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Gamification at the Bangor festival of Behaviour Change

The most recent North Wales Participation Network was held as part of a wider event – the Festival of Behaviour Change which took place in Pontio, Bangor University and was organised in partnership with Wales Audit Office and Good Practice Wales.

The Behaviour Change Festival was aimed at people with an interest in social change or innovation in roles in healthcare, education, local and national government and the voluntary sector including:

  • Staff who deliver public services
  • Policy Makers
  • Elected Members
  • Strategic Decision Makers
  • Service Users with an interest in better public services

A major part of the festival was the gamification aspect to each day. If you read our most recent newsletter, this was featured as the ‘Method of the Month’. Let’s explore how this works in more detail:

Each participant had 3 ‘game cards’ inside the delegate pack that was given out upon arrival. Each card either represented ‘easy’, ‘medium’ or ‘hard’ and had a list of challenges to complete throughout the day. When you complete a challenge, you get a stamp on your game card and a completed card wins a small prize.

I like a challenge, so I went straight to the card labelled ‘hard’ and had a look at what I’d need to do in order to win a prize:

  1. Walk 6000 steps
  2. Order a healthy meal from restaurant within the venue
  3. Recognise 3 good things that happened today
  4. Join with another group
  5. Attend all events in one day

Screenshot of step-counter AppIt wasn’t as easy as simply asking for a stamp, you needed to provide proof

I used a step-counter app on my phone to keep track of my footsteps (I’d already walked to the venue so was over half-way towards the target before the event began), they had pedometers available too.

At lunchtime, I took a photograph of my receipt and my meal and was awarded a stamp for ‘ordering a healthy meal’ English Healthy Menu from Pontio Restaurant in Bangor University


I also intended to use photos as proof for recognising positive things that happened – the sun was shining, our network event was very well attended and we had an excellent discussion – I sadly didn’t gain the stamp for this challenge, as I was busy facilitating the network event and only had a chance to take 1 photograph so missed out due to lack of evidence!

In order to join with another group, there were various colours of wristbands in our delegate packs – 4 different colours in total. This could be proved by taking a photo of the different coloured wristbands.

Red and Blue wristbands from Bangor University Psychology

To prove you attended all the events in one day, after leaving a session the participants who were playing the game could get a stamp for their card.

Although I didn’t gain every stamp in order to win a prize, this activity was a very fun way to participate in addition to the interesting sessions taking place as part of the festival.


Apply this game to your own life

This technique is incredibly motivational if you apply it to your everyday life. There is a website and mobile app I’ve discovered called Habitica which turns your life into an RPG (role-playing-game). You set your own tasks and goals, rate their difficulty and when you complete them your character is rewarded! Be warned, if you don’t complete your tasks, this will harm your character’s health and you will have to work harder to bring it back up again.

Random acts of kindness

In addition to the game cards, inside our delegate pack was information about ‘random acts of kindness’ …and some stickers. The information sheet suggested these possible random acts of kindness:

  • Leave a used book in a cafe
  • Tell someone how they have impacted your life
  • Buy a drink for the person behind you in the queue
  • Hide a small gift for a stranger to discover
  • Pay someone a compliment
  • Give a handwritten note to a friend

The game was to use the stickers provided to identify your random acts of kindness. The aim of this game is to create a positive experience for everyone. Small, simple and commonly spontaneous acts of kindness, often performed to strangers, have been shown to significantly increase feelings of happiness for both the giver and receiver. Additionally, consciously reflecting upon such acts is linked to a reduction in negative emotions and is thought to enhance an optimistic outlook.

Research has shown that random acts of kindness can be an effective way in which to enhance your social and emotional wellbeing, which is further connected to relationship skills, responsible decision-making, self-esteem and self-awareness.

Have you used any gamification activities with service users, or have you used a gamification app for personal behaviour change goals? Why might random acts of kindness work for you? Please let us know in the comments below and join our discussion.

  – Sarah


Think globally, act locally

“Thinking global and acting locally” is as relevant today as it has ever been. This idea encourages us to consider the state of the whole world, but to take action in our own communities, neighbourhoods and cities. It is part of human nature to protect the environment that we live in – the grassroots efforts of small groups of people can have a huge impact to our immediate community and our wider surroundings.

cynnalcymruI recently attended the launch of the Sustain Wales Fund hosted by Cynnal Cymru at Cardiff City Hall where there were some excellent speakers representing local organisations such as the Arts Council for Wales and NSA Afan, as well as global industries such as Coca Cola Enterprises. These organisations have very different activities but the message was clear: the goal of sustainability is vital to every sector, every business and every community.

Sustainable development meets needs of the present without compromising ability of future generations to do the same. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill and Wales Sustainable Development Charter gives validity the principles of sustainability and shows the commitment that the people of Wales have to our future and the future of the planet. However, in order for any sort of change or reform to happen and be meaningful it needs to happen from the ground up, hence the phrase:

Think global, act local.


We all have a stake in the future: it is our legacy and in everyone’s best interests to put sustainability at the heart of services. In times of austerity it makes even more sense to consider sustainability, using our resources sparingly but efficiently; maximising and developing our current potential. Sustainability also delivers palpable benefits to our organisations’ work.

Cynnal Cymru is now looking forward to following up on some of the excellent suggestions from the event and actioning their new initiatives: The Sustain Wales Fund, The Sustain Wales Awards, a new membership scheme and a range of training and events.

The Storify of the day is available here.

– Sarah

Where does your power lie and how do use it?

Power!There is an urgent need to transform public services in Wales. Money is running out, efficiencies alone will not be enough. The demand for acute services is rising and preventative and community services are being cut.

Quality of life cannot be delivered by the state alone and many people are now looking at a different co-produced public service, which places the citizen and community at the centre, with the state as the enabler and facilitator.

As most large public sector organisations are traditionally very structured and hierarchical, it’s clear that a culture change is needed in order for shared power to become the mainstream way of working in Wales.

Last week, the entire Participation Cymru team attended the annual WCVA Conference and AGM in Cardiff entitled: Moving forward with sustainable local services. We played a key role in this year’s event by holding a workshop, having an information stand and Mandy Williams, Participation Cymru manager was one of the keynote speakers. We wanted to encourage people to think about how they (or their organisation) are currently using their power so we asked delegates the question:

Where does your power lie and how do you use it?

At first many delegates found it quite difficult to answer as it’s a question which does require some thought – thankfully many people did come back to write their answers down, here’s a summary of what was said:

  • My power lies in my belief in equality and my drive to make that a living reality for everyone by listening, learning and using my voice to help others!
  • My power lies in being part of a team with a wealth of experience and knowledge
  • My power lies in working for an audit body and my responsibility is to share knowledge and improvements with others.
  • My power is present in lots of different places – I always use it responsibly for the benefit of the community – unless it involves chocolate…
  • My power is in my enthusiasm for getting people involved and I use it to make sure that engagement is meaningful and makes a real difference
  • My power lies in being able to influence others thinking about the importance of engaging citizens in the design & delivery of public services that matter to them
  • Sharing my knowledge and passions with the people in my life: both personally and professionally
  • Being a trustee of an organisation and I use my power by giving my voice to vulnerable groups.


If you weren’t able to attend the event, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on the question: Where does your power lie and how do you use it?


Co-Production in Action

Co-production, the idea of organisations seeing communities and service users as an asset in providing services, appears to have achieved a philosophical consensus as being a nice idea. However few organisations are really willing to move beyond fluffy rhetoric into making this ideology a practised reality. Perhaps one of the biggest barriers is that individuals within organisations forget that they too are members of the public and not something so separate from the people their organisation exists to serve. It may be a case of organisations not realising or recognising that the service user is a valuable asset with something to contribute, to ‘give back’ to the organisation that serves them. Or maybe it is as simple as this: co-production asks that those at the top of organisations who currently have all the power share this power with people and communities. This is impossible without trust. Those who currently hold power have to trust communities enough to consult with them, to be ready to talk and to listen and to do so honestly.

If you have never met anybody who is openly in recovery from or has recovered from a drug or alcohol addiction, it is possible that you do not consider this demographic particularly trustworthy. When I started volunteering for Recovery Cymru (a recovery community where people recover from drug and alcohol problems) in August 2012, I saw that the entire organisation (especially back then, before it received lottery funding) would fall apart without the hard work of not only the two paid members of staff but also the other volunteers, many of whom are recovering or recovered alcoholics and drug addicts. The ethos of Recovery Cymru is that we are a community, whether you are a member, a volunteer or a paid member of staff and whether or not you personally have ever had an addiction problem, and that every member of our community has something to give as well as something to gain from being part of it. I consider myself extremely privileged to have met some wonderful, strong and inspirational people through my involvement with Recovery Cymru.

Recovery CymruIf you were to walk into the Recovery Cymru building or indeed to any of our group sessions or events, it would not be immediately obvious who was a ‘service user’ (a word that is not used within Recovery Cymru, but the importance of language is something I will save for a later blog!) and who was not. Many of our members who join to get help with addiction are also volunteers, so the line between the service user taking from the organisation and the staff and volunteers giving to them is immediately blurred.

The level of responsibility volunteers (many of whom are also ‘service users’) choose to accept varies from helping with administrative tasks and keeping the building tidy to facilitating groups such as the weekly cookery social and arranging one-off events to representing Recovery Cymru at conferences such as AWSUM. Everyone who ‘uses’ the Recover Cymru services are also giving something back and the Recovery Cymru community thrives because of this.

Crucially, this ethos of co-production not only gives a sense of worth and value to individuals who have often been rejected in other areas of their lives, but is also massively beneficial to the running of Recovery Cymru. It seems obvious but in so many organisations it is overlooked that the service user is in fact the expert and that their views are the most important of all. At Recovery Cymru the experts are those people who are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction and the organisation depends upon their knowledge not only of the recovery process and the various paths to recovery but of the many issues that often (but not always) accompany a history of addiction such as housing issues, mental or physical health problems and in some cases trying to find employment after being in prison. The people experiencing these issues, and those who have overcome them, are best placed within Recovery Cymru to shape the organisation because, after all, Recovery Cymru exists (like many organisations) to support the service user.

At Recovery Cymru, every member is invited to input into an open meeting which is held bi-weekly. Here members discuss things such as which new groups they would like to see run – how better to make sure that the groups meet the needs of those using them then to ask those people what they want? Many of the groups are facilitated by volunteers – some of whom are in the recovery process. Members also get a say on the procedural elements, including being able to review the code of conduct. In fact, when Recovery Cymru received Lottery Funding that meant they could take on new members of staff, current volunteer members of Recovery Cymru sat on the interview panel and questioned candidates.

It could only be a good thing if more organisations recognised their service users as the asset that they are and took advantage of their expertise to improve the service through mutual trust and co-operation.

–          Non

Introducing our new administrator: Non Humphries

NonI have now been the new Administrator for Participation Cymru for a grand total of two weeks, so about time I wrote my first blog post to introduce myself. I am from Cardiff and graduated in psychology from the University of Bristol in July 2013 before returning to work for Sustrans Cymru as an Office Receptionist. I worked for Sustrans Cymru for just over 6 months before joining Participation Cymru.

My CV to date can be politely described as diverse – I seem to have a little bit of many things. Previous jobs have included coaching children’s football, working as a telephone fundraiser and a ‘Sports Activator’; increasing participation in sports as part of a University of Bristol Union initiative. The only other job I have had in which I have ever had to write a blog was when I was a Communications Intern for Transform Drug Policy Foundation (which I somehow found the time for two days a week during my final year of university) – I apologise if my lack of blogging experience shows!

Bristol Debating Union (BDU) was a big part of my life during the university years, and I enjoyed organising tournaments during my spell as External Convenor and planning and delivering training sessions during my spell as Director of Training. My experiences as part of the BDU have developed my organisational ability, and between football and debating I have some training experience (although not on the same level as Siobhan, Sarah and Mandy).

As well as developing my skills, competing regularly for BDU meant that I was able to travel around the UK and beyond to attend tournaments, including on one occasion to Belgrade. Between April and June 2013 I was a Borough Convenor for four London Boroughs as part of the London Debate Challenge; an annual tournament organised by the English Speaking Union which gives pupils from secondary state schools an opportunity to debate competitively.

As well as some previous experience of working in the third sector, I have volunteered for Oxfam, the British Heart Foundation and I still volunteer for Recovery Cymru, an organisation for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Soon I will be facilitating a weekly creative writing group at Recovery Cymru and am looking forward to it.

My first two weeks have gone very quickly, and I have enjoyed throwing myself into my new role as much as possible. I have been given such a lovely welcome by a team which I have a feeling I am going to really enjoy working with. So far they have provided me with a barrage of information and endless patience for my questions! Because of how welcoming everyone has been in some ways I feel as though I have been at Participation Cymru for longer than a fortnight, but I am definitely still learning both the full scope of the role and the implications of many models of participation!

–          Non

Our radio debut!

RadioCardiffRadio Cardiff 97.8FM is Cardiff’s community radio station, which is a type of radio service that offers broadcasting beyond commercial and public service. They broadcast content that is popular and relevant to a local and specific audience which can often be overlooked.

Diverse Cardiff is live every Tuesday 13:30-15:00 and Participation Cymru were asked to come and speak on the show. I thought this was a really exciting opportunity so I volunteered myself for this; I’m really good at chatting about our work so I thought: why not?!

Just before I arrived at the studio I remembered the ‘Confidence at Public Events’ training course that I attended last year and it definitely came in handy at this point! I particularly remembered the part of the course about overcoming fear…

  1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out…and do it
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness

(taken from Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’)

I was clearly nervous before I started speaking but within a few minutes I began to really enjoy myself and didn’t want to stop talking!

The format of the show is very informal, chatty and conversational, with it being so close to St. David’s Day all of the music played on the show was by welsh artists, so I had the pleasure of listening to some Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci & Super Furry Animals whilst I was waiting.

I began by introducing Participation Cymru, who we are and what we do, then I spoke about some pieces of work we have recently been involved with and I finished by speaking about ways in which people can get involved with us, by attending our training, networks and endorsing the National Principles for Public Engagement. I also mentioned some local opportunities for the people of Cardiff to be involved, I signposted to websites such as and

Diverse Cardiff are always looking for guests to speak on the show, so if you have an interesting local project that you’d like to speak about then click here to contact Diverse Cardiff.

Here are a few tips for any first time radio guests:

  • You’re just having a general chat about work; imagine the table with the microphone isn’t there.
  • Speak in Plain English – don’t use long sentences or jargon-words which you might stumble on and if you do stumble – just start over again – the chances are no one will notice (apart from yourself!)
  • Be prepared – you could even write some questions that you want the presenters to ask and send them in advance so you know what to expect
  • Remember time seems a lot quicker when you’re actually speaking – what you think may take 2 minutes to say could actually take 5 minutes

You can listen to the entire show here or just Participation Cymru’s interview here; the other guest was Chrissie Nicholls from Welsh Women’s Aid.

–          Sarah

Scrutiny! scrutiny! scrutiny!

Scrutiny‘Effective Public Engagement and scrutiny go hand in hand’ – these are the words of Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government, in her opening speech at the conference ‘Scrutiny in the Spotlight’ in the Swalec Stadium, Cardiff on 28 November. Since then my working life seems to have been a whirl of scrutiny related conversations and activities. I was pleased to be facilitating a session with Kevin and Virginia from the National Assembly for Wales on the very topic of public engagement and scrutiny. It was good to hear the views and opinions of scrutiny members and officers on this important issue. Views and experiences were varied but a common thread was the issue of ‘How do we make scrutiny sexy?’ (my words not theirs!), do people understand what scrutiny is and do they realise its relevancy to their lives? Is it relevant to their lives?

I then ‘did scrutiny’ in Swansea – my first time and very interesting! I have been co-opted onto a panel looking at public engagement, both across the LSB and the Council, an involvement that has been financially support by the ESF LSB in Welsh Government. We first met last week to question officers and the deputy leader on the role of engagement within the LSB in Swansea – a useful and insightful experience. Next week we look at the vision and plan of Swansea Council in terms of Public Engagement. I wonder what the people of Swansea think?

Apart from these two scrutinising experiences I have also had conversations with the third sector on how they might better be prepared for involving individuals and groups in scrutiny processes.  I sense the time is coming and is needed already here when the people of Wales demand more from scrutiny and expect to have their say. The age of public scrutineers is upon us – are we ready?

In Participation Cymru this is one of the key strands of our work as we move forward into a new year. Our work is based around 4 pillars, identified in WCVA’s publication ‘Putting People at the Centre’: Engagement, Prevention and early intervention, Seeking alternative Models and Scrutiny. We will be offering training on Public Engagement and Scrutiny in our new accredited training course, Public Engagement: Theory and Practice (Stage 2) and scrutiny and public engagement will be the theme of our February 2014 regional networks. Our network events fill up very quickly so please book now to avoid disappointment. We will be continuing our work with Swansea Scrutiny and also beginning some exciting work with the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

So, it is indeed Scrutiny, Scrutiny, Scrutiny!! And thinking about it……..we might even hold a competition for coming up with a sexier name for what is a vital aspect of citizen centred public services in Wales. Watch out for this exciting opportunity…

–          Mandy

Mobile apps that could be useful for your engagement work

This blog post is going to look at some mobile and tablet apps that could be useful for anyone working in the field citizen engagement or participation.

Mind Tools (iTunes and Android)

Learn more than 100 management, business and personal productivity skills from the toolkit. Build useful skills whenever you have a spare moment.

Skill types include leadership, team management, strategy, problem solving, decision-making, project management, time management and personal productivity, stress management, communication, creativity and career development.

This app is basically a list of tools such as starbursting, SWOT Analysis, mapping and loads more and this is a useful quick reference guide to have at your fingertips.

participationcompassParticipation Compass (iTunes and Android)

The app helps you:
– Browse and choose between dozens of engagement methods covering face-to-face and digital approaches
– Find a method tailored to your situation and your participants’ needs
– Explore case studies of participation in action from around the world
– Browse resource and practical guidance of how to do this work on the ground
– Keep up to date with relevant RSS feeds
– Browse expert organisations in facilitation, e-democracy, open government, involvement, digital democracy and related fields.

In keeping with the ethos of the site, users are invited to contribute their own experiences and knowledge to any one of the aforementioned sections. In doing so, you can also be considered for Expert directory.

The app has been developed by UK participation specialists Involve, and the German Foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung.

This app is very good, but it required me to sync to the database every time I opened it before it worked properly (using Android). There are loads of participatory methods and case studies packed into this app, as well as a library of publications and resources. It includes a useful planning tool to filter relevant methods and information depending on what type of project you’re doing and there is also a links section called “experts” and we were pleased to see that Participation Cymru are listed in this section!  Like the Participation Compass website, this app is constantly updated which is probably a likely reason for needing to sync each time it opened.

Contexts of Participation (Android)contextofparticipation

Contexts of Participation is a conceptual tool to help you consider the complex contexts that affect participation in everyday life. In particular, it helps the user to think more critically about the barriers and enablers to participation. The tool provides a map to the person in their wider contexts, with participation as both being the output of a person and a means for change. By turning the wheels and considering the ways different factors interact, you can provoke new ways of thinking about the relationship between people, participation and social structures.

This is a critical thinking tool by Rayya Guhl & Dr Ian Marsh and the app was developed by Canterbury Christ Church University and is designed to be very easy to use.  You can find out more about this tool here or download the app to have it at your fingertips!

I also came across some interesting apps when searching through the app store and many weren’t available in the UK, or were available to download but weren’t in English.

There were some innovative examples of apps in Europe such as Colab, a Portuguese social network connected to Facebook that lets citizens highlight problems in their areas, propose solutions and evaluate existing services using their smartphones. There is also FlashPoll, a German app which aims to provide a platform towards a better involvement of citizens in municipal decision-making processes through location based polling.

This post is specifically related to tools for participation and engagement, however apps can also be used by organisations to engage with their customers or service users, or simply provide people with up-to-date information that is just one tap away on your smartphone. For example:

-a bilingual app called Choose Well Wales | Dewis Doeth Cymru for choosewellcitizens in Wales that serves as a guide to choosing the right NHS service. It also includes useful self-care information and provides access to the NHS Direct Wales website. (iTunes and Android)

– the UK Food Standards Agency have an app that lets you search for the hygiene ratings of food establishments. (iTunes and Android)

Please comment with any suggestions of mobile apps you know of that could help anyone working in the field citizen engagement or participation, or if your organisation has an app that you’d like to share.

All of the apps in this post are free to download.

–          Sarah

What have we been up to in November?

November has been a busy month for Participation Cymru, we have had a mini move in Baltic House and we’re settling into our new room on the opposite side of the building, looking over Cardiff’s famous Coal Exchange from a slightly different angle than what we’re used to!

Jon deskBesides sorting through boxes and moving furniture it’s been business as usual for us: Mandy has been facilitating an Action Learning Set for Gwalia while Siobhan has been developing a training session on Consultation Language and Style which is being delivered for Rhondda Cynon Taf & Merthyr Tydfil Local Service Board. Sarah attended the Local Government Data Unit Conference in Swansea to promote the work of Good Practice Wales and the Public Engagement Working Group and Jon has completed his Public Engagement: theory and practice accredited training course. Jon has promised to write a blog post talking about what he learnt at the course – so watch this space!

We were also lucky enough to be invited to Barod Community Interest Company’s launch event at the National Assembly for Wales. The launch was held over lunchtime and included speakers from the National Energy Savings Trust (NEST), All Wales People First and a fun participative session facilitated by Dynamix. The session used the ‘traffic light voting’ participatory method which is also featured in this month’s Participation Cymru Newsletter. The event was sponsored by Mark Isherwood AM, who chairs the cross-party group on Disability.

Throughout November we have been recruiting members to CSSIW’s National Advisory Board. This is a great opportunity for carers, service users and volunteers to be involved with the way care and social services are inspected in Wales. Members of the National Advisory Board will give their comments and opinions at a really important level where they can make real changes. They will help to suggest solutions to the findings of CSSIW’s work and the challenges facing care and social services.  They will have an input into CSSIW’s future work plans and Chief Inspector’s Annual Report.

If you are interested in applying then it’s not too late! If you have any questions about it, then please get in touch with us. We will be happy to help. More information is on our website here.

Keep up to date with Participation Cymru by following us on Twitter or be subscribing to our newsletter.

–          Sarah