May 2010 marked the successful end of the first season of the new social innovation challenge, Evoke: A Crash Course in Changing the World. With funding from the Korean Trust Fund on ICT for Development, participants from around the world answered the urgent call to innovation in this online, multi-player game. This alternate reality platform connected groups of students, professionals, and industry innovators across cultures and distances to work towards the common goal of creatively solving some of the world’s most critical social, environmental, and political challenges.
Each week, Evoke 'agents' were charged to work together on missions and quests, playing to the strengths and interests of each agent. Missions included empowering women, crisis networking, and ensuring food security. Agents had just a few days to learn about these areas and come up with solutions. Using blog, photo, and video posts, agents shared their research and ideas with others in the Evoke network, cooperating and building relationships to successfully conclude their quests.
Although Evoke was originally designed for African teenagers, it was open to everyone. Word of mouth spread like wildfire and soon Evoke was teaming with teenagers, school classes, teachers, college students and even development professionals from all over the world, honing their skills in entrepreneurship, innovation, and networking.
18,500 agents from over 150 countries took part in more than 30,000 missions and quests. According to one gamerunner, Nathaniel Fruchter, “As of the writing of this, we currently have roughly nineteen thousand members with about 10-20% of them categorized as truly active. For an ARG [Alternate Reality Game], a game, a community—that’s unprecedented.”
Agents competed for prizes by creating their own Evokations, proposals for projects to begin when the Evoke season ends. The agents with the best ideas will get exclusive online mentorships with social innovators and business leaders, seed funding to start their own social projects, and travel scholarships to the Evoke Summit in Washington, DC. Evoke and the World Bank Institute also have partnered with GlobalGiving to give top innovators the chance to gain online visibility and generate funds.
Evoke opened new gateways for dialogues among players and professionals. The result was not just great conversations and new links, but real-world effects. “Two individuals who probably would have otherwise never connected had an impact on each other’s lives – with a very tangible result,” wrote another gamerunner, Josh Judkins, in reference to an urban farm that resulted from online collaboration.
The creative and self-reliant Evoke community even generated its own standards of participation and ethics, making this a venture in civil society formation as well as in social innovation.
Stay tuned for the next season of Evoke, scheduled to launch in 2011.