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Datopolis – frequently asked questions

(image: Mission Drive’s Simon at The Open Data Institute Summit 2019, via Flickr)

Data has the potential to create long-lasting change that helps businesses and communities make better decisions and improve the products and services we all rely on. But, long-lasting change needs energy, creative thinking and new ways of working. By bringing key data concepts to life, inspiring new thinking and sparking debate Datopolis is a powerful tool for anyone working in strategy, business growth, data literacy, data ethics, and innovation.

We’ve played Datopolis with hundreds of people around the world. In the process, we’ve gathered the questions people most frequently ask us before they get us to come along to run a session. Here are the most common.

What is Datopolis? Datopolis is a tactile and engaging game that brings this dynamic new world to life by simulating how you build things with data – services, websites, devices, apps, research – using closed, shared and open data. Developed by the Open Data Institute hundreds of people across the world have played Datopolis to improve their data literacy.

Who created Datopolis? The game was designed by board game enthusiasts Jeni Tennison and Ellen Broad at the Open Data Institute (the ODI) in London. Mission Drive founder, Simon Bullmore was Head of Learning at the ODI at the time and contributed to the game’s development, as a beta tester. During the development process, it became clear that the game had the potential for facilitating discussion around data concepts that can otherwise be abstract and difficult to understand.

Why play Datopolis? A facilitated Datopolis session stimulates lively debate, learning, and action. Complex concepts like data strategy, data infrastructure, and the data spectrum are brought to life through collaborative gameplay, negotiation and decision making. This sparks new insights and helps players think about data differently. It’s a fun way to catalyse change.

What’s the game like to play? Datopolis is a hands-on game with data tiles, event cards, tools to build, and a dashboard that measures the health of the fictional city of Sheridan. Players take turns to pick data, plan what they want to build and negotiate deals. Your strategy and the way you go about building data tools and services will influence both your success and that of Sheridan. You’ll need to collaborate with other players to maintain the health of the city whilst plotting your own path to victory.

The hand of a player laying data o the table as part of a Datopolis game
Playing Datopolis helps people explore tricky concepts like data ethics

Who is Datopolis for? We work with L&D professionals, consultants, data leaders, commercial teams, and event organisers looking for an innovative way to engage with data. Our experienced team has facilitated Datopolis for senior leaders, salespeople, start-ups and data novices, at workshops, conferences, and team events.

What topics can Datopolis help us explore? Datopolis illustrates key aspects of data literacy – how data services are built, the role of different sorts of data and the impact data can have. It’s also a useful way of exploring concepts that can be more challenging for people to grasp, such as data infrastructure, data ethics, and data strategy, 

What’s involved? Before the session you’ll chat with one of our team, to understand your goals and context. Do you want to kick-start your data strategy? Maybe you need something that’s memorable and fun for a data skills project? On the day we’ll need tables for 6-10 participants. We bring the game and prizes. We’ll then set the scene, and explain the rules. Your group will be facilitated through 1-2 or rounds of simulations, explore some key data concepts and analyse how they played out in practice. The session then finishes with discussion and group or individual action planning. If your session is part of a longer workshop we’ll work with you to agree where this fits into the programme.

How many people can play? Each Datopolis game has up to 5 teams. We recommend 2 players per team. And to have 2 games running at the same time. This means you can have up to 20 people per game session. It is possible to accommodate larger groups with 2 or more facilitators for events such as conferences.

How long does a game take? This depends on your goals. To set-up, play the game and have some facilitated discussion afterward needs about 1.5 hrs. A more in-depth session that builds on this can take up to 3.5 hrs. Some organisations build Datopolis into a full-day of training.

Is it complicated to learn? The rules are easy to pick up. After one round of gameplay, most players are comfortable with how to participate. Each team has a “to-do list” which reminds players what they should do on their turn. Your facilitator will be on hand to help out and offer guidance.

Is it fun? The short answer is a resounding “yes!”. The Datopolis game stimulates laughter and lively discussion. The game was originally designed by Jeni Tenison and Ellen Broad as a strategy board game, with a similar dynamic to games like Settlers of Catan.

Is a facilitator required to play the game? This depends on your goals. Companies ask us to facilitate Datopolis as we know how to make the game work and can help guide discussion and learning afterwards. However, Datopolis is designed to be easy to play and the rules are fairly simple, so you can also purchase and facilitate the game yourself. If you wish to do that visit https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/datopolis.

Got more questions? Want to explore how Datopolis can help you? Get in touch

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