U.N. channels tech startup know-how with launch of its first educational game

In Silicon Valley, we understand how to market a new iPhone app or game to millions of people in a matter of weeks. What if we applied these principles to support a good cause?

Bay Area tech founders and venture capitalists gathered today to hear a presentation from the United Nations Foundation about its plans to make its charitable work more relevant to young people. The nonprofit organization launched the Global Good Challenge this fall to encourage people to take action on the world’s most pressing problems and engage via their social networks.

It’s not a fundraising effort. The Global Good Challenge is an educational game that is already spreading on Twitter and Facebook.

Above: Former Senator Tim Wirth, Kyri McClellan, CEO of the San Francisco America’s Cup Organizing Committee, Jimmy Spithill, Veteran Yachtsman

Zaw Thet, a veteran entrepreneur who started his first company as a teenager, told VentureBeat that was inspired to create the game that could educate people about how to empower young girls in developing countries, prevent diseases like malaria, and combat global poverty. He approached the U.N. Foundation with the idea six months ago, and he interviewed dozens of friends in the tech community for their advice on developing a “viral” social campaign.

Click here to play the game. Sign in via Facebook to unlock prizes like a trip to Africa or a VIP tickets to a Stevie Wonder concert.

“Instead of donating money, we want people to donate their social media influence,” Thet told me. Last year, Thet (one of the youngest people to graduate from the Stanford Graduate School of Business) was selected as one of 10 entrepreneurs to serve on the U.N. Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council. 

Above: Serial entrepreneur Zaw Thet.

Thet told me he was inspired by a mobile game that is educating female players across the world about different ways to prevent pregnancy. This is one of many social and educational games that are popping up on the market. The team behind the initiative also borrowed from the “gamification” trend. In Silicon Valley, tech companies like Facebook and LinkedIn are finding ways to leverage game mechanics to influence user behavior. (Read up on the “gamification” trend here.)

“People involved in the gaming industry are thinking about how to create social good,” Rick Thompson, the founder of Playdom, told me. Thompson, an adviser to Thet, was an attendee at today’s presentation alongside about a dozen other Silicon Valley big-whigs.

Read more about social entrepreneurship, and the tech startups that want to change the world.

Another highlight of the event was that the announcement of the latest prize. One lucky player will be selected to be the guest racer in a sailboat competing in the upcoming America’s Cup in San Francisco. Veteran yachtsman Jimmy Spithill attended the event to deliver the news in person– ladies, trust me, you will want to win this one!

The U.N. Foundation is currently working on the mobile version of its game, which will be released in the coming months.

Top Image via Shutterstock