A first of its kind, Catalysts for Change, an innovative and interactive online game, was run by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Institute for the Future last year in the beginning of April. The game prompted participants worldwide to discuss and come up with ways to battle the plentiful issues of poverty. The game itself was designed around four catalysts: new evidence, new capacities, new rules and new stories, all of which contributed to the card-based gaming platform.

Players could share ideas through Positive/Critical imagination cards – these had the potential to be built on by others through Momentum, Antagonism, Investigation and Adaptation cards. Leaderboards were also created, displaying points players had earned through using and gaining said cards. These could furthermore be categorized as Scenario Fail, Common Knowledge or Super Interesting based on the players’ personal perception of presented ideas. Achievements spanning across seven levels, going from Inspired to Legend, were available for unlocking before being recorded in player profiles.  Each card played was then cataloged by category, available for public viewing on a special dashboard.

A game blog recorded all progress and presented new missions and challenges in real time. Two weeks before the actual game start, several preparations were made including social media advertising and buzz-building, recruitment, email exchange between coordinators across the world and various sponsor partnerships which led to further awareness among people. Most follow-up cards played were either Investigation or Momentum; of the top-tier, Critical versus Positive imagination were played, the latter being more than twice as frequent. Around 53% of all cards had follow-up cards attached, spanning overall very optimistic and fruitful discussions. As expected from discussions concerning poverty, themes such as education, work and community were amongst the most common. A few top innovative ideas that were brought up include:

–  Alternative economic systems or a universal currency
–  Empathy, i.e. teaching children from an early age to perceive worldly problems
–  Entrepreneurial education and new business funding as a common endorsement for all
–  Socially engineered ways around corruption
–  Sharing to eliminate waste

Although the aim of the game was not to implement any policy for actual poverty reduction, it managed to fulfill its purpose: to motivate and bring together people in their desire to make a change. Several of the players, engaged among one another, even discussed ways they could contribute beyond playing the game, such as starting a non-profit together centered chiefly around their ideas. The attention on social media (Facebook and Twitter) that Catalysts for Change received helped further spread the cause. Thoughts shared by players are still accessible on the website today, providing ‘food for thought’ for anyone hungry for making a difference. Although the game spanned for only 48 hours, it attracted 1,616 players from 79 different countries who used a total of 18,207 cards.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: The Rockefeller Foundation: Catalysts for Change, Institute for the Future
Photo: Vimeo