A few weeks ago, The World Bank Institute launched a social network-based game called Evoke. It's a first for the Bank and an attempt to reach a generation of mobile-enabled young people in developing countries with lessons in collaboration, sustainability, creativity, local insight and entrepreneurship. In short, it's a ten-week crash course in changing the world.
The premise of the game relies on individuals being part of a covert network of people around the world that band together and collaborate in order to solve world problems presented through a series of videos, comic strip narratives, and quests that require action in the real world.
It's this online to offline transition that really makes the Evoke game worth looking out for. As the number of people on social networks reaches over half a billion people, one of the interesting challenges of our time will be figuring out how to harness this online force to solve offline problems.
There is no shortage of examples of online actions raising money, and awareness through applications such as Facebook causes (24 million active users) or the growth and mobilization of awareness campaigns such as the ONE campaign, yet there are fewer examples of scaled participation wherein people who would not have otherwise been involved take action due to their involvement in an online social network.
At the Daily Beast's Women in the World Summit in NYC this last weekend, Jane McGonigal, Evoke's creative developer, explained that, "It's something we haven't told the gamers yet, but throughout the course of the quests they will be creating a business plan, which will prepare them to take real world action." This action, she went on to explain, will be incentivized through a round of seed grants, participation in a conference in Washington DC where top individuals meet with social enterprise leaders and a network of global mentors that are standing by ready to offer the support necessary to those starting social enterprises.
Originally dismissed by this same Women in the World panel as a game just for boys, Lauren Zalaznick the president of both Bravo and Oxygen for NBC stepped in to point out that actually over 70% of online gamers were women. McGonigal added that, Evoke, which was seeded with over four thousand students from African universities, has a close to even gender balance.
Just over ten days into the first round of the game and with still plenty of time to join the first round which stretches until May 11th, the World Bank is waiting for you to get online and solve the problems they haven't been able to figure out for the past fifty years. What are you waiting for?