Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

I think the first thing the next Evoke needs is clarity. Who is this site for, and what are it's objectives?

As of today, 46% of participants are from the USA - a country which is listed seperately at the top of the 'select a country' thing, so I assume the target market is Americans. This is kind of odd, as the official explanation is:

EVOKE was created by The World Bank Institute as a direct response to African demands – namely, universities’ request to develop ideas to engage students in real world problems and to develop capacities for creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Capacities where? In the USA? Or in Africa, where people probably don't need to be lectured about how many people live on $2 a day.

Is Africa even a place? I'm a Hans Rosling fan and agree with his idea that Africa is a diverse region with diverse problems and diverse solutions. I really don't think Evoke should be promoting the idea of Africa as one place with one set of problems, to be solved by Americans.

There needs to be a clear mission statement, explaining who is expected to participate in the program and what the desired outcome is. My personal belief is that these issues affect everyone, and in today's globalised world everyone has as much to learn - or to contribute - as anyone else, regardless of their origin. But you need to be clear about what you expect people to achieve, so that you don't get hundreds more posts like Samiran Roy's complaint at lack of progress.

Based on the figures available, I am going to venture the opinion that less than 1% of registered agents will complete everything. If the goal is to build capacity, and the tasks are the way we measure success, then the capacity that has been built is a lot less than it could have been. I think part of the problem is the mismatch between players' expectations and the realities of the game.

And, as Julio Cesar Corona Ortega points out, it's not really a game anyway. Not yet. I was skeptical at first about Jane M's theory that gaming can teach people to think like heroes, but I'm starting to believe it. All the complaints and angst are indicative of a deep well of passion and commitment that is waiting to be tapped, and I'm very positive about the future possibilities.

I see the current iteration of Evoke as just the first attempt, a proof of concept that it is possible to mobilise large numbers of people to solve major issues. If the first round of results are not as great as hoped, then we have learned a valuable lesson in how to go about it next time around. As Mike Liman says, "you don't have to get it right, you have to get it going." He also goes on to say "... and the market will give you feedback," which is what is happening now. Instead of b****ing about Evoke's failings, the appropriate response is to become a social innovator and do something about it yourself.

So, Evoke 2.0 should have a greater emphasis on the duty of the individual to take responsibility, take the initiative, take control. This means adding tools and mechanisms to enable people to get things going, and shifting the focus away from 'points farming'.

I've already made a suggestion for a modification to the graphic novel part of the site which is intended to change the reader from a passive participant to an active decision-maker. I hope that Evoke 2.0 will embrace this ethos more fully, instead of giving people a simple 'check for completed task' challenge as at the moment. Points are a powerful motivator, strangely enough, and making the awards system more complex with 'shades of achievement' could transform the experience.

My primary Evokation (I'm submitting more than one.) is a proposal to rebuild the existing site using open-source tools, power it up with all sorts of additional capabilities, and make it available to anyone anywhere. This means that anyone can join after 12 May, there will be a platform to turn ideas into projects-in-progress, and teachers will be able to run cla**** around the Evoke concept. I plan to make the wh*** thing clone-able, so anyone can set up their own site and use it as a base for additional projects of their own, and make everything available in different languages.

Ideally, in my mind, the next iteration of Evoke will be an upgrade to this package, containing all the new missions and capabilities. It can be added to all and any of the Evoke family of sites. If successful, there will be a logistical problem due to the huge amount of evidence to review but that's not my problem. {insert smiley here}

OK, on to the questions asked in the briefing:
  • WHICH great challenges and social problems should the EVOKE Network tackle next?
I believe, based on the evidence submitted, that most people who are attracted to the game already have a grasp of many of the problems. They are more concerned with the HOW, so I would focus on opportunities and core knowledge.

In no particular order:
  1. Open source and collaboration, from video mash-ups and appropedia to Joomla and Open Office. ACT: create or implement something under GPL
  2. Ageing populations and longevity. Lots of good talks on TED.com about technology, but what about demographic and economic impacts?
  3. Basic economics, supply and demand, specialisation vs trying to do everything yourself.
  4. What can we learn from fiction? Describe a message you learned from a book, movie etc. Make a suggestion for a modern parable.
  5. Migration and displacement. Describe, make contact with immigrant community, and imagine yourself settling somewhere else.
  6. People trafficking and slavery.
  7. Black Swans, chaos theory, emergent systems. From Gaia to Google, to 9/11, to Harry Potter, to the financial crisis.
  8. Sovereignty, personal and national, minorities; the UNPO, micronations, charter cities, US 'Indian' sovereignty. Describe one, invent your own, nations in 100 years.
  9. Mega-corps, power of capital, corporate responsibility, Johnson & Johnson credo vs Enron.
  10. Hidden costs - get people to look deeper. Embedded energy/water, etc.
  11. Different forms of democracy, government: voting systems, monarchies, meritocracy, famous dictators good and bad. Describe one different from your own, propose changes to some system and HOW, and imagine global governance in 10 or 100 years.
  12. Mindshare, memes, the battle for ideas. Design a marketing campaign.
  13. How to fund a project: government, NGO, donations vs profit. Identify a source of funding, write a short proposal (practise Evokation), imagine outcome in ten years.
  14. Violence and coercion: emotional, verbal, physical and ways to break the cycle. Language, peer pressure, dependence, power relationships between subject/object.
  • WHERE in the world should the network try to build up new EVOKE communities?
NOT the USA. Growth will happen there anyway, with the result that one cultural perspective becomes dominant. this natural growth should be balanced by cultivating representative communities, eg pick:
  1. one arabic country
  2. one expatriate community
  3. one engineering association
  4. and maybe try and find an MNC or two that will give staff time off to participate as part of their corporate social responsibilitystrategy.
  • WHO would you encourage to play Season 2?
  1. All the people who signed upfor season 1, but didn't do anything. Start by asking them why, and what do we have to do to re-inspire them.
  2. Schools and universities
  3. As above, major multi-nationals that can also provide sponsorship.
  • HOW would you change the game for Season 2?
I will start by redesigning and relaunching season 1, and use the feedback to modify season 2 after that. See my post about Evoke 1.5
  • WHAT new tools would you want as an EVOKE agent?
project management, ushahidi, an advertising board, general forum, wiki, multi-language support
  • WHY would you come back for a second Season? What more would you want from the experience?

I might ask why Evoke wants me back! Is this an advanced course for those who graduated season 1? There won't be many of us. Or is it to be pitched at the same level as season 1, for all the people who are not currently your customers? If the latter, then perhaps the season 1 graduates should be invited back in a community leader role instead? Having a hundred people to help the newbies would be a tremendous asset, and having a medal proclaiming "Alchemy's little helper" would be more motivational than any number of power points.

Views: 18

Comment by Chris Ke Sihai on May 9, 2010 at 3:23pm
Cheers! Yup, I agree that the outcome is not necessarily bad - only that 1% of people completing all missions and quests is a fairly small number. If you want to attract people then you have to make success attainable for them. (I got that from Jane's TED speech.)

There's an issue somewhere with the design, or maybe with the marketing attracting the wrong people. There need to be more interim rewards. (But having said that, I must say that I was quite obsessed by how many points I had until I passed 200. I saw a lot of comments to the effect that "I'll never catch up with the power players" from others though.) I don't think Evoke can be all things to all people, hence the need to be clearer about who they're building it for.

Of course, once you go open-source, it becomes possible for variants to appear and you might get 'game-masters' writing their own content. If the WBI took over the role of 'approved content moderator' then you could see a network of customised social innovation platforms appearing.

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