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cause for conversation

causemedia’s blog on social media for social good.

Alternate Reality Saving Our Reality: What Games Could Mean for Your Cause

Games are not a means of escape. They aren't about living in an alternate reality. Games are about being present in the often painful reality of our world and enabling players to improve that reality. At least that's what the people behind last week's 8th Annual Games for Change Festival believe.

And they have me convinced. At the festival in New York City last week, I learned about a game by the City of New York that promotes designated driving, a Facebook game that explores the future of human rights issues such as race and immigration, a game that's helping smokers quit, a game from Microsoft that gets kids active in their real-life communities. Games can and are making a difference. So what could that mean for your nonprofit?

First, I think it's important to understand that we're entering a decade where gaming is universal, as social is now. The "gamer" stereotype is old news. It's time to accept that the general public--women, kids, businesspeople, whoever--are ready to enter the interactive world of social gaming. Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR talks about the "game layer" in this TED talk:

But Games for Change wasn't about acknowledging the existence of the "game layer" -- the G4C audience was well aware of the prevalence of social gaming today. Rather, Games for Change was about realizing that pairing the right cause with the right game can result in real, sustainable, behavioral and social change. Can't picture a game for your cause? Fear not...Jamison Selby assured us on Festival Day Three that for every cause there's a game and for every game a cause, whether your goal is raising money, increasing awareness, shifting cultural attitudes, or otherwise. Still, amid all these assurances, Charles Tsai points out in his article on Games for Change in the Huffington Post that, "the social sector, as usual, is lagging behind."

Point taken. So, let's continue the conversation of the Games for Change conference -- a conversation between causes, game players, game developers and designers, marketers, educators, and more about games that are changing the world. There's a fantastic archive of the conference conversation, as well as a live dialogue on Twitter at #G4C2011. Here's a sampling of causemedia's voice in that conversation:

Causemedia at Games for Change

You can also watch the Livestream video archive of G4C here and read other blogs on the festival here.

Here at causemedia, we're exploring what games can do for our clients. What game would you ally with your cause? If your nonprofit built a game, what would it look like? What do you think of "gamification" in general? Do you think it could benefit your cause? We want to hear from you! Please post your comments below.

Making Time for Real Time: David Meerman Scott on Causes and Social Media

I'm here at the Games for Change conference in New York and I've noticed a buzz about how to create social change in real time. The people here are real time people, interested in what tech trends can make a difference right now, what causes are trending right now, or simply what's happening on #g4c2011 right now. Real time talk in an atomosphere alive with social change brought me back to a great conversation I had with best-selling author David Meerman Scott on the opportunities real time media presents to causes. In the video above, David talks about why causes and nonprofits should prioritize real time and outlines a few simple ways to integrate social media into everyday practices. I'll leave the details up to David, but here are a few of the tips I found most helpful:


  • Do it right now. Don't wait. By the time legal and PR approve, the conversation has past.
  • Establish guidelines, and then let the people behind your cause join the conversation (because when your real time moment comes, it will be 12am on a weekend).
  • Start with listening: monitor Twitter, monitor blogs, be present in the conversation about your cause.
  • Getting into the real time mindset is like exercise; make time for it, and you'll see results that will keep you going.

Why Blog Now? Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Why Blog Now? We have our reasons. And we want to share them with you.

 Reason: Contribute Something Valuable

There are more than 100 million public blogs out there – what could we possibly have to add to a conversation already crammed with a deafening 100 million voices? For the answer to that question, we turned to our clients. In a series of surveys, we asked them what questions weren’t being answered in their online conversations. The most striking responses came from our friends in the nonprofit world, who said they needed a resource to distill the social media conversation down to the tools that would help them save money and time. So, we set out to answer that question: what are the best tools and strategies to make social media work efficiently and effectively for social good?

Reason: Be a Found Resource

We knew we wanted to be a resource for causes looking to make social media work for social good, but being a resource implies being found. No matter how well you answer your audience’s question, if they can’t find you when they’re asking it, you've lost them. Search engines love fresh, focused content, and we realized that by integrating our blog and our new website to create a “blogsite,” we’d have an opportunity to satisfy search engines’ cravings for relevance. Our search engine optimization began with the following:

  1. We used surveys of our clients and friends to develop a targeted keyword list.
  2. We created a blog that will allow us to deliver fresh, focused, sharable content regularly.
  3. We developed our website with a content management system (CMS), so that new content wasn’t exclusive to our blog.

Our “blogsite” means that we'll have a chance at being heard in the 150M+ blog conversation. More importantly, we organized our search engine optimization around our audience so that we (hopefully) won't just be found – we’ll be found by the right people. 

Reason: An Opportunity to Listen

Creating a website and blog starts and ends with listening. We began by listening for an unanswered question from our clients. We built our blog around answering that question. But in order to continue listening without the formal surveys and questionnaires, we needed to provide an opportunity for user generated content on our website, and a blog that integrates comments and social media gave us that opportunity. We get to throw thoughts and suggestions out there and readers have a chance to ask questions, comment, and challenge us. Social media are perhaps the best places to listen, so we’ve provided tools like the “like” buttons, and we’re welcoming continued conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or all of the above. Bottom line is, we wanted to hear from you, and we hope we’ve created a space for it.