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Thu Apr 24 21:17:30 SAST 2014

Cybergame gives real boost to rural areas

Brendan Peacock | 14 August, 2010 14:320 Comments

Pupils from Bishops school in Cape Town have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to community development in rural areas.

In March the World Bank Institute (WBI) and InfoDev launched Evoke, an online game with the goal of supporting social innovation among young people around the world.

At the end of the 10-week game, two boys from Bishops were invited to attend a world Evoke summit in Washington in September.

InfoDev is a co-ordinator of global development financing within the ICT department of the World Bank. The organisation brought in Jane Mc-Gonigal, a director of games research and design at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, to design a game that would help tackle real problems.

Driven by a narrative set in the year 2020, Evoke's story followed the exploits of a mysterious network of Africa's best problem-solvers.

Each week, players learned more about the network by reading instalments of a graphic novel and forming their own innovation networks, brainstorming solutions to real-world development challenges, all the while learning what it takes to be a successful social innovator.

By the time the Evoke adventure ended on May 19, 19324 people from 150 countries had registered to play, submitting more than 23500 blog posts, 4700 photos and more than 1500 videos highlighting challenges and solutions to the development issues featured.

The game sent players into their communities to learn about challenges on the ground and share potential solutions.

In all, 20 pupils in grade 10 and 11 at Bishops started playing the game, and of the boys who started, five will receive certificates for completing all or most of the missions and quests: Reid Falconer, Martin Dyer, Wouter Kuhn, Kishan Chagan and Neil Marais. The others will receive certificates as founding members.

Two groups from Bishops have been awarded prizes and both have been awarded $1000 (R7317) seed money to put their plans into action. Both groups assisted the Indlovu project in Monwabisi Beach in Khayelitsha on the outskirts of Cape Town.

The project submitted by Falconer and Dyer was recognised as being outstanding and they were invited to attend the World Bank Summit in Washington DC next month.

The summit will bring together the game's most innovative players, some of whom will also get the chance to be mentored by business leaders and experienced social innovators.

"Our mentor will be Steve Vosloo, from the Shuttleworth Foundation, who is already here in Cape Town. He will guide us in the promotion of our project via the GlobalGiving site and through our own marketing platforms," said Dyer.

''The funding from the Evoke game will go towards educating the residents of Indlovu on creating and maintaining a vegetable garden, which will supply the soup kitchen. It will create a source of both food and income for the village," he added.

Bishop's Cheryl Douglas added: "The school has been involved with the Indlovu project for two-and-a-half years, and it linked closely with our existing development projects. It presented a microcosm of all the issues that the MDGs are trying to address, so we were able to implement the lessons from the Evoke game.

"On completion of the final project our Evokation focused on food security and soil quality, which we also turned into separate science and biology projects for our school work.

"Before we started, we needed to know how the community would respond to our efforts, so we conducted a survey. The response was very positive - the residents were keen on learning and taking part in the project," he said.

"Food security is only one aspect of the project - being listed on the GlobalGiving site will enable Indlovu to attract more funds that will go towards establishing other facilities like the crèche, the clinic, shelters instead of shacks, and the soup kitchen."

Falconer said: "GlobalGiving is a website which presents an opportunity that forms part of the award for our project - the opportunity to list the Indlovu project on the world stage. Donors visit the site to donate, and the Indlovu project is now listed there."

Through this innovative platform social entrepreneurs have raised more than $28-million for more than 2500 projects in more than 70 countries covering themes ranging from education and the environment to human rights.

It also offers access to thousands of institutional and corporate partners with their corporate campaigns, co-marketing and media partnerships.

If the boys can raise $3000 from at least 50 people, they will become part of the permanent GlobalGiving community. They also stand a chance of being awarded an additional $10000.

While Dyer and Falconer plan to use the money to send people from the community to Soil for Africa to learn how to establish food gardens, Chagan and Emile Nauta have made a fire-retardant that can be painted onto buildings.

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