On October 27th, HandsOn Network launched an interesting experiment in social gaming for social good. They launched what they called the world's largest game of online Tag, calling it -- "a fun game played online with a serious purpose." Tag is the first phase of the multi-year Get HandsOn campaign to mobilize 500,000 volunteer leaders in two million projects to solve crucial problems in their communities.
Players are asked to be "it" and make a volunteer commitment, then tag their friends, family and colleagues -- their social networks -- via Facebook, Twitter, email, or other online channels -- asking them to make commitments. Players can make a commitment by creating their own project or joining someone else's. Every volunteer act counts as a commitment. It could be planting one tree; it could be creating a whole park. It could be math tutoring one afternoon a week for a semester; it could be providing tax help to the elderly who need it. To successfully tag another player, the person a player tags must make a commitment and register with a confirmed email address. Top taggers receive cash awards for their nonprofit of choice.
What's interesting about HandsOn Network's Tag campaign is their experimentation with the use of a social game to find connections. The potential is interesting -- what if thousands of Americans, ready to tackle tough community issues and recruit friends, colleagues and neighbors to help them, were brought together to volunteer together? What if a sense of community existed among these groups? Imagine what might be possible in a time of national emergency if our nation's most committed volunteer mobilizers could instantly mobilize these networks of people to work to support relief and recovery efforts. Imagine what might be possible if members of this group focused themselves around a single community impact measurement they wanted to achieve. Could the full force of our nation's volunteer leaders make a measurable and significant improvement on a national issue such as homelessness, education reform or environmental protection?
HandsOn Network plans more Get HandsOn Challenges to follow the Tag Challenge. Follow the Leader beginning on MLK day in January, will help Tagged volunteers replicate successful and meaningful volunteer projects and Break the Record will try to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people volunteering on one day on Earth Day, April 22, 2011. Their plans for otherwise engaging the volunteers they pull together through Tag are unclear.
I'm interested in what other social media strategists, nonprofit leaders and individual volunteers make of this experiment in social gaming for social good. Will we be able to mobilize more people to volunteer in their communities and make a real, significant difference? Tag you're it, let's watch and see.