Making Doing Good Fun

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I noticed a story in Xconomy Seattle this morning that Bobber Interactive has raised $1.1M in Series A financing. I loved seeing that for two reasons. One, I like the concept of the business, which is determined to “make money management fun and social for kids,” as Xconomy reported. The lesson is that it’s rewarding to save for short- and long-term goals. That’s a lesson a lot of adults recently learned the hard way, although according to this Wall Street Journal blog post, we collectively are learning: “U.S. households socked away 5.8% of their after-tax income in February. That was the rate averaged for all of 2010, and a far better pace than right before the recession when consumers saved barely more than 2%.”

The second reason I’m happy to see this particular bit of funding news is because one of Bobber Interactive’s co-founders is Scott Dodson, who introduced me and a lot of other people to the concept of gamification and The Fun Theory. The essential idea behind it is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. Since we first met, Scott’s generously given his time to come speak to my UW classes. Every time, he’s inspires the students to get creative in how they think about trying to motivate people to do something.

Thinking about Scott, Bobber and gamification also got me thinking differently about an opinion piece I read Monday from Kurt Brown on Gigaom.com called Preaching to the Green Choir: A Dead End, an article I’m bound to come back to and write more about later. The gist of the piece, for the time-pressed, is that environmental groups need to stop trying to scare people into action because it’s not working.

But, and what a surprise this in, making change fun obviously does work. CleanScapes, a Seattle solid waste collection company, has successfully used the gamification model (whether they knew it or not) to reduce all waste — garbage, recycling and yard waste — in Seattle and Shoreline, Wash., by getting neighborhoods to compete against each other in its Neighborhood Waste Reduction Rewards competition. The prize is a $50,000 community project, built in the winning neighborhood and maintained by CleanScapes.

The question for both nonprofits and for profits working to advance us all toward a sustainable future is how to apply this idea to the changes we all need to make. Figuring this out is going to take someone way smarter than me. Maybe that’s you! So for inspiration, here are links to two TheFunTheory videos that illustrate how gamification can change people’s behavior.

If turning the act of doing the right thing into fun can get people to recycle bottles and take the stairs instead of the escalator, what else can it do?

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