11/09/2012 10:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Bringing Gamification to Social Giving

My parents left Camau -- a little city in the South of Vietnam -- in 1980, a few years after the end of the Vietnamese War. They arrived by boat to Malaysia and I was born in a refugee camp in Kuala Lumpur. From there the Red Cross helped us resettle in the French speaking part of Switzerland close to Geneva.

Given my background as a refugee, one would imagine that I was intimately aware of the atrocities of war. However, my childhood was like every normal Swiss child -- far from the fearful environment I was born in to. My quality of life blinded me from the realization that I was indeed a very lucky person.

My vision of the world changed when I returned to my home country for the first time at the age of 15. Witnessing with my own eyes the misery of the Vietnamese kids who were struggling everyday for survival, I realized that there is a lot of unfairness that needs to be solved in the world. If my parents didn't escape from Vietnam, I would also be like many of those Vietnamese kids -- having to beg for a piece of bread in the street. I was lucky. My trip to Vietnam was the trigger that changed my way of thinking and influenced what I wanted to become in the future: someone who would work to help people in need and contribute to society.

In 2007 I received a scholarship opportunity that allowed me to go to Japan to do a six-month internship and to learn Japanese. My time there -- coupled with my experience as a refugee living in Switzerland -- formed my experience as a global citizen. When my internship ended, I decided to stay in Japan. Although many non-profits in Japan had been working to create meaningful change on an international level, I noticed that several donation websites were unprofessional and difficult to use. I wanted to create a platform where there would be many non-profits represented in a professional way. I wanted to simplify the donation process, and so i-kifu was born from this idea.

The vision of i-kifu is to use technology to simplify the way people contribute to society and make it fun. This is materialized in a platform where individuals, NPOs, and corporations work together in a mutually beneficial environment. They bring a refreshing twist to NPO support by making use of technology -- including social networks such as Facebook and Twitter -- and in the near future mobile and smartphone applications. The platform is free to join and offers many options from the casual caregiver to the most devoted of social good warriors.

With a strong focus on transparency they let donors specifically choose how they want their donation to be spent by the NPOs by browsing through the NPOs' project wish list. Each wish comes with a picture and description that helps donors visualize the impact of their specific donation amount. For example, "Donate one book for a student for 1,000 yen." Once donations have been received, each NPO is asked to post a monthly activity report to provide regular feedback to their donors. At its launch, i-kifu attracted 23 NPOs who have already posted 27 projects that aim to solve issues in both Japan and other parts of the world. Donors can browse through projects from seven different categories (Environment, Education, Natural Disaster, Animals Protection, Social Issues, Children, or Health) and can decide to support projects in two different ways:

1) Volunteering by sharing some interesting facts related to the project to his or her friends on Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness about these global issues.

2) Contributing financially by making a donation.

Here's the kicker. when a good action is made, i-kifu rewards the user with "bono points." Then, the top five users (based on bono points) will be displayed on i-kifu's homepage and will be socially acknowledged for their contributions. They are currently considering other types of social rewards as well. Currently, donations can be made by credit card payments (Visa/Master). Users earn substantially more points for monetary donations so it entices users to donate. In the future i-kifu is looking to provide their services for internal corporate social responsibility, giving employees of companies the opportunity to donate internally and increase their company's CSR. This is still a niche market in Japan that has yet to be tapped for social welfare.


Nhat has received the TEAJ Global Entrepreneurship Award from the Ambassador of Japan John V. Roos in 2011 for his efforts in philanthropy and entrepreneurship within Japan. Mentioned in both Forbes and The Bangkok Post in publishings that focus on entrepreneurship and environmental awareness. He was also featured in a video by Cisco titled My Networked Life looking at how being connected has helped NPO activity, not only in Japan, but around the world and what this means for the common people.