world bank Posts

Gaming for change: Not a job for just one superhero.

Going to school doesn’t always produce innovative, smart young leaders. Video games do.


The Urgent EVOKE project emerged from discussions between the World Bank and universities in Africa that revealed widespread demand from the universities to find avenues to encourage their students to think creatively and focus on local development challenges.

Here’s the twist.

They decided to take the learning out of the classroom. They did away with the textbooks. And the traditional teaching format.

They created EVOKE.

As the World Bank explains, EVOKE follows the exploits of a mysterious network of Africa’s best problem-solvers. Each week, players learn more about this network from a graphic novel. Players form innovation networks and brainstorm solutions to real-world development challenges that are released to them as weekly missions. They perform tasks to address these challenges and seek feedback for these ideas and actions.

Food security. Renewable energy. Clean water. Empowering women.

These are just a few of the challenges that the first round of 19,324 Evoke contenders from 150 countries worked on for 10 weeks. They wrote about 355 blog posts every day during the 10 week competition, and posted videos and photos inviting comments, discussion and feed back.

When the first season of the EVOKE game closed on May 19, 2010, the top players were invited to realize their EVOKATIONS by participating in the EVOKE Challenge on GlobalGiving to raise funds and build a community of donors and investors.

Some of the projects include developing a gaming software to help those without access to formal education learn how to manage money, creating an affordable “solar mill” to generate power in East Africa, treating autism in remote parts of the world through an online community, creating energy with rainwater runoff in Liberia, and turning a “squatter camp” into an “Eco-village.”

Game on.

This type of Challenge is unprecedented at GlobalGiving, a marketplace that typically hosts projects already being implemented. With the EVOKE Challenge, we get to the core of our mission: pushing boundaries, fostering innovation and collaboration, and granting access to a marketplace for ideas in their inception—untested, unproven, unknown.

So, during the EVOKE Challenge, which runs from today until August 31, EVOKE players’ ideas will raise funds, individually and together, to make their ideas a reality.

Some will win and get implemented. Some will not. You, as part of the marketplace, will decide.

To be successful, entrepreneurs–like all social entrepreneurs–will have to build a community of support, communicate the value of their idea, and create dialogue so that diverse perspectives, including those of the people they’re working to help, are included.

Therefore, the first incentive invites collaborative action. Fifteen projects must raise $30 from 5 donors and receive 1 project comment. Once 15 projects have met these goals, each of them will be rewarded $100.

If 15 don’t manage to do it, no one gets anything.

But that won’t happen. The participants are already rallying around each other to figure out ways to collaborate and support each other.

Their ability to work together will release a cascade of collective and individual incentives. You can see them here.

With this EVOKE Challenge, a new generation of inspired, well-networked social entrepreneurs will emerge and take a shot at realizing their solutions to the challenges of their communities.

No generation has been under such compelling pressure to change the way we live and work as much as the current generation. The deep flaws in established economic and social structures have been revealed in unprecedented events and circumstances capturing the attention of people everywhere.

We have to try something new. We have to try to make new things work. And we have to do it together, as a community.

Because the world needs more than one superhero.

Manmeet Mehta is a Program Officer at GlobalGiving.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Dennis & Mari

Imagine our surprise this morning when, fresh off the plane from the Skoll Oxford Centre’s conference in the UK, our founders gathered the team here at GlobalGiving and let us know that they had made a decision to return to the World Bank, where they will be leading two separate, but related new departments. Dennis will be taking on the role of Director of the Strategic Longitude Office (“SLO”) and Mari will be VIce President of the Semi-Technical Evaluation And Dissemination Institute (“STEADI”)

After pouring seven years of blood, sweat and tears into solidifying GlobalGiving as a viable and successful online marketplace, Mari told us, ” The work of social entrepreneurship is hard. It’s time for the younger members of the team to take up the mantle and figure it out. And the opportunity to return to the structured, top-down, environment of the Bank was one we couldn’t pass up.” Dennis was overheard whispering, “I can’t wait to get a secretary again…enough of the Best Western Inn and doing my own expense accounts.”

A World Bank press release quoted Dennis as saying, “Doing something innovative and in the field of disruptive innovation is highly overrated. It turns out that the crowds aren’t quite as wise as we thought. Mari and I are looking forward to being back in an environment where the rules are clear and the work is predictable. The future for us is SLO and STEADI.”

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, (fools).

Women’s Funding Network – Compatriots in Delivering “The Real Deal”

This past week I received a newsletter from our friends at the Women’s Funding Network. Here’s what the lead story said:

Looking for the Real Deal this holiday season? Most of us are. We want something real, something valuable, beautiful, and we want the money we spend and the gifts we give to matter. Women’s Funding Network delivers the Real Deal.

Women’s funds democratize philanthropy. In the U.S., philanthropy was created as a tax incentive so those with means could receive tax deductions for helping those in need. Despite that ideal, 70-90% of tax-deductible gifts in the U.S. end up helping the middle class and the wealthy. Women’s Funding Network is the exact opposite because 80% of our members’ grants go to women living in poverty and those most affected by homelessness, violence and human rights abuses.

These investments result in empowerment for women who build out that progress in stronger families, better communities and hope for the world. That’s genuine philanthropy. We deliver the Real Deal.

It reminded me of a piece published by former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, a couple of months ago. In his blog post (which appeared also as an article in the LA Times, on NPR Marketplace, etc), he pretty much said that it would be more appropriate if only those charitable donations that address the issues connected to poverty received tax-deductibility benefits from the US government. He also goes on to discuss the importance of government funding for programs that give tools to lift people out of poverty…If you read the comments on the blog post you’ll see that he inspired quiet a lot of response – for and against.

Seems most realistic to work under the assumption that the issues that perpetuate poverty – in the US or anywhere in the world – can truly only be addressed with investment both from the “top down” (aka government, multi-lateral organizations, et. al) and from the “bottom up” (e.g., GlobalGiving, DonorsChoose, Kiva, Women’s Funding Network). Neither approach can do it alone, neither is unequivocally better or worse as far as efficacy. Here at GlobalGiving we’ve chosen to build a bottom-up tool, but the recent announcement that funding to the World Bank has increased substantially this round is great news too. (shout out to my former colleague Bob Zoellick!)

Sometimes it’s those art programs that lift a child out of poverty. They could be In NYC or in Rio. To quote a current candidate for whom Mr. Reich worked indirectly, “It takes a village.”

Regardless… Hats off to our partners at WFN, and other GlobalGiving partners around the world, who are “keepin it real.”