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Playful Boston

We believe playfulness is a vital part of thriving democracies, caring communities, and resilient cities.

People are playful. Playfulness is an approach, an experience, and maybe even a lifestyle. It is more than a mere indulgence — it is necessary. Play and playfulness may mean the same thing for some folks. We believe there is an important difference.

Play and playfulness: same same, but different. Play is an act. Playfulness is an attitude.

While someone might play tag, a board game, and other games (and we encourage it all), we are excited to also support playfulness in unexpected locations at unanticipated times.

We want to enable folks to be playful as they move through the City. To dance, to sing, to create stories, to make games out of your walk home, to host block parties, and way, way more.

Have questions? Contact us:

1 City Hall Square
5th Floor
Boston, MA 02112

Our Hypothesis

Playful approaches, events, and spaces across the City encourage positive community interactions. Embracing playfulness enables a more connected, resourceful, and resilient Boston.

Chances to play and environments that foster playful approaches to civic challenges, have the potential to:

  • help people think outside the box and develop creative solutions to complex problems (play and games force us to adapt and innovate)
  • increase empathy and trust among participants in civic life and community settings, and
  • enable resilient systems that allow for civic action.
GUIDING EVIDENCE and OBSERVATIONS

Our hypothesis is informed by a mix of academic research, civic theory, and project learnings. Research shows the social, emotional, and behavioral impact of playfulness. Urban theorists consistently return to the real and potential implications of playfulness. We’ve already launched projects that explored the impact of playfulness on civic life, including:

These projects have highlighted some important insights about playfulness.

Our Principles

PLAYFULNESS IS UNIVERSAL AND AGELESS

Wherever you’re from — whether you are 5, 25, 45, or 85 — everyone should be able to be playful.

PLAYFULNESS CAN HAPPEN WHERE YOU DON’T EXPECT IT TO

Parks, playgrounds, and fields are amazing! One reason why is the implicit invitation to play in them. Encouraging that same welcomeness in other spaces, like sidewalks, bus stops, and dead-end streets, is essential to a playful city.

A CITY THAT SUPPORTS PLAYFULNESS PRIORITIZES HUMANS OVER EFFICIENCY

A playful city rejects that the future of cities is only optimized, efficient, and smart. Instead, a playful city also prioritizes the humanness of play. This happens even when the results are messy and unpredictable.

PLAYFULNESS LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR DIFFERENT PEOPLE

Cultural, neighborhood, and community context matters. While anyone can be playful, what that looks like and how it comes about can take unique forms.

PLAYFULNESS FOR THE SAKE OF PLAYFULNESS IS ENOUGH

Playfulness is not just a means to an end. It is important to prioritize playfulness for its uniquely human value.

The Experiment

Portfolio of playfulness

There are incredible groups in the City of Boston already injecting playfulness into our neighborhoods. We propose a series of playful collaborations with community partners, starting with this portfolio of playfulness. This is our way of cheering them on, of holding them up, and inspiring new collaborations.

This model does not compete with or replace our parks, playfields, or playgrounds. Instead, it supplements them. We hope to fill gap where playful spaces are most challenging to access. We want to encourage playful approaches more generally across the City.

Through playfulness, we live curiously, explore, experiment, learn, grow, and connect with others. We believe playfulness is essential to a more engaging and human city. It’s not just okay to be playful — it is celebrated.

Image for av petting zoo

Below are just some of the initial projects we'll be exploring in the summer of 2018. We'd love to hear your ideas for more!