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The Gaming Project: How game theory can fight inner-city drug problems.

Tenderloin is a predominantly residential neighbourhood in down town San Francisco, California that suffers from social deprivation and high crime rates. The area’s architecture consists mainly of small, low cost units that over the years have attracted many isolated individuals. Immigration in the 1970’s led to families of refugees moving to the area, confined to the same cramped accommodation.

In cities across the US, public officials and citizens are grappling with persistent problems such as drug abuse and drug-related violence. Communities have no dearth of good ideas about how to address these problems but institutional obstacles have made the implementation of their ideas, for the most part, unsuccessful. Tenderloin is no different to many other US cities in this respect. Attempts to improve the area through education, healthcare and providing employment opportunities have all failed.

Tenderloin’s drug epidemic poses a threat to the success of any proposals to improve the area. This drug epidemic and its impact on attempts to resolve Tenderloin’s problems is the focus of our project.

One difficulty policy makers have at present is that there are few (if any) technologies that enable them to explore and analyse the effectiveness of the proposals put forward to solve problems such as those that exist in Tenderloin.

Our team used modern technology to create a computer forecasting system specifically for Tenderloin. This system is able to quantify both the financial and social impact of proposed drug prevention, treatment and intervention policies.

We believe that the application of ‘social policy gaming’ can help community leaders make better decisions when dealing with problems such as those that exist in Tenderloin. It can also assist with their training.

‘Social policy gaming’ is an exercise that allows individuals and groups to make social policy decisions in a realistic environment rather than in an abstract one. Gaming’s value lies in the fact that exploring problems when focusing on a specific scenario helps players understand the issues more completely, or at least gives them a different perspective.

How our computer platform applies social policy gaming: Our forecasting system is based on historical data for Tenderloin and the wider San Francisco area in relation to the following: crime, incarceration rates, policies, medical treatments, social and financial costs, and investment. It is able to analyse the impact of different proposals by extrapolating trends, correlations and patterns from this data.

What our computer platform does:
• Highlights the complex interrelationships between the various departments involved in decision making, from treatment to police, healthcare to courts;
• provides policy makers with a process and methodology to generate, analyse and deliver a series of quantified architectural and legislative interventions;
• subsequently enables the testing of different urban schemes and combinations over a variety of timelines, producing forecasts up to three years.

How we used our platform to generate urban interventions:
To test the platform, a workshop ‘game’ was set up over a one-week period with different roles adopted by three team members for a period of three rounds.

The rounds consisted of each player making architectural, social, urban or legislative suggestions relating only to the department area allocated to them (i.e. police (player 1), medical treatment (player 2) and courts (player 3)). At the end of each round, the controller (player 4) used the program to analyse the suggestions and issued the results to the players. These results informed the next round of suggestions.

At the end of the final round, the most effective suggestions were presented and integrated into Tenderloin, generating a three-year masterplan for the area. This program has showed how it was possible to control costs, maximise the success of medical treatment and reduce drug-related crime.

Some of our final interventions for the regeneration of Tenderloin include:
– Treatment centres: refurbished properties as part of the court appointed apprentice scheme, located less than 4 miles apart to reduce treatment drop-out rates;
– An online system that manages community interactions, monitoring crime and drug use;
– Decriminalisation of recreational use of marijuana;
– Refurbished buildings for housing;
– Facilities to purchase and consume marijuana;
– Reduced sentences for continued clean drug tests whilst incarcerated;
– Post incarceration: apprentice jobs, sponsors, expungement of criminal records, tagging and monitoring;
– Community events, fundraisers, community jobs;
– Police prevention actions: anonymous information collection system, distribution of free needles and drug kits;
– Rebuilding of housing and public spaces, environmental infrastructure, maintenance works as part of apprentice style court schemes;
– Raised levels provide views & points for community self-governance and monitoring.

Conclusion & Results:
The art of policymaking and realistic regeneration for an area such as Tenderloin is a case of continuously balancing tradeoffs. For example, in a bid to reduce the number & cost of incarcerations, the courts (player 3) had to balance early release programs and community safety, otherwise prisons fail as a deterrent.

The game enabled us to try “what if” scenarios. By playing the game, we were able to avoid policies and interventions which were simply attractive on the surface but flawed. Important lessons learned for drug policy was that prevention, treatment, police and the courts all have different foci in terms of space, time, funding and people, which lead to different objectives and priorities.

Observations during the game about the disconnect between the departments, encouraged collaboration between the players during round two leading to the successful targeting of re-employment for ex-offenders. Driven by opportunities created through the court appointed apprenticeship schemes; expunging of criminal records and the inclusion of the support networks within payoffs. As a result, year three saw a 17% rise in revenue helping improve the drug treatment programs, subsequently reducing incarceration levels and recidivism. Whilst increased employment and associated taxes, as well as revenue from the sale of Marijuana funded other community projects. Drug treatment costs were reduced by 24% compared to 3 years earlier whilst proposals saw a 55% reduction in re-offences and a 42% reduction in the total cost of incarceration.

Eleven's competitions are the ideal arena for generating pro-active international think-tanks in a whole variety of contemporary hot topics and contexts: from social issues to environmental threats, new technologies, shifting urban landscapes, exotic ecological havens, product design, fashion and - why not - even outer space!

We love competitions because they are instrumental in highlighting emerging talent and starting design-led revolutions around the world.

Our challenges have had exhibitions in Europe and the USA,  published in multiple international magazines such as the Architecture Review, the AJ, Dezeen, Archdaily and Designboom, and consistently win awards year after year.


2015 - Our inaugural competition 'Cambodia' wins the 3rd place in Bustler’s ‘Top-10 Best Competitions of the Year' Awards, and Eleven is officially in business.

2016 - 'Moontopia' is featured as 7th in Bustler’s ‘Top-10 Best Competitions of the Year' Awards.

2017 - Eleven becomes the most popular competition portal in the world with a double-whammy placement two competitions - 'Rome' (winning 3rd place) and 'Planetarium' (arriving in 5th place) - being featured in the top-5 places in Bustler’s ‘Top-10 Best Competitions of the Year' Awards.

2018 - Watch this space...

Cambodia 2015 Jury Team:

Andrew Maynard (Andrew Maynard Architects), Arthur Andersson (Andersson-Wise), Camillo Boano (The Bartlett, UCL), Christine Murray (Editor in Chief, Architectural Review), Elena Douvlou (Metropolitan University of Athens), Ingrid Bille (BilleByeSheid), Massimo Forese (+39 Architects), Mathilde Marengo (IAAC, Barcelona), Perry Hopper (Grimshaw), Shaun O'Rourke (BAC), Tom Kundig (Olson Kundig), Andrea Verenini (Editor, Eleven).

* This event was run in support of the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) charity.

San Francisco 2016 Jury Team:

Amy Frearson (Deputy Editor of Architecture, Dezeen), The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI), Carlos Arnaiz (CAZA), Chris White (BIG), Hasdai Westbrook (Editor, Impact Design Hub), John Barton (Dean of Architecture, Stanford University), Jonny McKenna (Metropolitan Workshop), Karen Nelson (Dean, BAC), Leon Roast (BIG), Lewis Knight (Gensler), Kristi Loui (Gensler), Matthew Mazzotta (MIT), NAP+P Architects (Winner of Cambodia 2015: consisting of members Natthapol Pongplanchai, Planin Chantalert, Porncharoen Orbanratmanee, Pratchaya Lertruck Sadee), Roger Hawkins (Hawkins/Brown), Trent Tesch (KPF), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

* This event was run in support of the Project Night Night charity. 

Moontopia Jury Team:

ASPECT Studios (Winners of San Francisco 2016), Alberto Villanueva Galindo (IDEA Architecture Office), The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI), Brent Sherwood (NASA), Christina Ciardullo (Carnegie Mellon University), Kriss J. Kennedy (NASA), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

Biomimicry Jury Team:

Alexander Walter (Editor, Archinect & Bustler), Jan Utzon (Utzon Associates Architects), Richard James MacCowan (Biomimicry Institute UK), Timothy McGee (LikoLab), Yaniv Peer (Exploration Architecture), Marko Brajovic (Atelier Marko Brajovic), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

Rome 2017 Jury Team:

Patrik Schumacher (Director, Zaha Hadid Architects), Francesco Gatti (3Gatti), Francesco Lipari (OFL Architecture / Cityvision Magazine), Emanuel Jalbert (In Situ), Lorenzo Catena, Onorato di Manno and Andrea Tanci (SET Architects), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

Planetarium Jury Team:

Christina Ciardullo (Architectural Designer and Educator), Thomas Wang (Partner, Ennead Architects), Lars Lindberg Christensen (Head of Education and Public Outreach, ESO), Dan Goods (Artist in Residence, NASA JPL), Eric Hanson (Founder and Partner, xRez Studio), Jim Sweitzer (Astrophysicist and Museum Consultant), Stephen Dubois (Secretary, Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society), Charles Beichman (Executive Director, NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, Caltech / NASA JPL), Dennis Cohen (Creative Director and Experience Designer, Ralph Applebaum Associates),  Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

* This event was run in partnership with Christina Ciardullo and sponsored by the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society (MAPS)

Shelter 48 Jury Team:

Abeer Seikaly (Architect & Cultural Designer), Narinder Sagoo (Partner, Fosters + Partners), Hakan Gürsu (Founder & CEO, Designnobis), Amro Callam (Executive Director, Architecture for Society), Karina Ashrapova (Winner, Eleven's Biomimicry Competition), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven) Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

* Poster graphics designed by Concept BRE

Safari (Matobo, Zimbabwe 2017) Jury Team:

Beks Ndlovu (CEO, African Bush Camps), Derek Solomon (Animal Behaviour and Communication Specialist/Author/Private Guide), Rob Janisch (Biomimicry and Genius of Nature Guru/Private Guide), Chris Browne (Owner, Fox Browne Creatives), Debra Fox (Owner, Fox Browne Creatives), Charlene Hewat (CEO, Environment Africa), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

* This event was run in partnership with African Bush Camps and also in support of their charity African Bush Camp Foundation.

Marstopia Jury Team:

Andrew Aldrin (Son of legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Director of the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute), Alberto Villanueva Galindo (Architect and Academic, IDEA Architecture Office), Jessie Andjelic (Founding Partner of SPECTACLE and Head of Mars Studio at the University of Calgary), Marc Guberman (Team Leader of the Mars Habitat Project and Partner at Fosters + Partners), Stefano Boeri (Founding Partner, Stefano Boeri Architetti), SEArch Architects (Awarded first place in NASA’s 3D Printed Mars Habitat Challange), Vera Mulyani (CEO and Founder, Mars City Design), ZA Architects (Directors and Co-Founders Dmitry Zhuikov and Arina Agieieva), Monika Lipinska, Laura Olivier and Inci Ogun (Winners of Eleven's Moontopia Competition), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

* Competition friend: Mars City Design

Macro to Micro Jury Team:

Adam Vickers (Managing Director of Squareyard Landscape Architecture), Wayne Hemingway (Chairman at CABE and Founder of Hemingway Design), Max Farrell (Senior Partner at Farrells), Lisa Kinch (Associate Architect at Farrells and Lecturer at Manchester School of Architecture), Katy Lock (Policy Manager at Garden Cities and New Towns, Town and Country Planning Association), Steve Sheen (Housing Strategy and Partnerships Manager at Manchester City Council), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

* This event is run in partnership with BETA Events, sponsored by Square Yard, and is part of the event BETA Housing 2018 (12 July, Manchester, UK).

Malecon (Havana) Jury Team:

Peter Noever (Professor, Principle at No/Ever Design and original member of the 'Havana Project'), Wolf D. Prix (Professor, Principle/CEO at COOP HIMMELB(L)AU and original member of the 'Havana Project'), Theodore Hoerr (Founding Principal, Terrain Work), Paul Bulkeley (Design Director, Snug Architects), Carl Prusha (Professor, Director at CP Architects and original member of the 'Havana Project'), Carlos Arnaiz (Founding Partner, CAZA), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

Plastic Worlds Jury Team:

Chris Precht (Founding Partner, Penda), Luca Maccarinelli (Associate, Spark* Architects), Michael Pawlyn (Founder, Exploration Architecture), Richard James MacCowan (Founder, Biomimicry UK), Safia Qureshi (CEO, CupClub), Shannon Royden-Turner (Founder, Actuality), Eloise Carr (Editor & Creative, Eleven), Andrea Verenini (Founder, Eleven).

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