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What is one real platform today that has the potential to compel the majority of us to change our habits more effectively than rallies, editorials and social media activism?
According to many at the Sustainable Brands conference last week, gaming and the process of gamification could be the answer.
Take for example, the Speed Camera Lottery.
By incentivizing drivers to follow speed limits, the Fun Theory project – a pilot program created by a producer for Nickelodeon's games division and tested in Stockholm last year, aims to make following rules fun and enjoyable.
And here's how it works: Every driver's picture and registration plate is captured by the speed camera. If you're speeding, you have to pay a fine.
But the fine you pay doesn't go to the local county government's treasury. Instead the fines are pooled into a lottery account. The winner: One driver randomly selected from the group of drivers who actually followed the speed limit.
Penalize the rule breakers, reward the followers. Can you imagine how effectively a similar concept could be adopted to boost productivity at work for instance?
For Judah Schiller, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, it's happening already. According to a new report launched by the public relations agency, "55 percent of Americans want to work for companies that use gamification as an incentive to boost productivity."
For Michelle Byrd, co-president of Games for Change, an advocacy firm that helps create games for social impact, this is the new normal.
"Games are everywhere today. They are on your computer, on Facebook, as part of corporate responsibility initiatives, colleges, etc.," she said in a recent phone interview.
Byrd is a familiar face in the world of advocacy for social change and has an impressive track record as the former executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), the oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers in the U.S.
Now she is bringing her experience, acumen and network to the world of gaming at Games for Change.
"The distinction between playing games vs. being a gamer is diminishing as games become more mainstream across industries, cultures and social settings," she said, adding that for companies and nonprofits, using games as an engagement tool is the natural next step in their evolution.
Of course, neither Byrd nor Schiller wants you to go start pitching the benefits of playing Call of Duty or Farmville at work.
But note that Saatchi & Saatchi S's new report finds that 27 percent of surveyed respondents confessed to playing for at least 30 minutes at work, with an additional 8 percent admitting to playing between one and two hours every day. "So, regardless of companies that are instituting social media or internet policies to restrict this, people are finding ways of filling their 'boring moments' by playing on their iPhone, iPad, and other devices," Schiller emphasized.
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The argument then: Why not use this interest and energy in finding new solutions?
Clearly, Schiller and Games for Change are on to something: A way of capitalizing on this new tool that offers the scale to engage people from all types of sectors, communities and perspectives on a single core issue.
The implications for social good then seem immense.
To highlight the real scalable impact of gaming for social entrepreneurship, Game for Change is hosting its 8th annual festival next week in New York.
"Gaming is slowly becoming a mainstream tool for employee engagement. They appeal to every kind of person. It also solves a major nonprofit communication issue so a lot of organizations who are trying to figure out new, more engaging ways of communicating with diverse constituents," said Byrd, adding that "because gaming has the capability to be a much more strategic and scalable activity than tools like discussion forums and other such initiatives," it offers companies a new interactive and fun way to rally employees.
The schedule has something for everyone including game demos, a keynote by former Vice President Al Gore, panels on how games can used to resuscitate the news gathering process, philanthropic initiatives, and the role of gaming in educational awareness and cause marketing.
For CSR executives, this festival offers new perspective and tools on pushing the business case for a responsible work culture, more active employee engagement, and volunteerism.
Schiller, perhaps, put it best: "Through active participants in gaming, people see the consequences of their choices instead of reading an excel sheet. We're moving from a very linear world to a virtual world where we can truly tell consequences and test behavioral science."
"This is the next opportunity for companies."
Speed Camera Lottery Wins VW Fun Theory Contest
Register for the 8th Annual Games for Change Festival
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