You gotta wanna – making Fantasy Policy Leagues work for Gov2.0

Recently, Justin Herman suggested that we might create more excitement and involvement in Gov2.0 by developing “Fantasy Policy Leagues”.

What’s intriguing to me about Justin’s idea is that Fantasy Football uses people’s excitement and attachment to local teams to transform passive viewers into active coaches, getting them more deeply involved in strategy. The challenge is converting the impact that policy has on our daily lives into the care and understanding that drives Fantasy Football participation.

There are some policy areas where people’s level of care, if not understanding, rises to that level. Consider:

Fantasy School League: Schools provide tests scores or even more meaningful stats to parents, who assemble their “dream faculty”. If parents debated the best teaching approaches online, or worked to improve their teams’ stats by direct involvement in the schools, we’d see big wins.

Fantasy Economic Development League: Regions provide economic development and growth stats to business owners and employees, who assemble their “dream economic team”, comprising environmental and labor/safety regulators, business leaders, economic development pros, the local chamber of commerce, local unions, and educators. Debates between those who went for long-term sustainability and those who went for intense, immediate growth at all costs would be fascinating.

Challenges to these ideas:

(1) Responsibility – It’s harder to attribute wins to particular individuals. If a town attracts a new manufacturing plan, how do you apportion the win between the governor, the state legislature, the city council, the mayor, and the local development authority?

(2) Timing – The natural cycle for winning education fantasy points would be annual, making that a much slower game than Fantasy Football.

(3) Real life synergy – Fantasy Football loses some verisimilitude, since, on the actual playing field, best quarterback + best wide receiver doesn’t necessarily create the best passing game, and so forth. That’s even more true in a school or in a regional economy – strategy and tactics have to work as a whole, much more (or, sadly, less) than the sum of the parts.

I think these can be handled, perhaps by creating simulations (of schools, of local economies) that run more quickly and more transparently than “real life at real time”. For instance, industrial engineers and modelers have created a “maintenance game” that gives plant managers concrete experience about the trade-offs involved in handling equipment maintenance, trading down-time now for more steady, predictable production in the future.

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