Africa in Virtual Worlds

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

SongBirdClone’s tune on (not-so-open) spaces for NGOs in Second Life (TM)…

In Second Life (TM) we have the opportunity to liaise with many organizations – this is, after all, WHY we are also in virtual worlds as a fellow nonprofit organization. It is widely acknowledged that one of the greatest value of virtual worlds is in working together. More about this in a follow-up post…

And so I have met SongBirdClone Writer quite a few months ago with this short introduction:

  • [11:25]  Alanagh Recreant: Hi there, please let me introduce myself quickly: I am… the Director of a RL NGO in South Africa. If possible I would love to talk to you when you have a minute – this relate to a conversation I had about charities with Linden Lab…

SongBirdClone is a well-respected real world “conservationist of endangered species and globally imperiled habitats. (She) lives in the USA and is the Founder and Executive Director of  The Habitat Trust for Wildlife and Spirit of the Sage Council”.

A few months later, and last week my friend SongBird appeals to us and copies a letter to CEO of Linden Lab on the latest Opensim issue, and I hear the frustration in her ‘tune’ so clearly:

  • “[15:23]  SongbirdClone Writer: ….. We are very distressed over this LL proposal to raise the tiers on Open Space sim by 333% for nonprofits. Current cost is $37.50 per month and LL is proposing $125. a month.  This is just outrageous and impossible for small nonprofits!!  Please do not raise the costs for nonprofits that have less than 4 sims PLEASE.   I really need to know ASAP what is going to happen for us small nonprofits?   We have paid in advance and I believe that was a contractual agreement?    Besides the excessive increase in costs, how do you expect small nonprofit to pay 6 mos – 1 year in advance at a 333% cost increase?   Is LL trying to get rid of charities in SL??” [15:23]  Second Life: User not online – message will be stored and delivered later”.

Well, UTHANGO just purchased two openspace islands adjacent to Virtual Africa to experiment one step further with sustainable practices for nonprofits in Second Life. We have set out little African safari campsites and prepared ourselves for a break-even to cover the tier fees with limited, wide-spread, low-prim rental spaces: A true virtual wildlife experience!  BUT!! We got the letter a month later (AFTER being pressed to pay 6 months in advance for these sims!) and even BEFORE these new openspace sims opened:  The Linden Lab Conceige Team (always courteous mind you) simply reminded us a few days ago: “Rather than being employed as open areas like ocean with little or no content and traffic, the majority are being rented out to residents looking for a place to live…”  Now, I understand Africa has some water and many open planes – but even for us, it is a tall order to ask a non-profit to put an entire sim to such unsustainable use as NOT to rent it out to residents (really community members) that would like to contribute from the sky campsites (six small ones) to the maintenance of the project. I must be missing some reasoning here…

For now, I shall just say that we will continue to seek sustainable ways to use virtual worlds in/for Africa. This last step makes it a bit more impossible to apply Second Life’s benefits to Bottom-of-the-Pyramid projects – or even, to achieve our dream to revamp Robben Island for intercultural dialogue and exhibition of African best practice projects. But! Yes, we can!  We appeal that the voice of Songwriter Writer and other NGOs and educational institutions be heard loud and clear. There is not ‘abuse’ by these institutions and organisations (I am almost sure) when they seek to recuperate costs. This is important in non-profit work to avoid the ‘black pit of spending without offering value worth paying for (call it social enterprise if you will). BOP principles ask that we cut the margins on profit and achieve mass market absorption – or maybe… this is what being avoided by Linden Lab? Are we being downscaled?  It will be an opportunity lost… This is a time for courage – the type of bold vision of Philip Rosedale and our own co-founder, Erna Sittig about the potential of virtual economies in developing worlds – for generating income. The same regulatory enablers that are necessary for doing business in Africa, are often true for doing business in Second Life – and we sincerely hope that Linden Lab is able to create such enterprising environment by allowing enterprise that are market driven.

“….Some nonprofits will keep Open Space sims and some will embrace the upgrade option.   Raising nonprofit Open Space costs to $75.00 is still a 100% increase.  However, a 333% increase is just plain wrong and greedy.  It’s just too much of a shock and strain on nonprofits”.

We will paste our own stance on this matter within a few days… but for now, we sing to SongBirdClone’s tune in solidarity with her organisation’s plight….

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2 thoughts on “SongBirdClone’s tune on (not-so-open) spaces for NGOs in Second Life (TM)…

  1. Pingback: Virtual Africa: NGOs in Second Life - Appfrica

  2. Update: M Linden posted this letter to residents in Second Life (R) in response to their feedback:

    http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/11/05/a-letter-to-second-life-residents/

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