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Cities in Play: Empowering Citizens and City Governments to Work for More Responsive Public Policies

Date & Time

Sep. 7, 2017
9:00am – 1:00pm ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Cities in Play: Empowering Citizens and City Governments to Work for More Responsive Public Policies

As populations and economic potential become increasingly concentrated in urban areas, cities around the world are on the front lines of pressing global issues ranging from inequality to sustainability. Tackling these challenges requires both ingenuity and collaboration between public officials and citizens—and cities need to ensure that residents are equipped to engage. One way is through technology. Technology can be used to improve transparency, accountability, and communication between city officials and their residents. Technology can also empower the next generation of community leaders through civic education games and other platforms.

Toward this end, the Wilson Center and the BRAVA Foundation of Brazil have created a new serious game: Cities in Play. The power of educational games is that they allow us to take complicated issues and present them in a simple but engaging format. Designed with young Brazilians in mind, the game asks each player to become mayor of a Brazilian city and balance policy goals with fiscal realities. Cities in Play challenges the player to come up with their own plan for their city, in a way that is modeled after The Fiscal Ship, the Wilson Center’s award-winning game about fiscal responsibility with the U.S. federal budget. Already slated to be used as a classroom tool in secondary schools across the state of São Paulo, this new game aims to help young Brazilians gain a better sense of the trade-offs necessary to govern, and invigorate citizen participation.

Join us Thursday, September 7th a half-day conference to launch Cities in Play. You will not only get to try your hand at being mayor (in the game!), but delve into the connections between civic education and more responsive and innovative governance. Panelists include leading researchers and policy experts, including from the U.S. Department of Education, iCivics, Georgetown University, the Aspen Institute’s Center for Urban Innovation, Omidyar Network, and the World Bank.

Play the game now at:


08:30AM   Breakfast & Registration

09:00AM   Opening Session

Welcome: Paulo Sotero, Director, Brazil Institute, Wilson Center

Introduction: The Honorable Jane Harman, Director, President & CEO, Wilson Center

Keynote: The Honorable J. Walter Tejada, former Chair of the Arlington County Board

Introducing the game Cities in Play: Milton Seligman, Board of Directors, Brava Foundation

Game Demo: Henrique Krigner, Project Coordinator, Brava Foundation

10:15AM   Try Cities in Play & Coffee Break

10:45AM   Panel I - Online to Offline: Using Serious Games to Increase Civic Engagement 

Moderator: Dr. Elizabeth Newbury, Serious Games Project, Wilson Center

Panelists: Dr. Diana Owen, Georgetown University; Dr. Kelly Whitney, iCivics; and Dr. Edward Metz, U.S. Department of Education

11:45AM   Panel II - Innovation in Governance: How Local Governments Can Improve Engagement with Citizens

Moderator: Dr. Blair Ruble, Vice President & Director of the Urban Sustainability Laboratory, Wilson Center

Panelists: Dr. Jennifer Bradley, Center for Urban Innovation, Aspen Institute; Felipe Estefan, Governance and Citizen Engagement Initiative, Omidyar Network; Stephen Davenport, Open Government at the World Bank


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Hosted By

Brazil Institute

The Brazil Institute—the only country-specific policy institution focused on Brazil in Washington—works to foster understanding of Brazil’s complex reality and to support more consequential relations between Brazilian and U.S. institutions in all sectors.  Read more

Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) brings foresight to the frontier. Our experts explore emerging technologies through vital conversations, making science policy accessible to everyone.  Read more

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