Hugh Evans on Global Citizen and Gamification for Social Good

Hugh Evans on Global Citizen and Gamification for Social Good


On September 29th, more than 60,000 attended the Global Citizen Festival to see the likes of Neil Young, The Foo Fighers, and Black Keys to perform and raise awareness for extreme global poverty. Those lucky enough to attend the event may have found themselves paying upwards of $250 for a single ticket but the fact of the matter is, most of those 60,000 people didn’t pay a single cent; they simply earned some points and badges and won free ticket access to see these bands live.

We’ve covered gamification for social good in Half the Sky and SPENT to raise awareness for other issues but the Global Citizen Festival has brought engagement to new levels. I got the chance to speak with Hugh Evans, co-founder of the Global Poverty Project and the creator of the gamification system for Global Festival, about his experience and thoughts on gamification for social good.


How did you come up with the points mechanic for the Global Festival tickets?

Evans:  I wanted to make a system that was straightforward and engaging for every audience. It needed to be simple, so one action earned one point. The point system was altered as time went on to ensure everything was balanced and we received over 70,000 sign-ups in the last few weeks alone. However, the greatest hurdle for creating this point system was convincing all the stakeholders that using a gamified methodology was better than not using one – that was the biggest prerequisite


Was there anything you would have liked to changed about the system? Or anything you would have liked to add?

Evans: We planned for actions to be more sophisticated in the beginning. The actions were simple at first but now we are making them more sophisticated. To earn points, people can now donate money, contact members of congress, and even organize campaigns to become a part of the platform. As peoples’ actions become more sophisticated, their involvement develops as well and they can score for organizing events or volunteering.


Do you see more humanitarian organizations using gamification to support their cause? Do you personally have any future projects that will be using gamification?

Evans:Yes I have seen others using gamification and I am hugely excited by the strategies coming out so far. Games have been employed previously as either traditional games or bad 2d simulation games. I think its better to integrate your message into social actions that people are going to do already.

The Global Citizen platform we are using now will actually be a new central platform for to raise awareness for our all our other campaigns like polio eradication and maternal health. I give full credit to Don McKinnen, who came up with the idea in the first place and has been an awesome advisor for the project.


Will your Global Festival platform be available for others to use?

Evans: The platform is essentially open-source for those in the NGO sector. We welcome any partner for poverty to be involved. All of our current partners, like Half the Sky, are using the technology. Our platform is partner driven and increases in sophistication as more partners join.


Some critics of gamification say that the employment of games or game mechanics in “serious contexts” trivializes the matter at hand. What is your take on that matter?

Evans: I can respond to that in two parts. First, engagement has to start somewhere and it has to start where our generation is already at. Our generation is engaged in games and angry birds so if you start spreading your message in an environment they’re already in, its perfect.

And secondly, I would have to say one of my favorite quotes from Paul Keating: “You could always back the horse called self-interest because at least you know its trying”. Once you integrate a gamification layer into the system, social incentives and self-interest incentives happen simultaneously and enforce one another.


What are your plans for the Global Citizen platform after the concert?

Evans: We have a big announcement coming for the ongoing platform – with many other major artists coming off the festival. I can’t say anything now but expect a October/November partnership with a huge rock band.


And to end on a soft note – what games do you like to play?

Evans: Ha! Sadly, I play Brick Breaker a lot. Angry Birds is also great. My favorite real world game must be capture the flag though.


It thrills me to no end to learn that Global Citizen plans on allowing other NGOs to adopt their gamification systems. The Global Citizen Festival made a huge splash using these point systems but there was definitely an immense extrinsic motivator involved in its success. Global Citizen needs to balance this extrinsic/intrinsic motivation draw because people, especially through easy actions on the Internet, could easily just be doing these actions for points. However, if Evans finally incorporates all of the sophisticated actions he wanted with a logical point structure surrounding that – then this just might defeat those trolls out there. Regardless, an open gamification platform for social good is a welcome addition to the gamification world.


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