Risky Business: where should the public sector be investing?

Essex County Council has developed an interactive, engaging card game aiming to start challenging conversations about where the public sector could – or should – be investing.


The game has been used successfully with a number of local authorities, prompting discussions on risk appetite, innovation, and commercial mindset.

The challenge:

We all want to make money, but what is our appetite for taking chances? How do we balance our social responsibility with needing to balance the books?

The solution:

Our card game (described as ‘Monopoly with morals’) puts players in the role of socially conscious investors competing to make the most money and the most positive impact on life in the county. During the game, players acquire a portfolio of different investments. With a little luck, these will pay off, providing more capital to invest further. Chance cards provide opportunities or disasters for the investors.

The game is set up and played in under an hour and leads to reflections being shared on topics such as attitudes to risk, working in partnership, and the actual investments on the cards – all of which are actual opportunities being picked up by public sector bodies in the UK and abroad (including 3D printed houses!).

It has been used successfully during leadership events and on training courses across a number of Local Authorities. It is scalable through being able to play multiple games across different tables at once.

The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable):

The game was developed in house at Essex County Council specifically for a leadership event in September. Since then we have received a modest income through loaning the game to other interested parties.

How is the new approach being sustained?:

Each card represents an investment opportunity which is being picked up by a Local Authority in the UK or abroad. Something we have done for events is to provide large blank cards for the delegates. The idea being that after playing the game, while the imaginations are sparking, the players are then asked in their groups to come up with their own investment opportunities and pitch those to the room. This has been hugely successful, with a number of those ideas then being developed into full business cases.

Lessons learned:

Games can be a powerful way to engage people and inspire further creativity. We are looking at further opportunities to develop games – both for Essex County Council and other interested parties.

Contact: craig.tubbs@essex.gov.uk or caroline.adlem@essex.gov.uk

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