EVOKE Reflections: Results from the World Bank's on-line educational game (part 1)


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EVOKE heroes

On March 3, 2010, the World Bank Institute (WBI) and InfoDev launched EVOKE, an online alternate reality game with the goal of supporting social innovation among young people around the world.

I’ve written previously about the EVOKE initiative here and here -- and wanted to take this opportunity to share some data and reflections on the experience. 

By the time the EVOKE adventure ended 19,324 people from over 150 countries registered to play, far exceeding expectations.  Players submitted over 23,500 blog posts (about 335 each day), 4,700 photos and over 1,500 videos. The site received over 178,000 unique visitors and 2,345,000 page views with time per visit averaging over eight minutes.  For the month of March EVOKE generated just under 10% of what the World Bank’s entire external website generated with regard to page views (1.1 million versus 12.1 million).  Phenomenal numbers.    Below is our original pyramid of participation and our actual numbers for EVOKE.  Across the board EVOKE exceeded our expectations.

Pyramid of Participation
  Est. % Actual % Diff.
Visitors 87,500   177,673   103%
Registered 6,875 8% 19,324 11% 181%
Active 700 10% 4,693 24% 570%
Certified 70 10% 223 5% 219%
EVOKATION 7 10% 74 33% 957%

Over the course of the 10 weeks, 
players posted ideas, found friends, commented on projects, shared information, rated the quality of the information shared, discussed, argued, created and acted.

Librarians donated time to do research. Someone developed a wiki for the game. Teachers created their own online community within the game. Some players developed an online conference for sharing the best ideas. One player wrote a song about EVOKE. Others planted gardens.

Players went into their communities to learn about challenges on the ground and shared potential solutions to what they saw and heard.  One player collected all of these ideas into a single blog post.

EVOKE I think has created space for dialogue around serious issues that may not be discussed in other social networking forums.

“I got to see things I would not have unless I went out actively searching for them.  A lot of knowledge has been imprinted in my mind from some of the activities.  Now I can delve deeper into certain topics, talk about them and do something about them, which I couldn’t have before.” 
 -- EVOKE player

At the end of the game, 74 project ideas (known as 'evokations') were submitted and the following rewards were made:

  • 10 projects were given seed funding of US$1,000
  • 22 projects were provided with a post-game mentor

  • 15 projects were invited to the EVOKE summit in September

  • 25 projects are competing in the EVOKE Global Giving Challenge.

The EVOKE challenge on Global Giving is happening now!  The challenge provides players with an opportunity to put their ideas to the test – raising funds on-line and expanding their networks of supporters.  Please visit the EVOKE challenge on Global Giving at www.globalgiving.org/evoke and support one of the EVOKE innovators in their quest to get their ideas off the ground!

To be continued.....More reflections in my next blog post.


Robert Hawkins

Sr. Education Specialist

Helen Abadzi
August 17, 2010

To help denizens of low-income countries pressing problems the players created a vast number of potential solutions. Some aimed at improving education. One player, for example, proposed to bring through cloud computing to primary education and adult learning classrooms “new tools that are powerful, mobile, cheap, easy to learn, easy to use, and soon will be ubiquitous”. The player clearly assumed that poor-country students would have the skills necessary for using these tools: high-rate reading fluency and math automaticity, lots of background knowledge to understand text quickly, and teachers who would show up and teach these skills. No player seems to have gauged the slow or non-existent reading rates among students who barely speak the official languages of instruction after spending years in school.

The EVOKE players would have been shocked if they had seen reading fluency data. An FTI Secretariat review of reading fluency in lower-income countries found that almost none approximated an average reading fluency of 45 words per minute at the end of grade 2 (a bare minimum needed for future achievement, see educationfasttrack.org). The fluency tests showed high percentages of illiteracy (e.g. over 90% in the Gambia or Guyana) and average reading speeds that are too slow to permit text comprehension. However, educators and donor staff have few insights on how to improve the situation. The chain of causality linking enrollment with learning outcomes is broken in multiple and unexpected places. Instructional time is poorly used in low-income countries. So, although a lot of material was generated, its relevance is questionable.

Arturo Muente-Kunigami
August 19, 2010

I don't think the relevance of the material is questionable just because one (or more) player(s) did not factor-in the broken links in the education system in many low-income countries.

I think Evoke has proved that we can effectively leverage global knowledge, engage an audience through a game, and "align" it towards a common objective in a very catchy way. The whole thing is based on a comic (who knows? probably ideal for a 45 words/minute audience!) and slowly makes you part of the issues. It is Role-Playing-Games meet College-degree-courses. 101.

It would be interesting to know where users came from, their age, etc. if possible...

Maybe the next Evoke could be on improving fluency among primary kids in challenging environments :)