UnFAQ Gives Complex Questions a Stage

How do you get people to think about serious issues and to have fun at the same time? Our three power women from the Netherlands dealt with this question and their solution is a game called “Unfrequently Asked Questions”, or UnFAQ for short! UnFAQ is a board game with question cards which is designed to make people engage with current topics without the often negative or boring approach. In this article the UnFAQ team reflects on their experiences at the UNLOCK program and their path from idea to prototype.

  • Dorien Zandbergen
  • Roos Gerritsen
  • Tessel Renzenbrink
  • 6. Oktober 2020

In today’s complex world it is increasingly challenging for people to meaningfully engage with topics that seem abstract and remote, such as climate change, technological innovation and immigration. Working as researchers, educators and writers in our daily lives, we decided to have a go at the UNLOCK Accelerator Challenge and to propose a game with this one goal in mind: to engage people in a fun, playful way with urgent contemporary complex issues. We are very excited to have been given the opportunity to realize this, under the motivating guidance of the UNLOCK team and coaches. We are half-way through the program now, having finished the first of three sprints and moving through the second one. Time to look back at the highs and lows of the initial stage of our journey.

Energized through Zooming

The best part of UNLOCK ? The people, undoubtedly. UNLOCK has brought together a group of very special people, bringing a lot of great ideas, kindness and wisdom. This also shows another great part of UNLOCK : the way the organizers managed to work around the biggest challenge of this year’s edition. UNLOCK started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and – like so many other things in 2020 – the entire project, had to be moved online. Even though we never met our fellow UNLOCKERS in real life, we do feel that we’ve really gotten to know them. And this is quite something. Ever considered it possible to be part of an 6-hour Zoom meeting and come away energized? Well, UNLOCK proves it’s possible.

A collection of first prototypes for the Unfrequently Asked Questions board/card game that were developed during the first week of the UNLOCK Accelerator 2020
Bildlizenz: Team Unfrequently Asked Questions (UnFAQ) des UNLOCK Accelerators 2020, UnFAQ prototypes 2020, CC BY-SA 4.0

When will your game be finished? We want to play it!

So, what did we do exactly in the past six weeks? It all started early August with a two-day kick-off, putting us in the right mental mode for the actual work. After this, we dived right into the first design sprint, a method for bringing an idea to a concrete prototype in only a couple of days. Our amiable coach Klara, with supernatural skills in the art of service design, guided us through this process.

Prototyping is both fun and useful. Rather than endless chewing on ideas, you get straight to the nuts and bolts and realize your plans with very little means. Our first prototype was a simple PDF with pictures, which actually turned out to be substantial enough to test it. We asked several people to play the first rudimentary version of the game. Seeing our game in the hands of others was thrilling. It had become so much more than an idea: it now was something others could actually interact with. The questions, suggestions and opinions we received along the way were very insightful. Elements we thought were straightforward turned out to be confusing. And what we imagined to be a silly detail, turned out to speak to them the most. Testing also gave us extra motivation to go forward: one of our testers asked when the game would be finished so she could play it with her friends :-).

A prototype for the Unfrequently Asked Questions board/card game that were developed during the first week of the UNLOCK Accelerator 2020
Bildlizenz: Team Unfrequently Asked Questions (UnFAQ) des UNLOCK Accelerators 2020, A UnFAQ prototype 2020, CC BY-SA 4.0

Onwards we go

But then we went back to scratch. We were not satisfied with the way in which the game worked, which we discovered through prototyping. During the last days we went back to our initial inspiration and desire to use our own anthropological expertise even more. In the new version we will not act as experts but let the people who engage with our game be the experts themselves. Imagine it as a chain letter that initiates civic participation without the need to use digital platforms. Let’s take the impact of Covid-19 on social networks. We lead people through a set of themes and let them show the world from their perspective and design solutions as they would think they are useful. This will be translated into a new card deck that a municipality can use to understand these perspectives in their own terms and use these for designing better solutions. The idea is to create a first pilot project from where we can actually connect to digital participation platforms and offer public stakeholders a useful insight into perspectives beyond their own.