and several members of the city staff to present the digital Budget Game. Each intern had a chance to share features they worked on in particular, and the mayor was especially impressed with the work they’d done to make the game inclusive.
“That’s pretty incredible.” — Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on the auto-translation feature in the online Budget Game
Thanks to our close partnership with the city, their Digital Services team was able to pick up on the Budget Game where Software for Good’s team left off. The game will be rolled out to the public, offering a whole new way for community members to weigh in on the future of the city.