Design Question

How might we use gamification to help NGOs engage donors living in Western countries, to support HIV-AIDS prevention campaigns in Sub-Saharan Africa?

Game Concept Description

Know-School is a gamified mobile-based solution that connects young girls in Sub-Saharan African schools with ‘Western’ high-school students, who act as micro-tutors. Know-School addresses a key HIV-AIDS prevention strategy: ‘increasing access to school education for young girls’ (AVERT 2017)

Know-School short-circuits issues of donor fatigue, and difficulty of relating to African contexts, by shifting focus from giving money to sharing knowledge and authentic interaction. This enables immediate/direct impact, and builds strong foundations for donation-behaviours.

After a brief induction process, micro-tutors and learners are matched in a secure semi-de-identified mobile environment. Learners ask questions to gain help with school subjects (basic maths, language, science, art…). Micro-tutors give brief responses.

Mobile use/services are well-established in many African countries. Know-School uses gamification elements to engage and motivate both learners and micro-tutors, through feedback, points and recognition. Vicarious pride (teaching) and authentic engagement are also important motivators for micro-tutors.

How the Game Persuades

DeLaHera_Persuasion Model
de la Hera 2014

The game concept was inspired by De la Hera‘s model of persuasion, and serious game design studio Organiq‘s own research.

De la Hera’s model suggests in digital games we can design for persuasion at three levels: signs, system and context.

Organiq propose the ‘first design rule in gamified solution design it to provide Social Status’ (Organiq n.d.).


Principle: Social Status (Organiq)

Micro-tutors earn Kudos (points) for each response given. Learners can award extra Kudos for excellent responses. Learners give feedback through short multi-choice surveys (rating clarity, relevance, timeliness) to help micro-tutors improve. Micro-tutors compare performance against other micro-tutors on a leaderboard (filter results by location, ‘expertise’, number of responses…).

Micro-tutors can ‘ask a friend’ if they don’t know an answer – they’re prompted to categorise the question’s knowledge domain (eg science) and the question is matched to another micro-tutor. Micro-tutors award Kudos to other micro-tutors for helping.

Micro-tutors gain recognition for ‘expertise’ by earning sufficient Kudos in certain knowledge domains. This is displayed on their user-profile, leaderboard and can be shared on social media.

Kudos can be redeemed for real books/stationary sent to their learner through a Scholastic (or similar) partnership.

Participation and positive feedback builds social status, and improves quality of tutoring for learners.

Principle: Narrative Persuasion (de la Hera)

Know-School carefully prepares and pairs learners and micro-tutors through a brief onboarding process, which covers gender and child rights (Unicef 2004), appropriate conduct, and awareness of context in which learners and micro-tutors live and learn.

Micro-tutor and learner have ongoing opportunities to share snippets of information about themselves (through selected prompts/questions – eg my pet’s name, as well as aspirations/goals). This builds a strong and co-created narrative underlying the game experience that improves retention, and helps transcend game boundaries – giving more dimensions to the experience for people to discuss and act upon outside the game (ie discussing with parents, who may in turn donate). This could support affective persuasion too.

Sharing of aspirations will further humanise and connect micro-tutors to the cause. High-school students often have casual jobs so they may even choose to start micro-donation habits immediately, perhaps using micro-saving/investment tools like Acorn.


Principle: Signs (de la Hera)

To avoid intrusiveness, learner-tutor matching will include their expected number of questions/answers per week (giving them control/autonomy). Each time micro-tutors answer a question they are offered a snippet of information. The information aims to build understanding of the learner’s context and HIV-AIDS issues (which may also be relevant to the tutor!). Information will cycle between formats – eg infographic, 30 second video, brief text, photo with a phrase/fact, music clip nominated by learner (through Spotify). They’ll ‘click’ to find out more if they wish. Occasionally they’ll be prompted to review their donation options too.

Micro-tutor’s will view learner’s questions on a background image that shows the learner’s actual (or typical) classroom/school. Micro-tutors will be able to access more information about what it’s like to go to a typical Sub-Saharan African school, where they’ll learn about challenges associated with facilities, resources, sanitation, income/work, conflict etc (with privacy considerations). There could also be equivalent information available for the learner about the micro-tutor’s context.

Header image from here.

This was written as part of an assignment in Serious Gaming by Erasmus University Rotterdam on Coursera. I found it was an excellent course.

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