It sounds straight out of Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory but a machine called the Funbobulator , an online tool built especially for children to help design council playgrounds, has won Wagga Wagga City Council (WWCC) the golden ticket in the Local Government Awards NSW, announced last week.
The Funbobulator is a cool online tool where kids are encouraged to shoot for maximum FPK – or fun per kid – while choosing the play equipment they want for each playground as WWCC embarks on a five-year program to update some of its 91 playgrounds at the rate of three or four per year.
The imaginative machine won the council an award for Excellence in Communication in the category of councils with a population of 30,000 to 100,000.
In the first stage of consultation, kids were given a budget of between $25,000 and $30,000 for three different Wagga playgrounds, along with a list of play equipment with a brief description of each and their cost.
For example, they might opt for the Wildnet Connector, with its climbing wall, climbing nets, ladder and monkey bars and splash out $18,900 or spend $5,300 on a dish roundabout but the catch is that they have to stay on budget. They can also comment on the relative awesomeness of monkey bars V flying foxes.
It’s a big win for the regional council which received some encouraging comments from kids that would surely warm the cockles of any local government officer’s heart, ranging from the animated: “yeah, I totally loved my park creations. I think you guys are the best council in the world!” to the pithy: “everyone loves a see-saw”.
WWCC Acting Media and Communications Co-ordinator Vanessa Keenan said the reaction from children had been amazing and the level of community engagement high.
“We’re really proud of it and the general feedback we have received has just been gold. You can really see how effective it has been,” Ms Keenan said.
“The idea of getting kids involved in playground design isn’t new but how we involve them and to what level is. Also the fact that they can do it at home and not necessarily participate in an organised group and its something they can do with parents and carers.”
The Funbobulator was developed for the meagre sum of $120 plus GST, which covered two signs erected in playgrounds to tell people about the online consultation. The council souped up an existing online budget allocator to give it extra kid-appeal and fed in play equipment information from council parks and recreation staff.
One of the playgrounds, Jack Skeers Park, has already had the new play equipment installed, with consideration given to the children’s designs.
“We gave their designs a fair bit of weight because the children were given pretty much the same parameters as our staff. One thing they don’t take into account is the footprint of the space but the budget tends to control that anyway,” Ms Keenan said.
During the campaign there were 902 site visits with 51 individual comments and 55 playground designs. The Funbobulator will be switched back on in a few weeks as three more playgrounds come up for renewal.
The Local Government NSW Award judges called the Funbobulator, ‘’a truly innovative result within a very limited budget”.
“This entry has the unusual challenge of involving kids in a decision making process, a great strategy was developed and this was executed to perfectly suit the target audience. This is democracy in action, and it’s fun!” said the judges.
Other winners included Holroyd City Council for their pictorial history of Holroyd, Leichhardt Council for its Reconciliation Action Plan and Kempsey Shire Council for its Macleay Valley Coast Destination Marketing Campaign.