Being one of the lucky many to receive a brand-new iPhone 4 in a Christmas stocking this year, I jumped on the idea of personalizing it with a bunch of fun and exciting new apps. One in particular caught my attention, and actually reminded me of a previous Terry blog post, Shawn’s article “It’s Movember.” The app is called Raise the Village and it plays a lot like Facebook’s infamous Farmville, with the exception that instead of creating your dream farm you are actually in command of visualizing your ideal African village. And here’s the kicker: as players expand their virtual villages and use real-world money to purchase premium items for them (school uniforms for the elementary school, avocado trees, soap, etc.) these purchases are tracked and are converted into real donations for a real African village – with donations being purchased within the Ugandan local economy. It’s nice too, because the app keeps you linked up to the Raise the Village blog, where news stories about donations and village life appear frequently.
As Shawn mentioned, it’s pretty clear that there’s a trend towards the commodification of humanitarianism. Raise the Village itself guises aid as personal progress in a video game. As much as the ideal would be for people to be generous for generosities sake, I don’t think the trend is necessarily a bad thing. It really is just a product of the evolution of society. If people are slowly becoming more comfortable with the process of philanthropy resembling consumerism, there’s nothing we can really do about it. It is, however, nice to see that NGOs and non-profits are seeing this change and are adapting. So even though society as a whole is become more and more of a consumer society, there can still be room in it for some good to be done.
Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Terry readers!
For more information about Raise the Village click here