Beyond Digital, Part 3: How Is Technology Being Used for Human Impact?

Welcome to the Beyond Digital blog series!  If you are just jumping into this series, be sure and read the introductory post, Beyond Digital: A New Initiative from Leadership Network.  This is the third post of the Beyond Digital blog series.  In it we take a look at some examples of how groups and organizations are using technology for positive human impact.  Later in the series I’ll share more innovative Kingdom applications of technology based on people or organizations we’ve connected with, as well as input from our survey

Using Technology for Human Impact
The following are a few of the examples of technology use for positive impact I have come across over the past few months through articles, blog posts, and personal conversations.  These aren’t all necessarily ‘Kingdom’ applications of digital tools, and certainly many more (and perhaps better) examples could be added to this list.  (Please use the comments below to direct my attention to anything noteworthy!)  My goal is to highlight a few tools and categories that are useful models to learn from.  Here goes!

Gaming for Good
One of the fastest growing digital industries today is gaming.  According to recent reports from DFC Intelligence, the global market for video games is expected to grow to $82 billion in 2017, up from $10 billion at the close of 2009.  And depending on what research you read, the average gamer spends anywhere from 8 to 13 hours a week playing video games.  Bottom line: gaming is big. 

But gaming is also being used for positive, human impact.  Two quick examples:

  • Safari Challenge.  I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to sit down with the founders of Safari Challenge, as well as the development company, Desert River Games, to learn about their vision to use the virtual world to make a real world difference.  Safari Challenge is a groundbreaking, 2D and 3D social gaming experience for Facebook that takes players through a virtual experience in Africa that is not only fun to play, but also presents adults, children, and families with opportunities to designate giving to real world projects.  Through a growing network of ‘on the ground’ partners, such as WorldVision, Warm Blankets, and Kids Around the World, as well as individual investors, and corporate sponsors, Safari Challenge allows users to play for free while supporting the development of water wells, meals for children, homes for orphans, and playgrounds.  Best of all, players can track the progress of the projects they’ve chosen to support through an in-game interface that includes maps and photos of their projects.  The game is currently in a playable testing phase, with new elements being added as they are available.
  • World of Warcraft Hurricane Sandy Fundraiser.  An article by Mashable earlier this year revealed that World of Warcraft players raised more than $2.3 million for Hurricane Sandy victims through a special in-game purchase.   Throughout December, players contributed by virtually adopting the “Cinder Kitten,” available in Blizzard's pet store, for $10.  Blizzard, the company behind WoW, announced that the funds went toward supporting the American Red Cross' Sandy relief initiative.  For more on WoW's charitable efforts, watch this video.

Justice for All

  • The Backstory: Human Trafficking Immersion Experience.  Earlier this year, MTV launched an online, immersive experience called The Backstory designed to open viewers to the realities of modern-day slavery.  Through various interactive scenes, dramatic videos, and links to related sites such as slaveryfootprint.org, The Backstory puts you in stories involving victims of sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Not only that, after completing the experience, you'll learn ways to get involved with the ongoing fight to end human trafficking.  Oh, and if you connect The Backstory with your Facebook account, your photos are integrated into the experience.

Digital Reach

  • 4Soils.com.   4Soils began with a desire to develop fun, Biblically-accurate experiences for children on the mobile platform.  Now they’re on a mission to digitally reach the children of the world with the story of the Bible.  Recognizing the incredible growth of mobile devices and the amount of time children spend playing mobile games, 4Soils founders felt a calling to delight children with Bible adventures so they can learn to delight in the Lord.  Over the past year they have gone from a rough story idea to 10 fully interactive apps featuring animated stories, games, songs, coloring, and puzzles.  You can read more about their story here.  4Soils has now embarked on a Kickstarter Campaign to raise additional funds to translate their apps into other languages.  In their own words, “God revealed a bigger vision to us when Day 1 downloads of our first app included people from Saudi Arabia, China, and many other countries where physical Bibles are difficult to distribute.”
  • My Story: Personal Evangelism for Your Friend Network.  My Story is a simple tool that allows believers to share their story in non-threatening ways through social media.  Through uploading a text or video narrative, users can share their personal story with God online through social media or by downloading personalized cards that direct offline connections to their online profile.  My Story is owned by Campus für Christus Schweiz and is offered in different countries by Jesus.net, a global international network of more than 40 Christian organizations and ministries engaged in evangelism on the internet.  The hope for My Story is that it will create a movement of disciples that have a personal evangelistic lifestyle while leveraging the ‘sharability’ of social media.  To see My Story in action, visit their website and view the overview video.

Common Elements Create Positive Impact
The tools listed above provide a variety of models useful for positive impact across digital spaces.  Some of the common success elements shared by these tools include:

  • The use of story.
  • Social sharing.
  • Leveraging shared passions.
  • Ease of use.
  • High quality user interface.
  • Capitalizing on widely adopted platforms.

What other trends or success factors do you see in digital tools that should be considered when developing strategies for Kingdom good?

What Are You Seeing?
As I mentioned before, I would love to hear from you regarding the digital tools and models you are seeing used for positive human impact.  What are you learning from other churches and outside organizations that could leveraged for profound Kingdom impact?  Please use the comments below to share.  If your church is doing something significant in the digital space, take a few moments to share that information in our brief survey as well.  To learn more about participating in the upcoming Beyond Digital Leadership Community, visit the website.

Part 4: There Is Tension Withing the Marriage of Tech and Ministry (Coming Soon!)