tools directory

Participatory Card Games

Participatory Card Games

What situations is this tool used in?

Participatory card games such as Democs (Deliberative meeting of citizens) – developed by the New Economics Foundation – enable small groups of citizens to learn about and debate complex issues. The topics tend to be scientific, political or ethical in nature. The process encourages those involved to express a preferred policy option following their deliberations.

Who is this tool aimed at?

As well as asking participants to express policy preferences, the Democs process was designed to support learning and deliberation around a specific issue, and to enable the sharing of experience and values between participants. The process was originally designed for adults, but a pilot study in 2005 led to the development of a number of Democs sets specifically designed for schools (Year 9 and above).

How Is the Tool Used?

Participatory card games can be played anywhere, and by anyone. The typical process involves an initial period of learning in which participants engage with a range of information and views through the use of story cards, followed by additional information and issues cards.

Players then spend some time analysing the cards to look for linkages, discuss areas of agreement or disagreement, and start to consider implications. The final stage involves participants making a decision by voting on and rating specific policy positions, with the aim of forming a consensus position if possible.

Who has used the tool?

The Community Places project, documented in the case study section, developed and used a participatory card game with school students in Northern Ireland to discuss place-based development.


In 2013, the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) used a Democs game as part of its public dialogue on bioenergy. The game formed part of a toolkit to encourage researchers and members of the public to engage in a national conversation about bioenergy, although the Democs game primarily focused on biofuels. The outputs were fed into the dialogue report alongside findings from various other channels of engagement – the report explored public hopes and concerns for bioenergy, and focused on some key areas for researchers to consider as part of future work on bioenergy.


BBSRC bioenergy public dialogue summary

BBSRC bioenergy public dialogue Democs instructions 

BBSRC bioenergy public dialogue Democs game cards

BBSRC bioenergy public dialogue report

Where to find out more

Democs overview 

Democs case study 

Examples of Democs kits:

Democs for school

New Economics Foundation

Northern Ireland Case Study - Community Planning