The Department of Play (DoP) is a working group of researchers, students, and community practitioners at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media who share a common value: the design of new technology and methodologies to support youth as active participants in their local communities. By developing new open source technologies, community-based curricula, and networking opportunities, we support youth-led active exploration, participatory learning, and civic engagement among children and adolescents in their urban neighborhoods.


While higher broadband speeds and affordability recommended by the FCC’s recent national broadband plan should increase access to internet tools in under-served communities, we still need to consider the increased digital literacy and local facilitation necessary to use fully tap the power of these tools. While access is important, much more is needed to make sure technology can be used to empower young people. In the world of Web 2.0, power is not just those who can read blogs, watch YouTube videos, or reference Wikipedia – it’s in the opportunity and motivation to produce, recommend, and create communities around digital content.

Although some existing technologies can be used to foster youth participation and create locally relevant contexts for civic engagement, most tools are too complex at first or lack the functionality appropriate for youth-led endeavors.
At the Department of Play, we not only advocate for a child’s right to “leisure, play and culture” (see article 31 of UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child) in child-friendly cities, but we also want to tap into the unique energy that comes from play. We aim to mobilize this grassroots ingenuity and innovation towards the development of healthy, creative and engaged citizens that actively contribute to the development of democratic societies.

Who we are:

On-going projects of the founding DoP team:

Our international group of community-based project partners includes:

Boston area organizations who participated in the Community Working Group (Spring '10, Boston):