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Empowering Youth for climate and social change through an interactive game. #Youthaction #pursuit #planetearth



Who am I?

My name is Braeden Miguel. I am about to begin my senior year as a student at University of Colorado Boulder. I am studying Environmental Studies while also picking up a minor in business. Out of school I am involved with Boulder entrepreneurial scene and work as a graphic designer on campus. This proposal is only possible because of what I have experienced both in and out of the classroom. It is something that I want to create not only so I can use it myself, but so that it can help others achieve their goals.

So what am I proposing?

I am proposing an idea. An idea that I want to develop and build into a tool. An online tool that helps my generation collaborate, create, and act. This tool will be designed in a way that would connect with the current generation of youth (10-30) and help visualize and track what they accomplish in a game-like interface. Gamification will encourage users to share and act on what they believe.

How will it work? What does it look like?

This will be a website or game program, or possibly both. It would be set up so that the different components , or modules, help encourage youth to get involved and develop real life skills. I talk about each module that I want to create in the section below. 

How does the game element work?

Users will be able to gain experience by completing tutorials, going to events, and other tasks. This experience will help reach new levels. Levels will be just one way that users can unlock additional content like avatars, badges, etc. The goal is that by creating a fantasy world we can reward action in a game like way. Users would be gaining the skills and confidence to keep acting and improving. Those same users could look back at what they have done, and what others have done, and see the progress. In that same period of time the website itself would have grown. Allowing it to provide new resources and support that were not there originally.

Category of action

Youth Leadership on Climate Change

What actions do you propose?

I will now layout the framework for what it is I am proposing and what benefit and impact I think it could have. To begin imagine a website. All you know about it is that you heard it was a fun way to learn and help others. You create a profile.

User Profile: You log in with your new profile and are greeted by a wizard. He asks you a couple questions. What do you like doing? Favorite area's in school? Do you like to learn, or act, or both? The questions are to get an idea of who you are? At the end of it the wizard asks you to pick your first avatar. A creature that fits somewhere between Monsters Inc. and Lord of the Rings. Something friendly or cute. The reasons behind this concept is that for a platform that reaches out to kids we do not want them uploading pictures to represent themselves. The other reason is that by having different avatars you introduce an element they can only get by participating with the community. 

The user profile would be integrated with other parts of the website. Each thing I describe below can reward a medal, avatar, and experience. All while connecting with others, learning, supporting what they believe, and empowering people to act. Then to bring it full circle it would all be tracked and cataloged on their user page. They could then pick what appears to others so they can promote their journey and what they are currently working on.

Forum: The most basic way someone can get involved is by going to the forum page. There will be specific topics that the website promotes on this forum page. The basic version would have a handful of topics that we pick each day. Eventually an advanced version could have a specific list picked out for each user based of where they live, what they answered on the survey, and other interactions with the game world. 

Team Creation and Friend Web: One person can not do everything alone. The friend web is a page that would link the users to friends with profiles, people they find inspiring, projects they are involved with, etc. The guide to help you interact with this page would be a spider. The web is a visual way to look at how everything connects. This might not be the best way to represent it, but the idea is that you can follow people, projects, and groups that are part of this community.

One part that is tied into web would be the ability to create a team with other members. 

Project Map: Any user can build a project map. This is the games way of having the user set a goal, input what they think are the steps of reaching it, and then acting. Just like the world that is being created this is a part of the game. Instead of a linear timeline, you are building a landmark. In the planing stage you have a tent. You can invite others to join you as you plan out what steps you need to achieve your goal. As those steps are reached walls are built, fields are planted, towers are built, and a castle begins to rise. There are two things i connected for this component of the game. The first is that this is another aspect where the game model comes into play. Users can unlock different looks and skins, allowing some to build space stations while others build cities. All because that former user has completed over half of the coding tutorials and classes that we host. The second reason is my hypothesis that we can empower youth leadership by tracking and sharing progress. Being able to look at a nonprofit that has multiple castles and still continues to build could be inspiring to the college student who has a large field of wheat that he grows by volunteering every weekend. Or the high schooler that is getting ready to turn a pile of wood into a fort because she is about to reach her goal of getting 1000 supporters that want to help her get healthier food choices in her district. 

Contest Page: Each contest would be put up by the website, but they could be sponsored by users or groups within the website. The contests would be treasure chests. A treasure chest that contained some type of reward, sometimes a game asset, sometimes a monetary prize. All participants would get experience for their submission. The contests would range from design or writing prompts, to full on video productions. Encouraging users to use their creativity, technical skills, and collaborate with others.

These modules above are just the tip of the iceberg. The end product would incorporate crowd funding, classes, tutorials, news channel, and much more. With an idea of what I want to build I want to go into my favorite part which is the impact it can have. 

Impact of Project

This website would be the the platform for grassroots movements, entrepreneurs, and climate change initiatives to gather support and funding. It would push the technical skills and creativity of the users so that they could develop themselves as well as projects they are passionate about. It would allow a user to track what they have accomplished and push themselves to achieve more. 

The direct impact on social and environmental problems will be coming from the website and the users using it. The first big push has three main parts. Number one will be the mobilization of youth towards the political arenas. Getting them learning about how it works, how they can get involved, and what they have to offer. Show it's importance and offer incentives as much as possible with in game content. Politics on all levels will be encouraged and promoted, but with 2016 getting closer there is an opportunity to mobilize the next generation. The second part is the support of grass roots initiatives and non profit companies. Often these two can struggle with gaining support, finding valuable team members, and raising money. The website would support them in these three areas. It would allow members to follow or subscribe to their group or project. By letting others view their goals they could find team members and supporters willing to help. Then let them set goals and try to crowd fund to reach it. The third part is start ups and young entrepreneurs. As a member of this crowd and having spoken to others in it, there is the interest in a way to share and track what skills we have and what projects we work on. Which is exactly what this tool does. What happens after the initial big push is all speculation but I want to paint a picture of the impact it could have.

After the initial development and release of the game it is promoted by it's outreach team to the Boulder area and community. Leveraging as many personal connections as the team has it gets schools, non profits, and grassroots groups to sign up. It gets the attention of others areas of the united states and more users join the community. Leading up to the 2016 election it is used to host debates, forums, and public events to talk about who is running and what they stand for. During the voting period the website gives out badges and experience to people who take a picture of them voting and sending in their ballot. During this time the website gets national news attention. After the election the website pushes for international support. Shortly after, with support from users and politicians, their is a push to include the development of technical and computer skills into the prison sector. This is the first change in a long run that works on fixing the US prison system. Over the next 5 years, huge movements and groups emerge that have a comparable impact in the political arena that corporations have today. Social groups and researchers come together to launch a public awareness campaign on nutrition as well as other health and social problems. People begin to come up with innovative solutions to worldwide problems that are both environmentally and financially sustainable. Over the next 20 years the communities members have influenced world wide changes, helped natural disaster victims, and Governments follow a path that is supported and influenced by it's people. 

The Four Pillars of Thought- These were made up my original  things I wrote down for my summary on climate change and guided me on this first draft of my proposal. are points of inspiration that I wanted to address when I started creating this proposal.

Creativity: Arts are normally passed off as an extra curricular activity. That is if your public school is lucky enough to provide the teachers and resources. The arts at disadvantaged schools, for example, exemplify the equity gap that leads many youth away from a path of creativity and initiative. "Most troubling is an “equity gap” between the availability of arts instruction as well as the richness of course offerings for students in low-poverty schools compared to those in high-poverty schools, leading students who are economically disadvantaged to not get the enrichment experiences of affluent students” (1). Creative ability allows for innovation required by the ever-more competitive and growing corporate landscape.

Technical Skills: Creativity is not the only area that is often over looked for more traditional classes. Most public schools often run into the same traps of not having the resources and skilled personnel that are needed to teach graphic design, coding, video production, and the many other computer based skills that are seeing a growth in the job market.

Politics: Politics in my education were limited to learning the history and the basics of how it works. It was not until my most recent semester at college that I had a teacher offer incentive for taking action to support initiatives I agree with. While minors can not necessarily vote, they each can form an opinion and have their voices be heard. Not just minors, but everyone has the duty to speak up for what they believe. 

Leadership and Action: Leadership is not something that you can teach in a textbook. It is the experience of doing that helps you become more than what you were before. With experience, you gain confidence, and with confidence you can lead. Action helps build who you will become and has an impact on your community.

Who will take these actions?

The implementation of this concept requires key skill sets. Access to the University of Colorado at Boulder both academically and socially allows for easy recruitment of young talent. Any connections and supporters gained through the ​CliMates International Summit event will also be leveraged to add weight to the project. 

The main tasks that will be required for website development are outreach, design, programming, and operational development to scale the concept. A team will be put together with the help of willing mentors and supporters. Pulling from the nearby University would be the starting place for young talent in the needed fields. 

After the rollout of the project the key actors will be the ones who become users and support the project. This would include but is not limited to: Nonprofit Organizations, School Clubs, Youth Groups, After School Programs, Young Entrepreneurs, Students, Politicians, Political Groups, Grassroots initiatives, etc. 

What are other key benefits?

Give grassroots organizations, non-profits, school groups, and young entrepreneurs the platform to speak up and gain support. 

Help provide resources to people so they can make a difference. 

Promote the education of creativity.

Promote the education of technical skills  

Empower youth leadership and involvement by offering incentives

What are the proposal’s costs?

The majority of the costs would come from the design and development of the website. My knowledge outside of videogame development is limited but I can provide a few examples to set up a framework.
Neopets, a game and social website aimed at kids was co-founded by game designers and businessmen in 1999. It was sold 6 years later to Viacom for 160 million dollars. 
Looking at the complexity of what the game would consist of, it would take around $250,000 for the creation of this application. I use this article as a reference.

Time line

Short Term (1st day -3 Years)

First step is putting together a team of project supporters to do the final edits of the proposal. The 10,000 dollars would be seed funding to support the development of the project. Primary funding would go to the development and design. Paying graphic designers and coders for their work and trying to recruit an experienced team. The timeline for development would depend on funding from this and other sources. With adequate funding I think it would take 6 months to a year for the first version to be made.

During this time an outreach team connects with The University of Colorado Boulder, Local Nonprofits, Local High Schools, and Early Supporters to set up pages and gain users. By August 2015 it has reached political and environmentalist groups, like the Sierra Club, that their is a website they can use to voice their opinion and mobilize their members and their families for the upcoming elections. The website helps influence the 2016 presidential campaign, and gains news on a state and national level. Gaining support.

By the third year the project will have solid financial footing. The early business model will be based off taking a percentage of crowd funding, the promotion of material, and outside sponsorship. The option will be able for users to sponsor the website. Resulting with in game material and badges awarded for early user support. 

Medium Term: The next thirty years after that the website continues to grow and have an influence internationally. People who have the resources to use the program use it to speak up and mobilize. The original target group of youth(10-30) see a new generation of youth get born into the world. My generation continues to advocate for ourselves and all future generations.

Long Term: 40+ years after the proposal: With the bright new technology and skilled workforce of the future, climate change is manageable and people best interests are in mind.


Related proposals


The methodology of utilizing games for youth outreach and empowerment has already been established, specifically for climate action.  In Games for a New Climate: Experiencing the Complexity of Future Risks, The opportunity is also summarized in a section heading which states, “Games are under-utilized, yet uniquely suited to address systems at risk in a new climate”. Furthermore, the final section illustrates, “It is of course also clear that digital games carry a lot of promise, not only to reach more people but to experiment with innovative game mechanics and dynamics”. With research already demonstrating the feasibility of teaching large audiences about the risks of climate change via gameplay, we are simply taking the entrepreneurial approach to generate real results. Our game will inspire youth to initiate personal projects or get involved while enjoying the process.