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The Block by Block Methodology

We are proud to support the transformation of neglected urban spaces around the world by directly funding Block by Block Workshops and project construction, but we make our unique Minecraft-based methodology freely available to all.

The first Block by Block Workshops using Minecraft as a community engagement tool were held in Nairobi in 2013. It was immediately clear that communicating the proposed plans using 3D models instead of architectural drawings improved the participants’ level of understanding and engagement substantially.

By navigating a three-dimensional world, the participants were able to express themselves in new ways, and previously sensitive issues, such as the size of a football pitch, which had produced several disagreements throughout the process, were resolved.

For many participants, it was the first time they had publicly expressed opinions about local issues. Both participants and facilitators agreed that the Minecraft model had a positive impact on the dialogue in the workshop, and the Block by Block Methodology was born.

For me the most amazing thing about Block by Block is the methodology, using one of the world’s most popular video games, Minecraft, for community participation in urban design processes. It’s not a gimmick—it really works. Using a simple, 3D tool like Minecraft is a great way of helping hard-to-reach groups such as youth and disadvantaged people in poor urban settings make their voice heard.
— Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat

Step by Step

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1. Model

Select the site to be redeveloped, and create a Minecraft model of the existing site using images, plans, Google maps, and other inputs.

Redevelopment site, Les Cayes, Haiti
Credit: Block by Block team

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2. Mobilize

Identify 30-60 people living and working near the site who are interested in improving their urban environment. Ensure broad representation of the community, including women, youth, older people, and people with disabilities.

Community mobilization in Kalobeyei, Kenya
Credit: Block by Block team

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3. Organize

Organize community workshops (2-4 days; 30-60 participants; 1 computer per 2-4 participants).

Identify a Minecraft expert to lead training and provide support.

Block by Block Workshop, Gaza Strip
Credit: Block by Block team

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4. Introduce

Brief participants on public space basics and general design considerations for the selected space, and begin shared dialogue on relevant issues.

Workshop kickoff, Accra, Ghana
Credit: Block by Block team

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5. Observe

Walk through the site as a group and document with images. Share reflections and observations.

Site visit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Credit: Block by Block team

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6. Teach

Train participants in the fundamentals of using Minecraft.

Minecraft training session, Niamey, Niger
Credit: Block by Block team

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7. Team Up

Break into teams of 2-4 people to develop ideas in Minecraft.

Block by Block Workshop team, Wuhan, China
Credit: Block by Block team

Minecraft lowers the barrier so that anyone could actually have a say in their public space.
— Lydia Winters, Mojang - Block by Block Special Advisor
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8. Present

Arrange for the teams to present models and advocate for their ideas to stakeholders and professionals including urban planners, architects, and local policy makers.

Teenage girls presenting their ideas to community stakeholders, Hanoi, Vietnam
Credit: Microsoft team

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9. Prioritize

Workshop participants and stakeholders discuss how to improve the public space and collaboratively prioritize the proposed improvements.

Community prioritization discussion, Cairo, Egypt
Credit: Block by Block team

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10. Plan

Minecraft models from workshop inform cost estimates, budget allocations, and professional design work.

Minecraft 3D Model of Dey Pukhu, Nepal

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11. Build

Continue the momentum by actively engaging the community in the final design, construction, and maintenance of the site. Engage with the community to resolve conflict if it arises or address unexpected issues related to the public space.

Community building party, Surabaya, Indonesia
Credit: Block by Block team

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12. Advocate

Expand impact by advocating for continued investment in public space transformation and more forward-thinking policies at the local level and beyond.

Public space micro-intervention at Estación Villa María, Lima, Peru
Credit: Jairo Rosales

Minecraft is a very powerful tool that allows a community to dream. You can try all these permutations, combinations, possibilities — you can aspire for something more.
— Celine d'Cruz, Block by Block Board Member

Public Space Policy

We are deeply committed to the continued transformation of living conditions in urban neighborhoods, in the form of more engaged communities and more livable cities. We amplify our impact beyond built projects by advocating for more forward-thinking public space policies at the local, national, and global level.

FAQ

Why Minecraft?

Minecraft is more than a game—it’s a cultural phenomenon that is as widely recognized on the streets of Hanoi as in Houston. It’s also a design platform that’s so easy to use it has transformed into a powerful form of communication. Read more about our unique methodology here.

Do people have to know how to play Minecraft, or how to use computers, to participate?

Our Block by Block Workshops include training on both Minecraft and computer use—we generally find that anyone can pick up the necessary skills in a day or less. Block by Block is sometimes people’s first exposure to technology, and the process is often very empowering. Through Block by Block Workshops we have helped fisherman who had never touched a computer design their own waterfront park in Haiti, street kids in Addis Ababa find their voice, and children of migrant workers in Anaheim envision a career in technology for the first time.

How are projects selected?

Communities submit applications to UN-Habitat, who does an initial prioritization based on need and project viability. Our Project Selection Committee then determines which projects receive Block by Block funding based on detailed criteria addressing sustainability, policy impact, and empowering unrepresented groups including women, children, refugees, and the elderly. Read more about our project selection process here.

We also make our Block by Block Methodology freely available to all here.

Where does the funding come from?

Our founding partners, Mojang and Microsoft, provide ongoing financial support annually, but the need far exceeds the available resources. Find out more about how you can help here.

Who builds and maintains the projects?

Our founding partner UN-Habitat works with local partners to oversee the implementation of funded projects. In many cases the community members participate in the project construction, and as a result of the process feel a much stronger sense of community ownership that results in long-term maintenance of the spaces.

Where did the Block by Block logo come from?

The Block by Block logo was originally designed by the Mojang team, using three blocks to represent Minecraft, in the shape of a heart to symbolize the mission to improve quality of life worldwide. The colors are derived from UN-Habitat blue to communicate our strong partnership. (For the record, the YouTube gaming logo with a similar design came later.)

I want to do this in my community! What do I do?

We make our Block by Block Methodology freely available to all here. Also, please feel free to get in touch with questions.

How can I get involved?

There are many ways to help! Visit our Get Involved page for ideas.  

Can you participate or speak at our event?

We love to spread the word about Block by Block. Get in touch, and we’ll see what we can do.

Have a question we didn’t answer?

Let us know here!

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Media Kit

We are always happy to share our expertise and experience with Minecraft, community engagement, collaborative public space design, and public space policy. For media inquiries, please contact info@blockbyblock.org.

Block by Block Logo

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Block by Block Video