This is why government organizations should embrace Game-changers

Illustration by Max van Meegeren, Lead Designer at Popcorn Stories

In January 2018, three good friends opened a new restaurant in the eastern part of Amsterdam. Nothing out of the ordinary. Amsterdam is slowly drowning in new restaurants and fashionable concept-stores that emerge on a daily basis. But Restaurant Thúskomme, Frysian for ‘coming home’, is something else: this joint is a social beacon in the neighborhood.

A couple of nights a month, they organize huge dinners with a pretty big guest list: the whole district is invited. For a small contribution, you reserve yourself a spot at the long table and before you know it, you’re enjoying a nice plate of food, together with all your neighbors. This way, the restaurant improves the atmosphere and the social interaction in the neighborhood. The three friends of Thúskomme are, what I like to call, Game-changers: people who bring their city, town of neighborhood to a higher level.

DEFINITION: Game-changer: a person or thing that significantly affects the outcome of something

Neighborhood ambassadors

Game-changers love their neighborhood and take responsibility by realizing new initiatives and with that, change. It’s the kind of people that have an intrinsic motivation to help, connect and motivate. It’s the kind of people that always seem to be there when they’re needed and are willing to walk that extra mile when they’re called upon. With that energy, Game-changers can influence the sentiment of a whole neighborhood. In a way, you could call them ambassadors.

So it only seems logical for a government organization to involve Game-changers in the communication of a neighborhood, district, village or city in that specific role. Especially when a certain region needs some deepening or when it developed an image problem.

Tough label

High crime rates combined with below-average living facilities and income will quickly result in negative imaging of a region. And as soon as a district has the label ‘troubled neighborhood’, it’s very tough to get rid of it again. It becomes hard to find any positive news and poor communication between government and citizen will sometimes result in a breach of trust. In such times, not many township and city governments are willing to enter a discussion; they rather avoid a confrontation full of harsh opinions and criticism. As a result, the dissatisfaction among local residents will grow and the gap with government organizations only increases more. That’s where the Game-changer, the bridge-builder of every neighborhood, comes in.

Sincere stories

The best way for government organizations to provide a platform for Game-changers, is storytelling. Game-changers appeal to their own neighborhood and by using their honest stories in your own communication channels, their followers and network will start to sympathize with you. Sympathy that’s very much needed to close the gap and actually start a dialogue. Authenticity is key in those stories, even if they contain some very honest and harsh criticism. The more sincere, the better.

Only by taking a vulnerable position, government organizations can win back the trust of the ‘troubled neighborhood’ residents. By using sincere storytelling, you’ll show you’re aware of the problems in the district. Game-changers can play a key part in this and activate and inspire the people they appeal to. This will grow a mutual understanding between government and citizen. And mutual understanding leads to mutual respect. I’m curious which townships or governments dare to open up this way. It’s time to change the game!

Michan is the founder of Popcorn Stories, a storytelling agency based in Amsterdam. Since his early days as an entrepreneur, his main goal has always been capturing the deeper layer. His company focuses on telling sincere stories by inspiring people, living in cities all over the Netherlands.