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Welcome to Forward Labs

We design tools,
games, and experiences
to promote creative
civic engagement.

Hello There

We Are Forward Labs

We work with nonprofits, social movement organizations, and cities to develop civic engagement technologies that improve public understanding of civic processes and bolster participation in local democracy.

Forward emerged from Libby Falck's thesis research at MIT on digital organizing practices in her home state of Wisconsin. Based on the work of media scholars Sasha Costanza-Chock, Scot Osterweil, Ben Stokes, Eric Gordon, Mary Flanagan, Henry Jenkins, Stephen Duncombe, and dozens of others Forward Labs helps organizations advance their missions through games, crowdsourcing, and participatory engagement. Our experiments focus on three needs that are underserved by existing technologies:

Local

Our projects aim to increase access to information about issues, candidates, and civic actions at the municipal and county levels.

Collaborative

We seek to introduce activists to new causes by increasing awareness of the ways various issues and organiziation are connected.

Creative

Our initiatives prioritize people-driven, creative engagement by local residents, not fundraising for professionalized action.

Our Pilot Project

We're building a location-based game to test our ideas. The Forward beta platform launches in July 2019 in central Wisconsin.

Learn More Here

Recent Work

Check out some of our latest prototypes

Co-Design Workshops

Workshops, January, 2019

Throughout the month of January, we co-hosted co-design workshops with Wisconsin United to Amend in Madison, Appleton, and Steven's Point to seek feedback and crowdsource ideas for the summer pilot.

Youth Workshop and Playtest with Neenah High School students

Playtest, December 28, 2019

Neenah High School students helped playtest the current version of the game and brainstorm improvements.

ArtHero Pilot, Hacking Arts Hackathon

Playtest, October 2018

We paper prototyped the initial Mission structure of the game at the Hacking Arts Hackathon in October.

Community Futures Game

Library installation series, Summer 2018

The goal of this project was to create a playful experience that encourages players to think creatively about the distant future in a frame that ignores the traditional liberal/conservative binary. Over the course of the summer, three iterations of the game were tested at three different library in central Wisconsin.

Community Futures Board Game

Playtests, Spring 2018

The Community Futures Game is a table-top board game that enables community members to playfully co-create future-oriented visions for their town. The driving question for the project was: How might we use games and place-based experiences to help citizens co-create future-oriented narratives that bridge partisan divides and foster the inclusion of new voices.

Mentors and Collaborators

Thanks to the following people and organizations for their support

Sasha Costanza-Chock and Scot Osterweil, both in the MIT Comparative Media Studies program, for advising Libby Falck's related thesis work.

George Penn and Jim Crist from WIUTA and Karen Harkness from the City of Appleton for their research collaboration and mentorship.

Teachers and students from Neenah High School for playtesting the game.

Contributors from the MIT Hacking Arts team members who helped build prototypes: Justin Warren, Aparna Krishnakumar, Efua Akonor, Tiffany Shen, Tommy Mintz, Stephanie MacConnell, Krishna Gadia, and Tess.

The MIT Open Documentary Lab fellows and members for their ongoing feedback.

Students in the following classes for playtesting the game: Playful Social Interactive Design Explorations (Spring 2018 and Spring 2019), Networked Social Movements (Fall 2018), and Games for Social Change (Spring 2019).

Platform Ethics

We seek to follow the principles outlined by the Design Justice Network while also demonstrating a safe, equitable, and sustainable model of platform ownership.

Contact Us

Reach out to get involved or just say hello

Summer 2019 Pilot

Contact Info

Where to Find Us

Cambridge, MA
Neenah, WI

Email Us At

falck at mit dot edu