Want to help fight poverty in a new way? Play more video games.
The Global Gaming Initiative (GGI), founded in 2010, brings an innovative approach to philanthropy.
GGI CEO Elizabeth Sarquis
Elizabeth Sarquis, GGI’s Founder and CEO, explained to Opportunity Lives that the idea for using video games to help others came to her during a conversation with her children about the challenges facing those in developing countries. Her own childhood was split between Colombia and the United States, and Sarquis spent 20 years working with non-profits to improve access to healthcare and education for children.
“I also loved technology and knew that with over 1.2 billion smartphones, we could use these devices to make an impact worldwide,” said Sarquis. “Mobile games make it possible to tell stories in a way that can reach millions of people to impact social change.”
GGI is a for-profit organization, but 50 percent of in-app purchases in games developed by the organization go to a non-profit selected by GGI. The selection process is strict, said Sarquis. “Our funds go to non-profits that are creating sustainable impact for the lowest cost with the highest level of integrity.”
The first game GGI developed was Sidekick Cycle, a game that supports non-profits distributing bicycles to needy people around the world. The game involves 36 levels of bike racing and tricks on dangerous terrain, with the in-app purchases allowing the player to customize their bike in several different ways. The game has had over 500,000 downloads.
GGI’s other games include Winning Kick, which helps support a non-profit that hand-delivers soccer balls to poverty-stricken communities, and Outbreak Responder, which donates to an organization fighting to end malaria.
Sarquis wants GGI to keep growing by increasing adoption of these games, adding more features, and developing new games. “As we grow, we hope to implement a way to allow users to see the impact they’re having, as we think that will help people understand where their money is going,” she said.
“Fifty percent of every in-app purchase in games developed by the organization go to a non-profit selected by GGI”
There have been challenges along the way in developing the games and gaining visibility, but Sarquis is excited about what the future will hold. “The potential is significant, and I believe it will change our minds on how we look at games today,” she said.
Global Gaming Initiative’s unique approach to connecting philanthropy with entertainment should serve as an inspiration to entrepreneurs in every industry. What is one of the most important things an entrepreneur should have? “Belief in what you are doing and why you are doing it has helped me immensely,” said Sarquis. “It is critical to believe in yourself and your dream.”
Daniel Huizinga is a columnist for Opportunity Lives covering business and politics. Follow him on Twitter @HuizingaDaniel.