Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Last week’s spate of strange EVOKING by various players combined with an uptick in my workload gave me a chance to step back a little and think about my own EVOKING. Explaining how I found out about EVOKE and why I began playing may help explain why I plan to keep on “playing”.

I just started a new job this January after graduating in December. I work in a social science lab conducting research on climate change adaptation and resilience in Africa. Our research is participatory, i.e. we work with communities to research themselves on projects they’re interested in, and with the new project I was hired for, anticipatory. Basically, this summer I’ll be helping out with scenario building exercises in rural African communities to help folks prepare for future change. The scenarios will incorporate local changes (ecological and social) that residents have noticed and more local climate change predictions. Some of the outcomes the focus groups will generate with scenarios will be unwanted, others desirable. The point is to help folks figure out how to prepare for the bad changes and bring about desired changes. I’ll also be doing some activities designed to develop indigenous knowledge in the communities through participatory environmental monitoring. I’m not telling you all this to brag. I’m telling you, so you get a sense of who I am and why I EVOKE.


So my supervisor calls me into her office and tells me about this EVOKE thing. She asks me to participate and learn about EVOKE and see if there is anything we could use in our work in Africa and the US. Alchemy called 3 March 2010. And the rest, as they say, is history.


One of the project’s goals in our research lab is to develop final products like games and scenario building exercises that provide people a space to explore new possibilities and ideas in a low risk environment. In EVOKE, we’re not going to starve if we make a mistake. Unlike a farmer who might try a new crop only to have it fail because of drought or flood or a poor market demand. Ultimately, we’d like to develop some sort of game or activity that helps people build adaptive capacity and resilience for climate change. Climate change will affect food and water supply, energy, population, biodiversity,… everything. Even if we manage to reduce atmospheric contributions, the momentum that is building now is going to impact all facets of life on Earth before it slows and reverses, and we are just not preparing fast enough.


So I started playing to learn how EVOKE worked and what the game's advantages and disadvantages were. But along the way I met a wh*** lot of folks that really were interested in changing things up, improving living conditions for people they have never met and people they know well. We’re building a shadow network to use the correct resilience framework term. Shadow networks are informal, fast-moving and work outside the official institutions like governments to instigate change. That made even the most cynical part of me warm and fuzzy. So I will keep “playing” because of the amazing people I have been privileged to meet here in EVOKE. I hope that we keep working when the EVOKE ends.


I will also keep “playing” because of all the cool information and ideas people are sharing. I don’t have time to keep up with everything. And in the past 2 years, I’ve been dissertating so I ate, breathed and slept only my own research. Having a resource like EVOKE, the research librarians that are offering their time and skills (thanks!), and the folks who have set up wikis to store everything in perpetuity is one of the bestest, coolest things.


Lastly, I believe the missions and quests Alchemy and the EVOKE crew provide are good at helping us focus our ideas about who we are, where we see ourselves in 10 years, and what we might do to get from now to 2020. It is a very enjoyable scenario building, adaptive capacity building and resilience building process they are putting us through. I can peer into others lives through their blogs, photos and videos and maybe see something to spark my own ideas. I can think about what makes my heart beat faster
and would give me a new vision to shoot for. I can connect with others who I can help and who can help me as we all stumble along our journeys. So thank you everyone.


I will continue to “play” although at this point I am going to challenge myself to direct my focus more towards producing evidence directly connected to what I do in real life – so I’m not double working. If you stumble across my posts, comments are greatly appreciated but don’t worry about awarding points. It doesn’t matter. I was and never will be a gamer. In return, I’ll keep reading your evidence and commenting too.




Please read my follow up post to see what I offer to my fellow EVOKE agents.

Views: 34

Comment by Chelsea Howe on March 30, 2010 at 2:43am
It's too bad there's no digital equivalent of a standing ovation.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on March 30, 2010 at 2:55am
I truly appreciate your awareness and ability to offer both yourself and the rest of us clarity about your purpose. Combining your goals for your own work with the process here at Evoke is, hopefully, an ideal way to create something exceptional and new. I'm doing the same, and having amazing results. This place brings in a very different approach to thinking and working, and that's basically a form of triangulation, allowing you to look at your usual problems from some very different vantage points, so that you can see it more wholistically, and be able to understand things more fully.

So, yeah, I'm very glad you're choosing to continue to participate here in whatever manner makes the most sense to you.

And I'm just slightly curious about your shadow network, and the archiving wikis that you mention. I don't think I know about these. (Though I do know about something that has potential to be useful after the game officially ends as a way to keep connecting with others, which is evokeforever.groupsite.com.)
Comment by Jen Shaffer on March 30, 2010 at 3:14am
@Chelsea - Thanks! *blushes beet red from head to toe*

@Turil - Shadow Networks are something I've recently been exposed to at work. They operate outside government and other official institutions although members may well be workers in these places. They act quickly to solve problems and challenge the system - sometimes to the point of revolution. It comes out of resilience work in socio-ecological systems. They can be ecological and/or social.

The archiving wikis are things people have mentioned in emails and whatnot. Actually the link you posted is one of the ones I've noticed.
Comment by Anthony Karanja on March 30, 2010 at 6:17am
Jen the experiences and amount of knowledge shared on this platform cannot be ignored,one way or another we are the change agents that we desire to see.In a broader aspect we all joined EVOKE because we felt the need to make some drastic change in our society and our lives and I believe we should not lose our focus on that.
Comment by Shane M. Wheeler on March 30, 2010 at 6:40am
I give you credit, because I'm honestly not that selfless. While I've focused a lot of my life around trying to become a biologist so I can help create and pioneer technologies to help people, I've often avoided sacrifice in my personal life. I don't know if I have the kind of strength to up and leave behind friends, family, and the small amount of security I've built up to dedicate myself full time to making the world a better place in the places that need it most.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one. This network is an education, exposes people to their strength, their weakness, but at the very least encourages people to do more than they have before. I need encouragement like little rewards, comments, badges, etc. because even tiny little motivators keep me trying, rather than just turning away and turning off to the issues.
Comment by Starling on March 30, 2010 at 6:44am
Awesome. That's inspiring, Jen. Thanks so much for writing that and for getting your clarity.
I've been stuck in writing a thesis the past few years too & I'm just starting to look outwards again - working out what I can do next. This EVOKE thing is helping me exercise my vision.
Comment by Shakwei Mbindyo on March 30, 2010 at 7:19am
+1 Courage. I see Mission 4s London story as well as this weeks proverbs being about shadow networks. We may not have the solution with us but may know someone who knows someone... Many of us (certainly I) use this system everyday. How powerful would it be to use it to solve social challenges big and small?
Comment by PJE on March 30, 2010 at 9:55am
This is a great post. Thank you for letting us see into how more things work.

You write:
I will continue to “play” although at this point I am going to challenge myself to direct my focus more towards producing evidence directly connected to what I do in real life.

Thank you for doing this too. I know you don't need thanks but I offer it because I feel grateful!

It seems that this 'the game' is stepping up and more people will move on to doing and producing more.

People here are starting from such different places and have vastly different skills and experiences. Not a gamer, not young, not invovled with development or climate,not even informed, I can start where I am and go on from there. It is an impossibly great idea that cannot avoid producing positive initiatives, great and small.
Comment by John D. Boyden on March 30, 2010 at 1:35pm
*applause* Your lucidity, identification of foci and the written clairity of what you see Jen is wonderful. It has solidified some ideas that have been bouncing around in my brain pan that I could not quite figure out, or explain to myself. Oh and Chelsea While there may not be a digital equivalent of a standing ovation, you can always add *standing ovation* +1 claity of vision and purpose
Comment by Radhika Darbari on March 30, 2010 at 9:48pm
Jen, This is a great post and I want to say thanks for telling us why you are EVOKING and what you are already doing given the +1 for firstly directly to this post and your collaboration in real life you are doing to make this work and get people started, thinking about what we are facing. I'd love you to as you've joined EvokeForever Groupsite to make post on their of your current team in Africa, love and think all members would agree be good to promote it as sounds great and hopefully help Market what sounds like a great project, getting people both sharing knowledge and interacting. I owe you another +1 Collaboration for fulfilling challenge to a degree though no post mentioning Evokeforever.groupsite.com or fb group, google group this post is promoting its essence..add the links? :-)

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