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The objective of the gamification project was to bring together all segments of Bhutanese society to discuss youth unemployment issue. Youth are the largest unemployed demographic; nationally, youth unemployment rate was 9.2 per cent and 9.9 per cent for male and female respectively, as compare to the national unemployment of 2.9 per cent in 2013. Through the game UNDP was able to address the following:
There are not many forums where youth can engage themselves and provide feedback to the policy makers on unemployment issues. The game helped to address this gap by providing a forum for frank exchange of opinions using play, built empathy and understanding between participants. The game helped to open up meaningful public conversation about the issue of youth employment that other methods such as focus groups, or survey questions can’t.
The Games helped in addressing stereotypes and various impediments for youth to startup businesses and/or take up jobs at the private sector because by playing different roles in the game they understand and appreciate various kind of jobs, especially non-desk jobs.The people of Bhutan including policy makers were not aware of using game as a tool to address development issues such as unemployment. Though the gaming project, UNDP was able to address this misconception by demonstrating that if properly designed, it facilitates dialogue, stimulates exchange of views and mutual learning, drives competitions of ideas and on the top of this brings valuable insights into the users’ concerns, needs and aspirations. Ultimately, such an approach brings development discussions out of its “ivory tower”.
An online game was launched in October 2014 focusing on three ‘missions’, or ‘themes’:
1. The information sources most widely used in Bhutan;
2. Educational opportunities available to Bhutanese youth; and
3. Life influences.
Each mission was online, or ‘live’ for one week; and the discussion enabled participants to share their thoughts and personal experiences with regard to unemployment issues. Before the game was launched, UNDP conducted three workshops involving youth, parents, teachers, private sector people and government officials to discuss about content of the game.
UNDP worked with the following partners:
- Youth groups including college students and unemployed were engaged in the content design and participated in the game.
- Emerson College Engagement Lab provided the technical supports as they have been one of the leading academic practitioners for development of games.
- Institute of Management Studies, Thimphu was the local partner, helping UNDP to facilitate the workshops and worked on the outreach strategy.
- Ministry of Labour and Human Resources was involved as the focal government agency dealing with unemployment issues.
The game was a good tool for behavior modification by building empathy between different members of society, raised awareness of youth employment issues and instilled a sense of personal responsibility for various aspects of Bhutan’s youth unemployment issue;
The game brought together 1,904 members of society to discuss complex issues regarding youth unemployment generated new and constructive ideas on youth unemployment;
The inputs from the game has provided a new insight and generated different perspectives on unemployment issues for policy consideration by the Government;
The game helped in developing skills of the tech-savvy youth (such as self-confidence, motivation, career aspiration, sense of responsibility, communication skills and ICT)
The game created few possible solutions for youth unemployment by supporting the top two causes, which are small projects related to youth unemployment.
The prototyping of period of six weeks was too short for a gaming project as it involved lot of interactions with youth, government agencies for content creation and development of software.
Although 1,904 people played the game, the participation rate was quite low if we compare it with the unemployment rate among Bhutanese youth. Most of the players were from urban centres. Rural youth could not participate in the game to the extent that urban youth could because of the limited, or non-existent, access to the internet in their communities and also possibly the availability of smart phones. Therefore, it is critical have good internet connectivity, backed availability of smart phones for successful implementation of such project.
The gamification project was led by UNDP although the government officials from relevant agencies were involved throughout the project. While the project was successfully implemented and also gained global prominence, currently there is a lack a championship and ownership from the Government, as they do not have necessary knowledge and skills. Therefore, it is critical to build the capacity of the relevant stakeholders so that they have a stake in the project.
While it has been a good experience for UNDP to implement the first innovation project on gamification, it added additional workload to the staff as the project required a dedicated project manager. Therefore, it is important to have adequate manpower with necessary knowledge and skills to handle such project.
Jigme Dorji: firstname.lastname@example.org