Meaningful Inefficiencies in Civic Engagement

Season 2, Episode 5

We commonly hear calls for government to operate more efficiently from legislators, oversight groups, and government executives alike. While public sector efficiency may be valuable for functions like street repair, permitting, and waste collection, can it also raise barriers to meaningful civic engagement between residents and their governments? 

This week on the CitySCOPE Podcast, our co-hosts Uzma Amin and Tessa Ruben speak with Eric Gordon, director of the Engagement Lab and professor at Emerson College about creating meaningful inefficiencies as opportunities for people to engage with government systems. Gordon draws a parallel between civic engagement and play: games are full of inefficiencies, it is games’ intentionally cultivated difficulty within a clear rules structure that make them fun and meaningful. 

At a time when trust in government in the United States is at an all-time low, Gordon challenges us to ask: how might we create opportunities for a play-like sense of engagement in civic processes to connect communities to public systems, and to each other, in meaningful ways? 

Listen by clicking above, or listen and subscribe on applegooglespotifystitcher, and soundcloud.


1. Learn more about the work of the Engagement Lab

2. Pick up a copy of Meaningful Inefficiencies: Civic Design in an Age of Digital Expediency by Eric Gordon and Gabriel Mugar from brookline booksmith 

3. Public Trust in Government: 1958-2019 from Pew Research Center, April 11, 2019 report 

4. Photo credit: Courtesy of Craig Walker / Boston Globe Staff