27 May 2013

Avoiding Gamification Failure

The pitfalls of implementing game mechanics

The usage of gamification has become widespread among businesses and organizations. The implementation of game mechanics in a non-game context is said to boost employee and customer motivation as well as their engagement. However, applying gamification successfully within your organization is not that straightforward. That is to say, just blindly adding game mechanics to your company’s application or website is probably not going to render the results that you are looking for. It is even predicted that 80% of the current gamified applications will fall short of their intended objectives by 2014. This raises the question what the underlying reason is and what can to done to avoid gamification failure. 

The starting point of any organization or company should be that the objective comes first and that gamification can merely be used to more effectively reach that objective. Thus, gamification is a mean and not an end and will therefore not fix all your organization’s challenges if you have an unclear objective or a poorly designed platform to begin with. Is it therefore not gamification itself that does not work, but a poor designing process that is unsupportive of your goals, which can have adverse effects on your organization. Therefore, identifying the specific goals you want gamification to support is the first and most important step to take.

Once you have clearly set your goals, there are a few other important things to take into account when implementing gamification. Knowing your audience is one of these. If you have a clear picture of for whom you are designing, it will result in higher effectiveness. Another crucial point is that organizations often focus too much on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leader boards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy. Although the obvious game mechanics are important, they do not necessarily engage your target audience. They just constitute the tools that implement the underlying engagement models. Next to this, point economies should have assigned values. This means that the points that users acquire should be redeemable to either virtual or physical prices. Just collecting points will not produce high levels of gamified experience. Finally, it’s important to extend your gamified experience to multiple platforms. That is to say, included mobile devices and social media, as sharing people’s achievements online creates a higher level of gamified experience.

i-kifu holds that gamification could be an essential asset for its platform, but as stated above, it is aware of the possible pitfalls of a gamified experience. Acquiring a good picture of the target audience and design the gamification elements accordingly is therefore and important issue that i-kifu needs to address. As for the game mechanics, i-kifu has implemented a bono-point system, by which people can gain points for contributions they make to NPO projects. Based on these points they are ranked on a leader board. Although these basic game mechanics are in place, i-kifu needs to make these aspects more engaging in the sense that the point system needs to be linked to an actual value system. This is something that needs to be developed further in order to increase the gamified experience of the donors.

20 May 2013

A Social Justice Lens to Philanthropy

Why all NPOs should use it

When nonprofit organizations engage in philanthropy they usually receive positive responses from society. The philanthropic activities of these organizations are said to contribute to the social good and benefit the communities they intend to support. However, recent studies have shown that the current top-down approach to strategic philanthropy limits its overall effectiveness, leading to a widening disparity between the amount of money invested in communities and what is actually being accomplished. That is to say, NPOs that simply donate money are actually very disconnected from the communities they intend to support. In addition, their solutions are often short-term focused and could be a lot more effective. What these NPOs need to realize is that their approach falls short in a crucial field, namely that of social justice. They need to apply what has been referred to as a ‘social justice lens’.

Often NPOs have good intentions, but their linear, top-down approaches have often proven ineffective. Instead NPOs should follow a bottom-up approach by placing the needs of the communities as their starting point and design their projects based on these needs. This also relates to the notion of human-centered design on which I have made a previous blog post. Looking at the needs of communities this way is through the above mentioned social justice lens. Social justice implies that NPOs aim to generate radical changes in the existing power structures between donors and communities. The communities should not only be given (financial) support, but mainly the means they need to break free from the traditional relationship with their NPOs. That is to say, in the future they will not need the support of NPOs anymore, because social justice philanthropy has made them independent from NPO support. This focus on social justice will generate better structural long-term solutions for communities and ensures that the money that is donated to the projects is more effectively allocated to the intended purposes. It is thus essential that the technocratic view of social change be replaced by social justice philanthropy.

i-kifu recognizes the significance of a social justice lens in terms of NPOs trying to support communities. Therefore, i-kifu tries to select NPOs that use a bottom-up social justice approach to their projects. That is to say, they are screened by i-kifu if their activities effectively contribute to the long-term social good, and the NPOs are also obliged to post monthly activities reports for their donors. Structural changes are ultimately what communities are helped by the most, as this actually helps them to become self-supporting in the future.  


13 May 2013

A visit to Refugees International Japan: ikifu interviews Jane Best

Statistics in 2010 show that 43 million people around the world are displaced from their homes. War, racism, injustice and discrimination are some of the many reasons why each of the people who find themselves in this situation have been forced to leave their homes.

A vast majority of the refugees remain within the region of their origin, and they are often forced to remain in countries which are poorly equipped to provide them with the required assistance needed.

We were fortunate enough to meet with Jane Best, the CEO of Refugees International Japan (RIJ), an organization supporting refugees all over the world. Currently ikifu showcases two of RIJ’s projects, so we jumped on the opportunity to interview with Jane Best.

Watch the interview with Jane Best:

In their 30 year history, Refugees International Japan has raised over US 7 million to help support projects in almost all regions of the world.

In order to become a successful NPO, you have to provide donors with as much information as possible.  Transparency is vital, according to Jane. They frequently receive reports from the projects they support allowing interested donors to easily access all up-to-date information. RIJ has a close relationship with the supported projects and often visit the affected areas to ensure that the donations are distributed where help is needed the most. Some of the most recent visited regions are Uganda, Lebanon and South Sudan.

The RIJ staff consists only of volunteers. The picture below shows some of the volunteers who help out at the office.Currently they are working on selling greeting cards to raise additional funds for some of RIJ’s ongoing projects.

The Greetings card group has been producing and selling the beautiful selections of cards for 30 years. Every year, artists and museums generously donate their work for the card designs. Paper companies kindly donate their products and volunteer designers assist the team with production. Here you can see some of the motifs they are choosing from at the moment.

Currently on i-kifu we display their projects “Building eye Care Clinics for refugees in Chad and “Providing Baby kits to Burmese mothers in IDP camps.”

RIJ has visited the Burmese IDP camps several times and provided them with baby kits that are sometimes life savers for newborn babies. Jane tells us that their help has been highly appreciated by the women there. She remembers a woman saying “It is nice to know that someone in Japan cares”.

There are more forcibly displaced people today than ever before and RIJ is the right organization to support if you want to make a difference for them. It is rare that a small organization like RIJ gets recognition in the corporate world, but this organization has positive collaborations with companies such as Shell and Virgin Atlantic. They have managed to build up their trust because they can get close up to the refugees in affected areas and they can show donors what difference their contribution is making. Just like i-kifu, they strongly believe that one person can make a change.

Visit Refugee International Japan’s project page on i-kifu to learn more about the organization and find out how you can help.

Ann, Admin and Jason
Interns at i-kifu

07 May 2013

The Evolution of NPO – Business Collaboration

Three Stages of Strategic Partnership

Over the past few years the realization that strong collaboration between NPOs and businesses is essential has become more and more widespread. This can partially be attributed to the fact that society is becoming increasingly interdependent. That is to say, the collaboration between NPOs, corporations and governments has intensified and this trend is currently perpetuating. At the same time, governments are often faced with forced privatizations and downsizing due to fiscal pressures. Hence, more and more activities are outsourced from the public to the private sector and this demands closer NPO – business collaboration. Hence, the search for more effective organizational approaches is bringing NPOs and businesses together. This increased collaboration can be categorized into three different stages: the philanthropic, transactional, and integrative stage.

Currently, most NPO – business relationships are still in the first philanthropic stage. In this stage the nature of the relationship is largely that of charitable donor and recipient. This implies that the level of engagement between the two parties is still relatively low and that the number of activities is rather small. Although most current partnerships can be categorized as philanthropic, increasing numbers are moving towards the next level, that of the transactional stage. In this stage there are explicit resource exchanges focused on specific activities, such as events sponsorships and cause-related marketing. This renders the level of engagement significantly higher and ensures a more common mission objective. The final stage, that of integrative collaboration, implies that the missions, people and activities of the two parties begin to merge into extensive collective action and organizational integration. This stage can be compared to a joint venture and represents the highest strategic level of collaboration. Although not many relationships between NPOs and businesses can currently be categorized this way, a lot of strategic partnerships have stated that this stage would be most beneficial and that they are interested in exploring the possibilities.

i-kifu currently has strategic partnerships with 7 corporations, which would currently be classified as the first philanthropic stage. That is to say, strategic cooperation between i-kifu and its partners is still in the initial stage and the magnitude of shared resources is not that extensive. This renders the level of engagement relatively low, which means that there are still of lot of opportunities for i-kifu to extend its partnerships with corporations. If i-kifu were to pursue a more integrative approach with its sponsoring corporations, the shared resources could potentially render higher effectiveness in terms of shared mission objectives. The challenge is to build a framework with corporations from which a common mission can be formed. If i-kifu and the its affiliated corporations were to find clear shared objectives, the results of their contributions to the social good are likely to have a much larger positive impact.

02 May 2013

Profiting from Corporate Social Responsibility

The link between corporate citizenship and a sustainable business

There has been a lot written about corporate social responsibility (CSR), sometimes referred to as corporate citizenship, and what its effects are on corporations and societies. As society becomes increasingly critical of business activities, corporations realize that they need to aim to improve the responsibility of their actions, and ensure that they have a positive impact on the environment and civil society through their activities. In general, most managers and executives believe that engaging in CSR renders positive results for their business, but few are aware of the research that has been conducted on this topic and what the exact effects actually are. One of the reasons why the effects of CSR tend to remain in a somewhat grey area is that they are rather indirect, intangible and therefore hard to measure. Regardless of this uncertainty, a positive effect of CSR that has been increasingly agreed upon within the business world is profit increase.

So how does the connection between CSR and profit work? It is important to realize that CSR is in itself an effect of societal pressures. That is to say, it is the public that demands a corporation start contributing to the common good through its business activities instead of aiming solely for personal gain. Thus, if a corporation starts to engage in CSR, it will receive positive responses from society. Over time, these positive responses render more respect for a particular corporation and simultaneously boosts its public image. In turn, this can generate increased customer loyalty, which benefits company sales and revenues. A strong image and a high rate of customer loyalty can therefore positively affect a corporation’s profitability and sustainability. Hence, although in the short run the effects may be hard to measure, CSR will eventually have a clear positive impact in the long run, as well as in terms of profit.

NPOs can pick up on the fact that corporations are becoming increasingly aware of the multiple benefits of engaging in CSR activities, and pursue a mutual cooperative framework between the for-profit and the not-for-profit sector. Engaging in such cooperation will result in benefits for both parties. That is to say, corporations improve their corporate image and public respect, while simultaneously increasing their profit in the long-term. As for the NPOs, they can acquire more and larger funds, which results in the fact that more money goes to the existing projects and that more new projects can be set up. The corporations are thus sponsoring the NPOs, and acquire a social return on their investment in the long-term.

This is where a donation platform like i-kifu can come into play. Many corporations will look for ways they can contribute to the social good, but in doing so will confront a vast number of options. Choosing the right activities can therefore be both a difficult and time-consuming process. As i-kifu already constitutes an interactive platform with various clearly presented projects, corporations can easily partner up with i-kifu and start their CSR activities. In the process of linking corporations to i-kifu, it is important to highlight that engaging in CSR does not only generate positive societal responses, but also indirectly contributes to the profitability of a corporation in the long run.