Africa in Virtual Worlds

…Journal of our Experiences with Social Media and Virtual Worlds to date…

Cory’s Challenge to Second Life – Public Gain or Organisational Loss??

It was with a sense of usual Second Life excitement – that some great new thing is happening! – that Uthango’s representatives attended the recent introduction of the “Second Life and Public Good” Community Challenge” sponsored by the USC Network Culture Project. On 6 May 2008 Cory Ondrejka, a fellow at USC introduced the challenge and we had all our ears open to hear some groundbreaking news on how the McArthur Foundation plans to facilitate the public good application of virtual worlds.

However, the bigger issue here relates to accountability and the credible use of time and resources of an NGO that operates primarily (as it should!) in the real world. Unless we include the pseudo-charities that have sprung up unregulated in Second Life, but seem to have shrunk in numbers over the past year as more legitimate NGOs made their appearances, the organizations spending public funds need to make a serious cost-benefit analysis to make sense of this challenge. It does ‘seem’ like an obvious step for us to participate (at least advocacy-wise), but Uthango is debating this extensively in-house at the moment. Given limited resources (with one executive in-world volunteering 6 hours more a work day and another two staff members in and out on ad hoc basis) and the costs of connectivity, this is not a decision to make quickly – but rather, thoughtfully and in consultation with the community that supports us.

We are glad that there is such initiative and it was certainly embraced by the SL community at the event, and later at the NonProfit Commons meeting, by the organisations represented.

We invite our Second Life Africa members and friends and partners to get in touch and share your thoughts. We have already had some interesting ‘proposals for collaboration’ – some echoing creative earlier ideas that we had, but abandoned due to experience or call it, a ‘reality check’ about the potential of the platform! We will certainly attend the planned information session – which was delightfully enough also quoted in ‘African’ time!

A bit more About the Community Challenge:

We are currently accepting proposals from groups, organizations, or individuals for projects that show how Second Life can enhance, develop, or sustain the public good. The best submissions will be selected based on how well they demonstrate the significance of virtual worlds for making an impact on society or culture.

Up to three finalists will be selected by community vote. The finalists will be provided with a $100,000L per month building stipend (and land, if required) for three months to execute their proposal. The projects will be showcased in Second Life at the State of Play conference to be held in Chicago, October 2008.

Projects may address any social need and could include conservation, human rights and international justice, global peace and security, reproductive health, digital media and learning, or juvenile justice. Proposals should provide a clear description of how the project uses the abilities of Second Life to advance the project goals and should provide clear metrics for assessing the success of the project.

We are not entirely sure if existing projects should be submitted or brand new ideas – maybe those ones that still require funds to see realization? This will be one of the questions that we pose to the organizers.

Your thoughts, welcomed! Watch this space…

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