Video games often get a bad press—for violent, sexist content, or simply for being a virtual playground for couch potatoes.  But what about games as tools for good?

This month saw the launch of Half the sky movement: the game, an innovative social game on Facebook that uses its central character, Radhika, to raise awareness of the challenges faced by women worldwide. Players see through Radhika’s eyes, completing quests based on real-life issues suggested by Half the sky’s charity partners, which include Heifer International and Room to Read.

Using technology to raise awareness in this way is not new—the UN World Food Program created a game about fighting famine in 2005. But Half the sky is perhaps the most ambitious effort to date, with the ability to donate to charity actually built into the game. On finishing a quest, players are given the option to make a real-life donation— linked to the prizes earned by Radhika in the game, such as vaccines or books—to Half the sky’s partners.  In addition, players can donate through the in-game Gift Centre or by purchasing power ups. As they progress through the levels, they unlock larger donations from Half the sky’s corporate partners.

This is part of a wider trend of increased interest in giving methods and how we can innovate in this area. In September 2011, Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, launched the Innovation in Giving Fund, managed by NESTA, which invests in ideas that aim to change the way we give time and money. Ideas funded so far include Guess2Give, an online sweepstake fundraising tool, and timto, a gift service which allows party organisers to add their favourite charity to a gift list

These ideas are especially interesting given the findings of NPC’s recent research into donor motivations, Money for good UK, which found that young people (excluding high-income donors) are more likely to give in response to online prompts, including an organisation’s website (23% against an all-age average of 17%), and social media campaigns (11% compared to 5% on average). While the report found that donors as a whole were less interested in innovation in giving methods, new ideas like  Half the sky may be particularly valuable in reaching these young donors.

Of course, raising funds isn’t Half the sky’s only aim: it hopes to raise awareness of the issues women face around the world (and also to be fun!). But hopefully exciting new ideas like this will help to build a donor base for the future as well as encouraging young people to give now.

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