Women's Earth & Climate Action Network, International
The Women's Earth & Climate Action Network is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. For Our Earth and Future Generations A project of Women's Earth and Climate Caucus and its partner eraGlobal Alliance
« Stories, Media and Messaging -- Communicating Climate Change, Solutions and New Cultural Narratives

Examining the Potential of Citizen-Sourcing for Deliberating Sustainable Futures in Online Contexts

Started by: efalc


Examining the Potential of Citizen-Sourcing for Deliberating Sustainable Futures in Online Contexts

Applying gamification to the WECAN Solutions Forum could inspire more citizen-sourcing and more deliberation on the solutions for a more sustainable future. Gamification is defined by Gartner as “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” (Burke, 2013, p. 6). This can include elements such as points and badges, story line, smartphones and computers, and behavior changes and goal achievement.

Examples of successful gamification on the topic of sustainability:

World Without Oil [www.worldwithoutoil.org] - multi-user alternate reality game (ARG) engaging 1000+ players in a simulation of an international oil crisis provoking both real life behavior changes and citizen-blogging to flesh out the story line

Recyclemania 3R Actions [www.recyclemania.org]  - earn points for your school team by reducing, reusing, and recycling and sharing your actions in a social media app called myActions

Recyclebank [www.recyclebank.com ] - earn points and rewards for green living on the website or app and link your account to Facebook

If WECAN applies Brian Burke’s (2013) gamify model:

1. Goals and success metrics

To increase contributors/contributions 50% to the WECAN solutions forum in 12 months

To increase engagement 50% through feedback in the form of comments on those contributions


2. Target Audience

Environmental activists are often leaders of environmental organizations, educators, and/or involved in land-management, environmental design, and ecology. They revere nature and often feel interdependent with nature. They have care and concern for the next generation. Their identities tend to be mature, and nature is central to their self-identity. They have often been members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Youth Conservation Corps, or had other positive childhood experiences in nature that created a bond. A child might have grown up with a spiritual understanding of their environment (the mountain as protector or the river as giver of life), or, they experienced a great loss of a natural place, which influences them to believe in their moral obligation to protect nature (Matsuba & Pratt, 2013). They tend to be well educated and skeptical of the materialism of a so-called market economy (Kvaløy, Finseraas, & Listhaug, 2012). Some are “students and young adults with a strong anti-consumerist ethic, for whom environmental activism is a large part of their daily life” (Connor, 2012, p. 233).

They are also independent activists and innovators seeking connections and affirmation. Some are “younger, well educated and oriented to market-based solutions to climate change” (Connor, 2012, p. 233).


3. Player Goals


To share knowledge to increase sustainability now and for future generations


To receive intrinsic rewards (increased self-esteem, friendship, empowerment)


To receive extrinsic rewards (recognition, notoriety, business connections, external funding, etc.).


4. Player engagement


Revising the forum through gamification, its future participants are the players in this solution. These continuums express desired levels of player engagement (Burke, 2013):


Collaborative --o---------Competitive


        Intrinsic ---o--------Extrinsic


   Multiplayer ----o-------Solitary


   Campaign --------o---Endless


   Emergent ----o------- Scripted


The forum primarily offers intrinsic rewards, but some extrinsic rewards could be added to the forum, such as reduced fees at conferences.


The forum needs to be more multiplayer, encouraging dialog, not as solitary as it feels now.


The forum is an endless project, not a limited campaign. Thus, without due dates it needs other motivators.


The forum is definitely emergent, not scripted, but all the postings are categorized into eight topics.


5. Create the play space and player journey


Add on-boarding guidelines to the forum. Improve by asking people to tell a story about an early experience or impactful experience that they had in regards to the environment.  Encourage more participation by adding a way for players to star top ideas to help cultivate attention towards those ideas most worthy of sharing.


Create a space for reverence. These are folks who thrive on a challenge, who face a deep fear of being on the brink of an environmental collapse. Encourage video blogging and slide shows to evoke curiosity and awe (McGonigal, 2011).


6. Create the game economy


Expect interdependence of the participants. Offer an award, in the form of badges, for performing tasks and achieving goals.  Provide a path. First, post at least 1 comment to gain an Earthling badge and open the door to posting your own idea. Then, post your idea to gain an appropriate badge related to your posting such as Guardian (peaceful warrior protecting resources), Saver (reusing, recycling, conserving energy), Sustainer (sustainable gardening, farming, harvesting), Forester (manager of resources & policies), Advocate (governing & community activism), Innovator (innovating new technologies and forms of communication). Then, you get new badges, Cultivator (supporting, fertilizing new ideas), when you invite others to add to the solutions forum, and Nurturer for frequent commentator.  Adding video or slideshows to your post gives you an Imager (photography/videography) badge.


The game economy should also include ways to get social capital and self-esteem through recognition on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Players need to link back to their local network through social media where environmental groups like Rising Tide tend to focus their efforts. Their local networks will see their badges earned. WECAN also needs to maintain their presence in social media with frequent blogging that highlights forum solutions.


7. Play and Test and Iterate

Game creators should be sure to create an avenue for feedback so the pilot group of players can tell developers what is or is not working for them. Check back in 3, 6, 9, and 12 months to check levels of engagement.



Reasons for working in this topic, project or business:

The aims of the knowledge base is to build on the power of the people, share innovative ideas, and inspire more civic action. The process supports open communication and elements of participative democracy including deliberation on the commons and elements of citizen-sourcing (Falc, 2013; Gastil, 2008).

Problems with the campaign:

  • Few contributors (about 80 unique postings)
  • Fewer engagement (few comments provided to those who do post)
  • Lack of clear motivators (no deadline, no rewards offered)

Specific needs and/or support requests:

Is this a feasible solution? Will it promote proper use of the solutions forum? Can it be easily adopted? Let me know what you think in the space below.

Suggested best local solution for this topic:

See also my conference poster at https://theieca.org/conference/coce-2015-boulder/abstracts


You must be logged in to post comments. Login now.

Jodi Cohen posted

Great idea. Always best to learn through play.

meg heitz posted

Nice to meet you and good luck with your project.