Children Utilize Gaming Platform To Tackle Humanitarian Challenges

PSFK discusses the Future Of Gaming with the founder of KooDooZ, an online platform that rewards kids for acting incrementally towards tackling humanitarian challenges.

The PSFK consulting team has noticed that communities are being challenged to solve puzzles and issues through game play. Games are being used to help astronomers search the skies, scientists solve medical problems, and neighbors to help each other.

One company operating in this space is KooDooZ – a social network that empowers children to tackle humanitarian challenges, gain service credit and earn both rewards and recognition for their efforts. Users select from a list of social challenges and identify actionable steps they can take to affect change in a given time frame. The platform tracks evidence that the task is complete by requiring participants to upload videos, podcasts, images or documents detailing their challenge results. Each challenge is associated with a badge, allowing users to generate public profile pages which are visible to friends & family and can be used to invest in the social entrepreneur. As children utilize the platform to raise money and build awareness around their cause, they may additionally receive gift certificates to iTunes and Amazon and earn credit towards the President’s Volunteer Service Award. KooDooZ’s stated mission is to empower kids at an early age with strategies for creating change, helping turn everyday challenges into lifelong, recognizable achievements. PSFK spoke with founder Lee Fox about her work.

Please provide a brief introduction about yourself and your company?

My name is Lee Fox and I am the founder of KooDooZ, a youth media company that provides cause and social marketing consultancy to non-profit and profit-for-purpose organizations.  We also soft-launched a COPPA-compliant “virtual meets virtuous” world that (em)powers the philanthropic mash-ups of (Generation Z) today’s youth.

Please tell us about KooDooZ. What is the idea and goal behind the platform?

KooDooZ.com was built to help kids identify tangible and actionable steps they can take to affect change in the world.  Here in America, 71% of tweens and teens support charitable causes, but instead of leveraging these kids as activists, most adults bombard them with opportunities for”slactivism” — and that won’t fly with Generation Z (and it didn’t for the Millennials either).  The big idea behind KooDooZ has always been to provide kids with a “virtual meets virtuous” world where they can tackle humanitarian challenges, raise money and awareness for their causes and earn credit towards the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

What has been the audience reaction? Can you share any stats around user engagement?

The journey from prototype to alpha, and beta to soft launch, has been extraordinarily exciting and very humbling.  Though there’s no lack of love for what we’re doing, our initial system design wasn’t flexible enough.  The number one thing this generation demands of their online worlds, is to have the freedom to control the environment.  KooDooZ was initially structured for brands and non-profits to integrate their cause-marketing initiatives as challenges for kids to do good.  Though our partners were pleased because they had immediate visibility to youth impact both online and in specific geographic markets where we hosted complimentary real-world events, the kids wanted equal opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange and collaboration.  Luckily, we caught our mistake early and have since been integrating social technologies into our platform, as well as giving youth the ability to author their own system challenges.

In our site redesign we spark a conversation with our community simply by asking, “how do YOU tackle the challenge of…” with a drop-down of 9 main cause categories (then further sub-divided to embrace 81 humanitarian issues).  Each challenge is associated with a badge and given a time-frame in which to achieve.  KooDooZ also tracks the “evidence” of youth impact by requiring participants to upload videos, podcasts, images and documents detailing their challenge results.  The impact of each user can be shared via a public profile page that friends & family can use to invest in the young social entrepreneur.  With youth unemployment at an all time high, users really like feature of being able to crowd-source funds.

We have been noticing that collaborative, online platforms aimed at solving problems are incorporating gaming mechanics and challenges as a way to encourage people to participate and continue contributing over time, what are your thoughts on this? Do you see this trend manifesting on a larger scale? If so, then how? 

Using online and multi-user games to encourage people to solve problems is just a digital-age take on the old “learning-by-doing” approach to cultivating stakeholders. In fact, right from the infancy of the social web — say at the turn of the century when half of all U.S. households had internet access — there were social games bundled with civic challenges.

At first I think the public appetite for gaming was finicky.  Adults (especially Boomers and Gen Xers) didn’t value the digital “time-sucking” gaming.  Then in 2008, a PEW study shattered stereotypes about teens and gaming.  By that year, 97% of American teens (ages 12-17) were playing some kind of video games, and more than half these gamers (52%) reported playing games where they think about moral and ethical issues.  Further, the percentage of teens with frequent civic gaming experiences were more likely to be interested in politics and current events and would go to the effort to raise money for charity.

Being digital natives, Millennials and Generation Z have completely integrated online and mobile gaming into their worlds, and all but expect this kind of interaction with their brand experiences (“there’s an app for that!”).  Additionally, as consumers we know both these generations also expect corporations to act responsibly.  Unlike the generations before them, these younger minds like (i) mashing-up each other’s ideas; (ii) are comfortable collaborating with people they don’t know or have never met; (iii) are not geographically restricted because they also see themselves as global citizens.  So to answer your question as to whether I believe this trend will manifest on a larger scale — my answer is unequivocally, yes!

I am excited by Mozilla’s Open Badges infrastructure (http://openbadges.org/) as it has the potential to reinvent 21st century learning.  I also like (past & present):

http://www.nuvana.org/
http://koios.org/ (in alpha)
http://elineventures.com/
http://www.gamesforchange.org/
http://www.ideaconnection.com/
www.refresheverything.com/
www.facebook.com/ChaseCommunityGiving
http://www.takepart.com/membersproject
http://opensourceforamerica.org/category/crowdsourcing/
http://p2pfoundation.net/ThinkCycle

What other trends within or around gaming have you noticed?

I find it particularly relevant that “gamification” examples exist both in our online as well as real worlds.  As Seth Priebatsch (founder of http://www.scvngr.com/) points out our society has built-in game-like experiences which includes:

  • Free lunch
  • Communal Game Play
  • The Countdown
  • Loyalty
  • Level-Up
  • Inclusive Ownership
  • Reward Schedules
  • Communal Discovery

Thanks Lee!

KooDooZ

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