A scenic lens-ball photo, with the backdrop of a river passing through a forest on a sunny day inverted in the glass sphere in the foreground.

Did you ever wish that you could do a ‘dummy run’ of your electrifying new idea or hot take to see how it’d pan out in the real world? What about if you could be the Prime Minister for a day, or try your hand at holding the purse strings for your local council?

Digital twins are virtual representations of physical objects or systems. They can represent worlds, cities, and environments as they are or could be. In turn, these accurate representations, or ‘twins’, provide a virtual sandbox to experiment, prove assumptions, or model outcomes and potential eventualities of the real world. We can harness this incredible power to help predict an object’s or system’s future behaviour and simulate trade-offs, improving decision-making and performance.

We can create digital twins by using multiple data sources to map out relationships between various attributes that make up a specific object or system. These relationships help us understand how one property affects another; for example, knowing that high temperatures will cause higher humidity levels allows us to predict how changing one variable will affect another even if we don’t know which variables are influencing each other directly—we have to understand the relationship between them first.

Trade-off simulations

Trade-off simulations are a method of decision-making that allows you to make decisions by considering the trade-offs between different options. This can be useful for communities or organisations who want to engage in participatory budgeting, where participants come together and vote on their priorities for spending money.

Trade-off simulations allow users to compare the costs and benefits of different projects, programs and policies over time (e.g., next year vs this year) or contexts (statewide vs local). The results from these models help people understand where they stand on specific issues; if there’s been much more support for one option over another over time, then it’s worth exploring further!

Community engagement

Understanding what people care about and how they feel about trade-offs is essential to ensuring that we’re designing with real people in mind. Writing a pros-cons list is an appropriate place to start: It provides context at a glance and ensures you’ve met your disclosure obligations. But we can do so much better than this. Gamifying your consultation process with ‘play’ elements like digital twins has overwhelmingly been shown to yield better engagement.

Observing their reactions while playing with prototypes or discussing the results in a forum or other social media platform. Certain choices that seem obvious to you might actually have overwhelming disapproval from the masses – and the reverse is equally true.

In focus: Simulator

Delib’s deliberative prioritisation tool, Simulator, has been around for a while, but the creative ways our customers use it still surprise and impress us. By interacting with sliders, More than 100 organisations have fine-tuned Simulator to meet their needs: from sports preferences to 10 year spending plans, from assessing climate net-zero value-statements to allocating university student levies.

Simulator has been designed to boost participation at every level, allowing anyone to try making difficult trade-offs and give you the valuable and meaningful insights you need. Because it’s easy to understand and sets people a stimulating challenge, citizens actively want to take part. 

Check out the newsroom to see how local, state and federal organisations have used Simulator to create powerful digital twins.