Blog Post: Engage the youth where they spend their time... Online!

14 Jul 2014

If you wanted to use a new and inclusive medium to bring together all segments of Bhutanese society to discuss youth unemployment issues, how would you do it?

In Bhutan, youth are the largest unemployed demographic; nationally, 7.3% were unemployed in 2012, and in urban areas it was nearly double that. With almost half (48.9%) the population under 25 years of age, the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB), parents, educators, the private sector, civil society, and, particularly the youth, are looking for new and creative approaches to engage each other in constructive dialogue about the youth unemployment issue.

The result is Bhutan’s first youth unemployment gaming project!

Played online, or through SMS, the gaming project will consist of three “missions”, each open online for one week with its own unique theme (i.e. information sources, educational opportunities, etc). Game participants will answer questions and complete exercises designed to build empathy between different members of society, raise awareness of youth employment issues and instill a sense of personal responsibility for various aspects of Bhutan’s youth unemployment issue. Each mission will have a discussion board where all participants can share their thoughts and personal experiences regarding employment. After one week, a mission will close, and participants will move on to the next mission, with a new theme, and engage in further discussion.

One of the most exciting aspects of the gaming project is its potential to change the tone of the conversation about youth unemployment in Bhutan. The UNDP in Moldova recently completed a similar project, and the ability for various members of society to discuss complex issues regarding youth unemployment generated new and constructive ideas regarding the challenges, and maybe more importantly, the possible solutions to addressing this increasingly serious social issue.

Unlike conventional surveys or focus groups, the game-like social platform allows participants to visit the mission’s discussion board as many times as they like for the week it is open. The discussion among many participants results in a quality, or depth, typically absent from other engagement methods. Additionally, participants can choose to be anonymous, creating an environment where they feel more comfortable; absent from social pressures that may suppress their true opinions or suggestions.

The game will also contain challenges and real-life awards meant to encourage youth participation. Each mission contains several milestones where points are awarded for a correct answer. Participants collect ‘virtual’ points throughout the game, and the top three participants will receive a real cash prize at the conclusion of the project to help implement their youth unemployment strategies.

This style of engagement has only become possible in Bhutan in recent years. With a largely rural and dispersed population, Bhutan had literally no broadband penetration fifteen years ago. But now, Bhutan’s two mobile networks have over 73% of the population under subscription, mainly young people, and its Community Information Centers (CIC) have brought broadband internet to many of the most isolated communities. This is a great benefit in making the game as inclusive as possible, which is one of the UNDP’s main goals.

UNDP Bhutan, Emerson College’s Engagement Lab, a local organization and youth leaders from around the country are working collaboratively to start generating the game’s content and developing an outreach strategy to maximize youth participation. Workshops will be held across the country where a cross-section of Bhutanese society can give their inputs into the game’s content. Shortly before the game’s launch, a workshop consisting of youth leaders from around Bhutan will converge in Thimphu to help finalize the most important issues they feel need to be addressed in the game; Emerson College will be sending two representatives to facilitate that workshop.

UNDP Bhutan is very excited to start developing the game's content! If you have any ideas to make the gaming project the best it can be, we would appreciate hearing from you!

The game is set to launch in early October, 2014. 
Blog Author:
Jigme Dorji
Programme Analyst
Poverty Unit Head a.i
+975 322424
jigme.dorji@undp.org