‘A Really Fascinating, Kind of Insane Idea’
Feeling kind of limited by the communications, networking and advocacy-building capabilities of the real world? Never fear … plenty of opportunities abound in the virtual one.
Second Life, for example, is a three-dimensional virtual world built and owned by users — now numbering more than 4 million worldwide — that some nonprofits have begun to use in innovative ways to expand their reach and programs.
Second Life is surreal both in its ability to bring people from across the globe together in one space through the click of a mouse and to open both fundraising and friendraising opportunities for organizations that are willing to work within its incredibly realistic environment.
Global Kids, a New York educational organization that works in schools to prepare urban youths to become global citizens and community leaders, has been down with Second Life for more than a year, building on its programs through Global Kids Island. Located in the Second Life teen grid, Global Kids Island teaches young users about social and world issues.
In the real world, Global Kids’ programs consist of interactive, experiential after-school workshops. In Second Life, the organization has been able to expand these programs, giving a platform for youths to create digital projects that give them leadership experience and reach the international youth community.
The first such project was a workshop in Second Life on the topic of child sex trafficking. Kids created a virtual maze as a metaphor for being trapped in child sex trafficking rings. Photos and text educated visitors as they went through the maze and, at the end, they were given options to donate money to an appropriate organization, sign a petition, etc. In the first two months, 2,500 teens had gone through the maze, and 20 percent of them had donated.