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Mindful Meerkats is a playful lifestyle tracker that inspires to take life and happiness in your own hands via day-by-day challenges.


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Summary

Let's talk!

...

Don't you know Climate Change is here?
Of course I do but isn't that a huge, complex thing? What can I do? Shouldn't governments do that?
Sure, but you have to do your part, too. You can do a lot. I'll tell you how.

You probably feel pressure to make money to survive, right? How could you have money to tackle it?
Right.
No wonder. But combating climate change is futile if we try to solve the issue with tools and thinking that is responsible for the mess. Money alone will not help.
Makes sense. Ok, but what then?
Let us focus on individuals, like You!
You said that already...
Living a conscious life is good for you and the planet!
I don't get it. What does that mean?
Good life practices and shaping your own well-being, all that while maintaining low environmental impact.

I'm starting to get an idea. Sounds like a Utopia. What do I have to do exactly? I don't know where to start.
Of course you don't. Happiness has many dimensions. You can't do it all at once. We might have found a good mix. 
Let me be the judge of that. So I have to change? I don't like change.

Don't worry. Just little things. Maybe three per day. And only if you manage them, they get more difficult. 
Alright. Three is doable. So in which areas of my life?
Three personal and three systemic domains:
1 Wellbeing
2 Fitness
3 Wisdom
4 Thriftiness
5
Pawprint
6 Community

Cool. Sounds like my games.
Well, we are a game...
Anyway, what do these mean in my life?
1 Mental & 2 physical health and 3 intelligence, 4 economic, 5 ecological and  6 social sustainability.  
That's fair. I can't think of much else that makes me happy. And you're sure I can make things better for me in all of them?
Yes, absolutely! You can sustain your happiness.
Wow, I feel empowered.

But wait, isn't sustainability tree-hugging again? Why would I do that?

Well, it makes you happy. I'm not sure how happy you'd be, experiencing an environmental  catastrophe. But nevermind... Because things get cheaper for you!
Wait, what? Why didn't you say that earlier?


What actions do you propose?

Yes, ok, apparently you need something more tangible than happiness...
Now don't get all Einstein with me. Skip the attitude. But if I have a real benefit, I might be more willing to play. Life is full of distractions. 
You have a point. Well, the idea is that for every challenge that you fulfill you get not only points in the game, but also a digital currency that we call Scorpions. You can exchange these for discounts, bonuses and memberships of our partners.
That sounds appealing. So I just pretend that I did something and get a new surfboard... 
Well, you have to prove us that you actually did it by either posting a picture on Instagram, Facebook, stream it with Meerkat or Periscope or use another Verification method like scanning a QR-code or Geospatial Logging , before you get the Scorpions. Also, probably it would not be a surfboard.

Okay, so it is a Loyalty System like the Payback card or SA Discovery Health's Vitality program. I always feel like they make me do things only for the sake of doing them. Nothing in me really wants to do it. Not quite the ethical way...
Agreed. That is why we also reward you in other ways. Did I mention that in the game you are a Meerkat? 
Oh, cute. I love them! Always standing around attentively...So I take care of a Meerkat. Alright... 
Well, not really. You are the Meerkat. That creates more immersion and you feel like you are actually in the game. 
Which technically is true, because I am the one who does the challenges and gets happier all the while.
Spot-on. You are getting a hang of it.
  Hey, note the difference between educated and intelligent.

Just because I don't read your weird books, does not make me a fool. 
Touché, my friend. So this avatar then mimicks your real-life performance regarding Happiness
Interesting. So the values that you talked about and, of course, also the results of the challenges get visualised on my virtual Me? 
Yes, we call them MeekasAnd you, if you play, are a Meecat. So for example, if you fail Fitness challenges, Meeka gets fat, if you complete Pawprint challenges, your in-game environment looks nicer. 


And I am assuming that if I have high Thriftiness I get a sack of gold?
Think again... Firstly, would it not be weird if a Meerkat had a sack of gold? Secondly, remember what I said about money? Money is not the source of happiness, but your ability to manage it well. And the same is true for resources. So Thriftiness is rather how good you can work with what you have. Which includes Money, but is more than that. So we represent it with how well you can pack your little Meerkat bag. 

I see. So I finally see an immediate response for my daily actions. I was always annoyed seeing these scientists talk about Climate Change affects us all. I don't see it... Show me if it's so easy. Nice, you put your words where your mouth is.  
Good observation. It is called a temporal disconnect. The app also helps you get aware that there are tangible effects to Climate Change and that they can also hit you right at home. Even if it is complex in its emergence, it is real in its outcomes. Which would be the spatial and conceptual disconnect
Nice. But if I have played for a while, I am sure that the challenges will get boring. I'm pretty easily bored. And I play some other games and check the newest apps regularly. Let alone my real-life hobbies. 

So you like adventures, right? The more challenges you complete, the more difficult it gets. Depending on the attribute, you start out with taking a walk and later you have to meditate in silence for an hour [Wellbeing]. Or you start with cooking a dish from the leftover and later you go Dumpsterdiving [Pawprint]. Or you start with calling your mum to tell her that you love her and later you volunteer in a homeless shelter [Community]. 
So the better I get, the harder it gets. In games, you call that Difficulty curve. I like it. 
See, I didn't know that, now you also taught me something. And remember how I told you about the photos? The more people like your photos, the more points you get for completing a challenge. 
Great! So a mixture of showing off and competition. That is exactly my cup of tea. Kidding...!
Yes, indeed. 

But wait, aren't you all Hippie and everything... Why would you support Competition?
I could not wait for you to ask. Even though I don't really consider myself a Hippie... So you said that you surf? Imagine that you play the game for some weeks and then get to Lvl three of happiness and finished all the little things. Then it gets a bit trickier, but also more interesting. Meeka cannot survive on its own anymore and you need to find or found a Meerkat Clan. So imagine you would get all your surfing friends to be part of the "Surfing Meerkats"...

That is not a very creative name, but the idea is nice, I give you that. So we would then have a clan profile and everything. Like a guild in World of Warcraft?
Yes, a little bit like that, but more importantly, there would be challenges that you have to fulfill as a clan. So you for instance compete with a surfer clan in California, Cape Town and Antalya in who could ride the bike the most in one given week.
Cool. So what comes off it? Imagine we win? 
If you win, you get into the next round, and your opponent has also won the previous round, so it will get harder every round. The last clan standing will get a prize or investment for the local community.
So that means that clans can only exist in the physical environment? What about people that are shy?
Well, we reward thinking globally, but acting locally [Klein], because we are aiming for a network of local economies [Bauwens], and therefore reward local actions. But you're right, we must not punish introverted or withdrawn people. It's also possible to build a clan with your friends from your online forum and share the rewards remotely.   
I like your idea more and more. I wish I would have had that in my childhood or youth. Or even on Campus, it would have been nice.

 It's funny that you mention that. We are currently talking with several schools in the Netherlands and Germany to integrate it for schools. So then classes could play it together and after school.
And then I could compete against other classes at the school? That'd be great fun. 
And not only that, you would also be able to compare your school against other schools in the region. And therefore have a way of bottom-up measurement for happiness at schools.
Amazing. On Campus that would make even more sense, given there are a lot of services provided by the community, but students have to be engaged. If we now use Scorpions as a payment, it functions like a closed economy on its own.
That's actually how this game was invented. We wanted to implement such a Campus Coin at our Utrecht University, where extracurricular engagement for instance in a Student Committee, or student organisations like 100% Food Use or the student bike shop should get an additional reward. 

Sweet. Is that how are you planning to reach people? 
We aim to create marketing synergies with dual partnerships. We have for instance already managed to get support from the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge in South Africa, who will help us with the production of an Explainer Video with their real-life Meerkats.
That sounds pretty great indeed. But how long can that work? What about traditional Media? 
At the moment, we are conceptualising a podcast called "The Blind Meerkat - Happiness, Emergence & Systems". Ideally, this could be complemented by a Youtube Channel and a blog, that compile our experiences, address the happiness challenge and create real content. 
Oh, yeah, my boss always tries to convince me of this new thing. Inbound & Content Marketing I think. Not sure I buy it. 
But having trusted sources of information and mouthpieces like MindBodyGreen or other more conventional media like TYT, newspapers or health insurances, can get you a long way. Writing guest pieces at other blogs and getting guest writers is also a way to draw attention. And we just have to make sure that we excite people with authenticity and engagement, so they become marketeers for us themselves. 
That sounds like this other buzzword: Brand Evangelism. Although it does not sound so manipulative in your case. In the end you're helping users to help themselves.
I am glad you see it that way. I would not want to be seen as a mainly commercially invested business owner. I see us more as a Social Enterprise or a Cooperative, creating Public Value and helping networks. 

 Social Enterprise and everything is nice, and Thriftiness is a cool concept in theory as well, but we have Designers and IT developers at our firm and I know their hourly rates. How are you planning to finance all these wonderful gadgets? Revenue only via advertisement? That cannot work for long...
No, not only. We are also thinking of creating a Crowdfunding Campaign with the Video from South Africa, where people can support us to get access to the Beta version or visit the Meerkats in person.
That could actually work. I don't know how many firms at startup stage have their brand animal in their videos. Do you have anything else up your sleeve?
Self-Determination-Theory [Deci & Ryan] says that Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness create intrinsic motivation. 
Okay, I can see that you cover these, because you allow Autonomy and create Competence and Relatedness, but in what way was that an answer?
Well, you didn't let me finish... Through Customisation of the Meeka, we allow people to model their real-life outward appearance. But these in-game bonuses are as in real life, only material objects. You cannot pay to get healthy in real life. Conversely, to get a tattoo, a mohawk, jewelry or a particular tree, you have to pay money.
So, in-game purchases. What about the app itself? You will probably be extremely expensive, no?
Reasonable. We are planning to have a free app with advertisements and a paid app approx $1 without adverts.
That seems like a relatively diverse set of income streams. Anything else? You cannot possibly have another source?
Well, as soon as we get to the version where clan challenges and the social network are up, we can envision sponsored challenges. This will probably not happen until the middle of 2016, but imagine that Lego would organise a Surf competition, where you could only participate with you Meerkat clan.
Why Lego?
They recently divested, and we want to make sure that the principle of "Creating happiness" that we try to apply to our business is also maintained with our partners. 

Very ambitious... All of it, to be honest... Do you really think that is feasible? Especially the part with people continuing to play your game is doubtful to me. I mean, you have won nothing if people are excited for 2 weeks and then stop playing. 
No, of course, you're absolutely right. Nir Eyal, an advisor of apps like Instagram or Twitter has created the Hook-Canvas. In that one, he says that we need a Trigger that incentivises an Action that is followed by a Reward. And then the important part is the personal Investment, so that you actually come back. 
I certainly see how you tick all of these boxes. You have to make sure which of your elements is complying with these rules, so you get it right from the beginning. 

I fully agree. We are intending to do that in an extensive trial period end of this year, where will present the Alpha version to groups of 20 people to test their emotions and experiences. By fiddling with the modulators and set-up of the game, we can then find out which elements are especially successfully in engaging users to become players. 
I like that. What about the Self-Determination-Thing. Anything more on that, that backs your plan?
It is not so easy to explain shortly, but I can assure you that the Self-Determination-Continuum does support our claim. 
Well, then I have to believe that... You certainly continuously determined me Self... In this chat.
Funny...
One of us has to be. Cheers!
See you next week!


 


Who will take these actions?

There are three levels of contributors in Mindful Meerkats. There is a small group of founders, co-founders and team members, which is at the moments composed of 3 Sustainable Developers, 1 Game Designer, 1 Graphic Designer and 2 IT Developers, who are directly working on the subject and product. They have the greatest responsibilities, but also the greatest rights. The second layer of action-takers is everyone who wants to actively collaborate. That includes businesses, media entities, NGOs, foundations or individuals. It is intended that every one of the collaborators can contribute to the strategic challenges and decisions. To do that, we want to use the group decision-making tool Loomio. There will always be the opportunity for final intervention from the founders circle, but transparency and agency are very important values for us. The third layer is the players that choose not to be part of the feedback and online community. Ideally, each person in the third layer could be activated to be part of the feedback community and feel ownership.

The idea that is supposed to be communicated is that everyone can have a vital impact on both, their happiness and their environment understood as the entire metasystem of economic, social and natural elements. Thus we imply that happiness cannot be fully achieved if not all six domains are treated in balance.

We are planning to cooperate closely with other Startups and Social Enterprises. These are especially relevant from an organisational perspective, so that we do not only propagate happiness and individual empowerment, but also live them in our project culture. Examples of impressive alternative business models are Blinkist’s Blinkracy (Hughes and Klein 2015), Premium Cola (Lübbermann and Boltz 2013; Schubring et al. 2013), Fairmondo, formerly Fairnopoly, (Belz and Binder 2015) and IPE (Padua 2012). Ideally we would manage to shape our cooperative/collective into a similar venture with the character of a social enterprise. 


Where will these actions be taken?

Due to the homogenous societies and personal relations in these areas, we will start to provide our product in Germany and Netherlands. We will mainly cater the challenges for these backgrounds and start getting in touch with business partners there. Users can join from anywhere, but will get notified that we initially cover these particular countries.

As a second round, given that these two countries are a success, we are aiming to expand our reach. These countries are going to be, at the current state of planning, due to our ties into them, Turkey, Poland, South Africa and Russia in that order.

The context of the individual is important to be taken into consideration when providing the challenges. Thus, in 3.0, we will start off with a small set of questions that provides a rough idea about the lifestyle of the player. Customisation is important to tailor challenges. A person living in an informal settlement in South Africa cannot be challenged with the same tasks as an inhabitant of a student residence in Germany. There is no silver bullet due to complexity and inherent uncertainty in adaptive systems. Therefore the versatility of MM comes to the forefront.

 

After extensive Market research we have found no product that comprises Location-Based Mobile features, Gameplay, an Avatar, a coherent value network and a scientific backbone simultaneously. Ingress comes closest. But while Ingress is Augmented Reality, we are Augmented Virtuality. We are convinced that this idea can work in all places, worldwide, given the right faciliation from local experts, cultural scientists and anthropologists to tailor challenges sensibly. Radical Incrementalism...


How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

Many of the challenges that we integrate in our app are intended to reduce the user’s ecological footprint. The roll-out is planned in Germany and the Netherlands; both countries that currently have high greenhouse gas emissions per capita; respectively 9 and 11 tons of annual CO2 emissions per capita (Worldbank Group 2015).

The app will provide detailed information on people's lifestyle changes reflected by changes in behaviours and practices. An estimation of potential GHG emissions avoided through the increasing adoption of the app is difficult. User data of the app is intended to be made available for scientific purposes upon request to improve the Consumer Lifestyle Approach (CLA) method which has been proposed as an alternative paradigm to the traditional sectoral assessment of GHG emissions and reduction potentials (Shui and Hadi, 2005; Yi-Ming et al., 2007). 

Research in Citizen Computation and Empowering Surveillance will inform development of a data collection approach.


What are other key benefits?

The smallest entity of all anthropocentric social-ecological systems are human individuals. However, the influence of the potential multitude (Hardt and Negri 2005) is immense, when joining forces to create a happy planet (Marks et al. 2006). Many of the issues can be prevented when this common objective appears. Admittedly, this objective might already be inherent to most societies and individuals, but the status quo of a neoliberal value canon creates a humongous prisoner’s dilemma. Helping each other out only out of goodwill is assumed to be exploited. If now the platform of MM would appear, there is a tangible quantification aside from the omnipresent assessment mechanism money and Gross Domestic Product. Success, both individual, regional and national, could potentially be measured through the performance in MM. Additionally, the complexity and uncertainty of long-time climate change measurements gets irrelevant in the light of daily challenges that provide instant gratification.


What are the proposal’s costs?

Not more than 100,000 Euro before roll-out. The major source of the costs relates to the app development which can be differentiated in three parts; infrastructure, backend, frontend. We aim to develop the app both for iOS and Android platforms. Our objective for data storage is to minimize the costs by using the existing user management databases (i.e. Twitter or Facebook accounts). On top of these costs come online marketing and SEO. By the 2.0 version, we are planning to have put a self-sustaining revenue model in place. The accounted 100,000 are the seed funding to develop the most sophisticated version of our vision and be able to employ a team that is capable of creating the ideal version.

We are convinced that the product is engaging and exciting enough to persuade corporate partners with a similar value structure to provide us with premiums. The potential of acquiring new customers by connecting to the market opportunity that we provide is a strong incentive. Assuming that an organic supermarket chain partners with us; their usual customers are already environmentally conscious, whereas our typical user not necessarily belong to their market. There are two options to get the attention of that client. Either a) targeted, sponsored events or b) payback system.

a) Sponsored events: In exchange for a sponsorship fee we could create in-game events that would link target behavior with in-game rewards. Scorpions are the measurement currency, as the favourite food of Meerkats. Scorpions are only distributed for verified challenge accomplishments. Otherwise we are applying an honesty-principle.

b) Payback system: The scorpions can then be redeemed for benefits of partners. The potential for the acquisition of new customers brings firms to provide bonuses etc. 100 scorpions can be used for e.g. a one-month free membership at a car-sharing or carpooling agency.

 

Other opportunities for revenues are c) crowdfunding, d) in-app marketing and e) in-app purchases.


Time line

The Minimal Viable Product from an IT development perspective is already finished. The next step is filling up the data base to then execute test trials in June and July. The data which is collected will be fed back to the IT creators and we reiterate the Alpha to a Beta version. At the end of July the script for the crowdfunding video shall be finished, so that we can hire a video production company in August. Given that we would receive the money from the Climate Colab, it would be a useful step to organise a second round of workshops, this time focusing on User Experience and User Interface and not only on whether the basic assumptions about player satisfaction are valid, for what person we are setting up the workshop next month. September and October are intended to stand in the light of Crowdfunding on Goteo. With the help of online marketeers and with our wide network that covers seven countries due to heritages and several exchange semesters, we are expecting to have a high reach. The backers of the campaign will be integrated into the loomio decision-making platform and we will collect feedback to be able to build the final version, the Gamma, the 1.0 in November. December is intended to be the birth month of the public release of Mindful Meerkats. Intended to appear on all devices and in the AppStore and GooglePlay Store, we are aiming for full coverage.


Related proposals

Geonomists & ClimateCoin (with same logo) are great in theory but lack an implementation framework. We're in a Capitalist gridlock. Authorities preserve interest. Even if Cryptocurrency supports bottom-up change, an authority needs to put these in place.
Scorpions fill the same niche, but sexier. Climate Action isn't sexy. Yet. People rarely see intrinsic value, but as modulator for Happiness, this changes.  Ergo, merging of teams is conceivable. We pave the way to bridge ABG Attitude-Behaviour-Gap.

In contrast, New Climate ignores ABG, repeating Climate Science's mistakes. Relaying doom to politics/public won't bring change without a) solution & b) danger for worldview's Utopias [De Vries]. Another top-down medium will not bring Motivation Ability Trigger together [Fogg].

We intentionally build flexible to integrate other services to integrate their quantification. Meditation apps can be expressed as Wellbeing, sports apps as Fitness & footprint calculators as Pawprint.


References

Belz, Frank Martin, and Julia Katharina Binder. 2015. “Sustainable Entrepreneurship: A Convergent Process Model.” Business Strategy and the Environment.

De Vries, Bert, and Arthur Petersen. 2009. “Conceptualizing Sustainable Development: An Assessment Methodology Connecting Values, Knowledge, Worldviews and Scenarios.” Ecological Economics 68 (4)

Fogg, BJ. 2003. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. Morgan Kaufmann.

Fogg, BJ, Dean Eckles, I. Bogost, and others. 2007. Mobile Persuasion: 20 Perspectives on the Future of Behavior Change. Vol. 1. Stanford Captology Media Standford, CA.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 2005. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. Penguin.

Hughes, Ben, and Sebastian Klein. 2015. “Blinkracy - Empowering Employees. Eliminating Managers.” Blinkist: Serving Curious Minds.https://www.blinkist.com/en/blinks/blinkracy-en

Kollmuss, Anja, and Julian Agyeman. 2002. “Mind the Gap: Why Do People Act Environmentally and What Are the Barriers to pro-Environmental Behavior?” Environmental Education Research 8 (3): 239–60.

Lübbermann, Uwe, and Dirk-Mario Boltz. 2013. “Premium-Cola–Mit Einem Neuen „Betriebssystem “zur Fairen Markenführung.” In Impulse Für Die Markenpraxis Und Markenforschung, 51–61. Springer.

Marks, Nic, Saamah Abdallah, Andrew Simms, Sam Thompson, and others. 2006. “The Happy Planet Index.” New Economics Foundation, London.

Padua, Suzanna. 2012. “Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas - Ashoka Innovators for the Public.” Ashoka.org.https://www.ashoka.org/files/Instituto.pdf

Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. 2000. “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being.” American Psychologist 55 (1): 68.

Ryan, Richard M., C. Scott Rigby, and Andrew Przybylski. 2006. “The Motivational Pull of Video Games: A Self-Determination Theory Approach.” Motivation and Emotion 30 (4): 344–60.

Schubring, Veronika, Dirk Posse, Ingrid Bozsoki, and Christoph Buschmann. 2013. “Unternehmen Und Postwachstum: Das Beispiel Premium-Cola.” Ökologisches Wirtschaften-Fachzeitschrift 28 (1): 19.

Shui Bin, Hadi Dowlatabadi, Consumer lifestyle approach to US energy use and the related CO2 emissions, Energy Policy, Volume 33, Issue 2, January 2005, Pages 197-208, ISSN 0301-4215,http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0301-4215

Whitson, Jennifer R. 2013. “Gaming the Quantified Self.” Surveillance & Society 11 (1/2): 163–76.

Worldbank Group. 2015. “CO2 Emissions (metric Tons per Capita) | Data.” Worldbank Data.http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC

Yi-Ming Wei, Lan-Cui Liu, Ying Fan, Gang Wu, The impact of lifestyle on energy use and CO2 emission: An empirical analysis of China's residents, Energy Policy, Volume 35, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 247-257, ISSN 0301-4215,http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2005.11.020