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Knight Foundation Macon Money Case Study - June 2011 Games for Change
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Knight Foundation Macon Money Case Study - June 2011 Games for Change

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Knight Foundation Case study presentation of Macon Money game and preliminary findings at Games for Change 2011. More information on the game and future evaluation updates can be found at …

Knight Foundation Case study presentation of Macon Money game and preliminary findings at Games for Change 2011. More information on the game and future evaluation updates can be found at www.KnightFoundation.org search for "macon money"


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  • Case study presented by Area/Code and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at the 2011 Games for Change Conference in NYC, NY
  • Knight is proud to sponsor Games for Change and to be in the company of some of the best of the best in the social impact games field, such as iCivics, EnerCities, at-Risk, and supporters the MacArthur Foundation, and AMD FoundationThis panel was presented by Jessica Goldfin, Special Assistant to the CEO, Knight Foundation; Mayur Patel, Vice President of Assessment, Knight Foundations; Beverly Blake, Program Director for Macon, GA, Knight Foundatoi; and Kati London, formerly Vice President and Senior Producer at Area/Code, now the Director of Product for Zynga, New York.Knight promotes informed and engaged communities by supporting innovative approaches and identifying critical opportunities.Knight has been applying game mechanics in its grantmaking for over five years by creating contests like the Knight News Challenge and the Knight Community Information Challenge; by creating the Knight News Game Awards; and by using games as a catalyst for social change by funding two games, Battlestorm and Macon Money
  • Knight established an Advisory Board to consult on the new games initiative from soup to nuts – from grant development through the game evaluation design and process. For each game, there was also a community advisory board to represent the perspective of the community
  • Knight funded two real-world, social impact games. Why not digital games? Because many funders are already experimenting with digital games and learning and they have been able to chart the impact of those strategies. But the field of real-world social impact games is much less studied so the foundation saw an opportunity to advance the field.Knight decided to work in two communities that were part of the foundation’s previous initiatives: Biloxi, Mississippi, and Macon, Georgia. There were already committed partners on the ground in both places.In Biloxi, Knight funded Battlestorm, an innovative game (part freeze-tag, part capture the flag) that taps into the Gulf Region’s Boys and Girls Clubs to engage kids and their families in a competitive tournament where knowledge about preparing for Hurricanes is the key to winning. The tournament was so successful that five Boys and Girls Clubs are set to continue the game throughout hurricane season. Others are considering modifying the game mechanics and applying the game to more general disaster preparedness.
  • In Macon, Knight funded Macon Money. The foundation partnered with local organizations, the city, businesses and residents on a game that fosters connections between people and with local businesses by creating a new currency for players to spend locally.
  • With Macon Money, Knight wanted to explore a number of key concepts
  • These quick stats hide the fact that for Knight, Area/Code and the community partners on the ground, there was an intensive development process for designing the game that started by understanding the community.
  • Tapping into Community Momentum in Macon
  • It’s the character of Macon that really set the tone for community engagement and made this project a possibility from the start.Like many cities in the US, Macon had gone through 40 years of declineIn March 2008, Knight gave Macon a $250,000 planning grant to engage community residents in creating the College Hill Corridor Master Plan to create "a physical, cultural and social path to connect Mercer University and Downtown Macon. In 2008-2009, they held focus groups and town hall meetings.  In February 2009, the community-driven College Hill Corridor Master Plan was published and adopted.In June 2009, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded a $5 million grant for revitalizing the College Hill Corridor. The grant included $3 million to the Community Foundation of Central Georgia to fund residents' best ideas for transforming the neighborhood and $2 million to Mercer University to form the College Hill Alliance.When Knight decided to pilot using games as a strategy for social change, Macon had great partners on the ground and the momentum for change was there.
  • Community Advisory Board represented the communityArea/Code took the time to immerse themselves in the city and get a solid understanding of its strengths and weaknessesThey talked to people, and, they even took in Drag Queen Bingo at a local nightspot! They incorporated the colors, images and history of Macon into the game products so that the game was OF Macon, and became a part of the community.For example, you’ll see Otis Redding’s face on the Macon Money bills. Otis Redding moved to Macon when he was five years old.He sang in a city church choir and as a teenager won the talent show at the Douglass Theatre for fifteen weeks in a row.One of the main designs on the game’s bills and website (the four orange circles that you can see repeated) came from the logo of the College Hill Alliance, a key community partner whose design is used in community revitalization projects around the city. The bike rack pictured here is just one example. Macon Money was completely integrated into the overall strategy for the College Hill Corridor
  • Tapping into Community Character
  • About Area/Code (nowZynga NY)
  • There was an intensive research process that generated the idea that local currency was a shared pivot point between communities.There were challenges in balancing all partners while gaining the wisdom from each partnerWanted players to experience that the energy and cohesion in town are on the rise, and that culture is vibrant.
  • Where: The College Hill Corridor, Downtown Macon and surrounding neighborhoods
  • How to reach them: Tap into existing local networks, events and Facebook
  • What We can do
  • Talk about how the game mechanics designed for Macon Money attempted to achieve the goals they set out for the game.Play embedded video of Macon Money
  • Players spend of Increase their social currency to generate a local currency
  • Local currency became part of the community
  • People connected on Facebook, on web forums and at in-person events. These slides show a typical Facebook interaction.Area/Code did real-time monitoring of the game to help track how businesses adapted to having the game in their community
  • Game play
  • Game play
  • Impact – What they data says so far
  • Knight wanted to combine a comprehensive assessment with a way to communicate what they learned to inform the field in real-timeSelected Cause Communications, which has experience in strategic communications, network analysis and both program and communications evaluation; and Network Impact, Inc., a research firm led by a social anthropologist who is an expert in network theory.Knight is planning to publish the findings at various stages in the evaluation process in an accessible way through data visualizations and graphics
  • We’re evaluating the real-world, social impact games that we’ve funded so that we can test hypotheses about social and behavioral change, and so that we can share what worked and what didn’t work.We’re currently in the middle of our evaluation, but we wanted to talk about what we’re finding. This fall, we’re doing extensive surveys and interviews and will be able to give a comprehensive picture of the impact of the gameWe are asking a number of core questions in our assessment of Macon Money:What changes in knowledge, attitudes and behavior prompted by the game? For example, did the game break down barriers between participants, or open new lines of communications? Were Maconites exposed to new local businesses?What’s the broader impact of the game on non-participants? Do players communicate concepts from the game or new connections made through the game through their social networks to potentially spread those concepts?What is the role of community partners in development and implementation? And, what is their role in sustaining elements of the game after it finishes?
  • Knight had some broader hypotheses to test, such as whether the game will be able to tap into what s referred to as “the strength of weak ties”Weak ties to people outside our core networks can often serve as conduits for new ideas, information and new connections. The concept of using weak ties comes from Mark Granovetter. In research in Boston in the 1970’s, Granovetter found that over 80% of job-seekers found a job through a contact that was only an acquaintance, or someone with whom they did not have a close relationship. He found that these acquaintances, or weak ties, were more likely to be bridges to outside networks and to provide access to new ideas and information. He also suggested that social systems without weak ties would be fragmented because new ideas would spread slowly and groups separated by race, ethnicity or geography would not have the same access to information. Today, the fast pace of information flow in social media is a great example of how we can be exposed to ideas from acquaintances, or friends of friendsInitial findings suggest that the game was not as effective at tapping into weak ties as we thoughtTo really probe this idea, Knight is documenting the number and quality of connections that players make to businesses and each otherEarly qualitative analysis suggests that if the game mechanics were modified to include another interim step to reinforce connections made between players, this could change
  • This data visualization shows the connections being made between people in the game’s three zip codes looked like with preliminary data over the first 6 months of the game. This is only preliminary data and the timeline only runs from the beginning of the game through mid-April. The final date to spend Macon Money bills was June 15th, so we’ll have two more months of data will still come in. Players participated from three zip codes, and as each player makes a match, either with someone in their own zip code or in another, their names appear, and a dot appears in their zip code. The zip codes have different demographic characteristics:31207 (Mercer College) has a population of 3477, and is 50% White, 46.8% AA, and 2% Asian. Income data is skewed by the student population.31204 has a population of 36,112, and is only 35.7% White, 60.4% AA, with very small percentages of American Indian and Asian. Families below poverty level 19%/ Individual below 23%31201 has a population of 7,186, and is 35.2% White, 58.6% AA, with very small percentages of American Indian, Asian, Mixed race and Hispanic/Latino. Families below poverty level 40%/Individuals below 42%
  • In its first year, another initiative of the foundation, the Soul of the Community Initiative, compared residents’ attachment level to the GDP growth in 6 communities over the past five years. The findings showed a significant correlation between community attachment and economic growth. The second year reinforced these findings, and in the third year of the study, researchers found that cities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rate of GDP growth.To test if Macon Money was able to help catalyze this process, Knight is conducting baseline and follow-up surveys, and interviews with players and businesses to help gauge impact
  • This map shows an overview of the economic impact of the game. Again this is only preliminary data – $65,000 was actually distributed overall.Of the 41 businesses that participated, there were 13 that did not receive any Macon Money. However, the flip side of this was that the top-earning businesses saw significant earnings. Two of the top three earners are located near Mercer University, and those two alone accounted for more than 30% of all earnings by the beginning of May.We’ll be interviewing both businesses that did, and did not, participate in the game in the coming months to get a better sense of what participating in the game meant to them. We know that many businesses began to hold community events as part of the game, and, as Jess can tell you more about, many are actively participating in shaping the next round of the game.
  • Key Preliminary Findings – process data*Players used social networks (offline and online to engage others in game)*Game leveraged community events *Businesses adapted to having the game in their retail environment
  • Key Takeaways
  • Game will continue for another cycleHere are a few of our core takeaways about the experience of working across three different sectors toward a common goalA solid grounding in community was the glue that held the project togetherBy watching the progression of the game and by working with our assessment team during implementation, we were able to make changes to the game based on unanticipated circumstancesThe only way to ensure the sustainability of a game is to help the community you are working with, and other communities, make it their own. That may mean that the game is replicated, or that it evolves to meet the scale and needs of a different environment. But providing the basic mechanics, incorporating assessment findings, and providing documentation on how to play, you give others the opportunity to improve on what you’ve started.For those of you who want more, we will be doing a demonstration of how the mechanics behind Macon Money can be replicated and changed for new games to facilitate networking and connections, check out Stakehold’Em at G4C and thewww.maconmoney.org website for more on bring Macon Money to your community.
  • Questions
  • Transcript