WhatFutures is a real-time game event played entirely through WhatsApp. Designed in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The IFRC wanted to engage their youth volunteers in their strategic planning for 2030.
Taking inspiration from large scale Alternative Reality Games (ARGs), WhatFutures used an existing platform in a new way – bringing together 487 players over 10 days across five countries.
Split into small teams, players were given creative challenges to produce media and newspaper headlines around potential challenges facing them in 2030. The pilot game produced large amounts of rich qualitative data in support of strategic change.
WhatFutures rolled out a bigger deployment with over 4,000 volunteers within the IFRC in September 2017.
The project was nominated for an international Digital Communications Award as an example of innovative internal communication.
HOW IT WORKS
Player signed up via a website either individually or part of a team.
Each player was asked to choose one of four specialisms: technologists, cultural experts, environmental scientists and political advisors.
At the start of the game a WhatsApp group was created containing the team members and a game administrator, known as a Future Guide.
The teams were assigned the game’s first challenge by their Future Guide with a deadline of three days.
Each player was also invited to a larger separate group containing the players from other teams who shared the same specialism, in order to discuss global drivers of change.
After the challenge deadline,a leaderboard of best responses was presented on a website, and the second challenge was set. This was repeated for the final challenge.
Alongside each challenge smaller lightweight activities were set within the conference.
Using the affordances which already exist within WhatsApp, WhatFutures was designed to utilise familiar mechanisms within the chat app in an innovative way.
THE USE OF ROLE
WhatFutures used the notion of role – the specialisms and the Future Guides – to respond to the challenges of understanding complexity and improving engagement. Role frames both how players relate to each other and their expectations of participation.
UNPLATFORMED DESIGN – USING EXISTING PLATFORMS
WhatFutures was an effective way to engage the youth volunteers on a platform they already used. By not building bespoke applications, it lowered the barrier for participation, and meant they didn’t have to download or learn to use something new.
We refer to this approach as unplatformed design.
WORKING WITH WHATSAPP’S FUNCTIONALITY
WhatFutures used WhatsApp’s affordances to create a new and unique experience – by creating a framework around four material dimensions including groups within WhatsApp, player roles, content visibility, and the actions players needed to take.
THE FUTURE FOR WHATFUTURES
Audio and video from WhatFutures was presented to high-level decision makers with the IFRC as part of an exhibition during their annual general assembly in November 2017.
Several of the magazine articles created by the groups were combined into a ‘newspaper from the future’ and distributed to each delegate in the conference.
Read the paper: WhatFutures: Designing Large-Scale Engagements on WhatsApp
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