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EVOKE was developed by the World Bank Institute, the learning and knowledge arm of the World Bank Group, and directed by alternate reality game master Jane McGonigal.

Manifesto: EVOKE and Beyond

Posted by Calida DeBello on 09 May under People and Ideas

As EVOKE concludes, thoughts on its process and its legacy by our gamerunners.


The moment when the true worldchanging potential of EVOKE first struck me was reading a post by Agent Mario from Monterrey, Mexico – which began:

Last week I decided to start an urban farm from my own. I took this decision because I thought why not? How hard it can be?
I saw an example of a mexican urban farm here in the evoke network and that motivated me to do it too.

The example he had seen was a collection of photos from the Centro de Agricultura Urbana, Romita in Mexico City, posted by Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys.

To me this was a perfect example of the power of this EVOKE network we have begun. Two individuals who probably would have otherwise never connected had an impact on each others lives – with a very tangible result.

The capacity for what every EVOKE member has shared to inspire others is extraordinary. With over 19,000 people from all across the globe signed up it’s impossible to know just how much of an impact has resonated from our community, and where it will lead.

Another story from close to home: as a direct result of her involvement in EVOKE, my wife will soon be volunteering her web content and editing skills for the Open Source Washing Machine Project. She heard about them through Solar Sister, who were her ACT1 Hero, and answered their call for help.

She’ll be joining a host of other EVOKE Agents who have been donating their time and resources to organizations already making a change – thereby having an impact on the lives of those around us and the world right now.

Two months ago I wondered what our species-specific web pattern looked like. As Season 1 of EVOKE comes to a close one thing is clear – the strands of this network extend out far beyond it. They extend into the plants beginning to grow in Mario’s urban garden. They extend out into the communities we shared our EVOKE projects with. They connect out to the Social Innovators we lifted up as heroes, and then extend out again beyond them.

For me, these 10 weeks have cemented two things:

1. We are surrounded by problems which we will simply not be able to solve alone.

2. Thankfully we won’t need to – we truly can EVOKE them!


Wow. What a ride EVOKE has been!

In some sense, I think that EVOKE was a learning adventure—and an experiment—for all of us. As a gamerunner, I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect. As a player, I didn’t know what to expect, either. Everybody learned as they went along, and look what happened! What happened really changed my expectations of what could happen within a simple online community. Here are a few highlights that I’ve taken away from the EVOKE experience.

1. The sheer number of agents that signed up to participate amazed me. As of the writing of this, we currently have roughly nineteen thousand members with about 10-20% of them categorized as truly active. For an ARG, a game, a community—that’s unprecedented.

2. I could never stopped being amazed at the amount and quality of work that was constantly being put out by agents from all over the world. As a student, it was really inspiring (and humbling) to see what others could turn out.

3. Most of the player base really took the game and its message to heart. Nowhere else will I ever see people from all over the world collaborating much like I did here.

4. The game has also influenced me, both as a student and as a member of a generation that will soon be actually responsible for the world (a scary thought, I know :P ). I’ve noticed myself making unconscious connections to many a thing I’ve learned on EVOKE.

5. The EVOKE experience is what you make of it. Almost everybody made something out of it. Personally, I think that’s all that really needs to be said to show the impact of the game.

So, to all of the agents on the network: remember what’s happened here. Try and take a piece of it with you. Good luck with your EVOKATIONS, and, who knows? We might see you in the future.


My wife taught me to always send a personal thank you note to someone who gives you a gift. In the last 10 weeks here, I have received gifts uncounted…but I’m going to bend her rule a little bit because I don’t know how I would write 19,290 thank you notes. If you would indulge me by pretending that this is addressed just to you:

First, thank YOU — all the agents of the EVOKE network — for your tremendous gifts of energy, intelligence, creativity and spirit that you have expressed through your gameplay. I am privileged to have been witness, participant, and occasional co-conspirator in your collective learning, sharing and Evoking. I figure the future will hinge, for better and worse, on our ability to work together as a massively multiplayer online species; EVOKE is an alpha prototype and I think we all have fast-forwarded ten years into the future with some success, don’t you? For the opportunity to be here with you in this intensive boot camp for global human innovation, I say thank you to all.

Next, I’d like to acknowledge those I’ll affectionately call the “radicals” for stirring the pot and challenging all of us to think about the hard issues of culture, politics and “doing good” in a rapidly changing world. You have both espoused and embodied a worldview that demands to be heard and reckoned with when we aspire to change the world in a positive way. I don’t always agree with your tactics, but I want to recognize your passion, your cleverness and your ideas. You know who you are, folks.

Of course an enormous thank you goes to the people that created and ran this incredible, infuriating, inspiring, exhausting, convivial, confrontational, delightful, impossible, all-consuming time suck of a life-changing, world-changing…um…game. Experience. Movement. Meditation. Community. Classroom. Laboratory. Journey of self-discovery. Yeah, all of those. Alchemy, Calida, Jane, Ken, Bob, Kiy, Nathan, fellow gamerunners & mentors, ten weeks with you was a lot, and ten years would not be enough. Gratitude all around, and if I ever catch you IRL there will be a penance of tequila shots.

Now back to catching up on my last minute quests!


It had been weeks since I had heard from Alchemy.

I don’t like to bother him with personal matters. I know he’s a busy guy – having to coordinate his global team’s efforts to change the world and all – but after the first month of no contact from Urgent Evoke – no quests, no missions, no urgent evokes, I wondered if I was at fault somehow and if had done something seriously grievous in my last mission. And so, after I couldn’t be patient any longer, I sent Alchemy a short message asking him what had happened. I told him that I loved working on Evoke missions and while it was some of the most difficult, more frustrating work I had ever lent myself to, I was missing its call to action and its purpose. I missed the camaraderie, too.

Alchemy almost immediately responded to my message with a phone call. I could sense his smile, a continent or so away. But I  could also sense his seriousness: this was not going to be a negotiation. Not one that I could win, anyway.

In short, Alchemy told me that I needed a sabbatical. He told me that the work of Urgent Evoke is largely that of one trying to restore a balance to a particular place and that this work cannot be done in the long-term without maintaining a balance in our own lives. I could understand this. I’ve seen many of a passionate activist become burned out, withdrawn and even embittered after years of effort and unfinished work.

“But”, he said as gently laughed, “this is no time for vacation.” He then asked me about the people close to me and the work they were doing. And then he asked me about the young people that I knew in the community. Were any of them possible Agent material?

I confessed that I was no Calida and I lacked her ability pick out that person in the crowd who had the spark, the drive and the ingenuity to flourish in the chaotic environment of the Evoke Network.

“Ah”, replied Alchemy, “Have you considered giving them a mission to give them an opportunity to show themselves to you?”

And that phone call has put me on this path of mentorship. And the young people that I’ve been introduced to through this new role have completely inspired and revitalized a part of myself that I didn’t even realize was tired. Not to say that the work doesn’t come with its own frustrations. Young people are so impatient for change! And yet it always a joy to work towards a better future with them.

And for them.


When I first got involved with EVOKE, I knew I was in for a wild ride, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened.  The sheer number of Agents who became part of the EVOKE network was simply astounding!  But what was even more astounding was the unbridled creativity that arose from our pool of new Agents.

It was so exciting to see all new EVOKE Agents just jump right in and powerfully give so much of themselves creatively, emotionally, intellectually, and collaboratively!

I feel truly honored to have been a part of this wild ride that we call EVOKE!  And you the Agents made it all possible!  Don’t let the end of EVOKE experience be the end of your experience!   Keep EVOKING!!


We began this game with an old adage, “Give someone a fish – feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish – feed them for a lifetime.” Many agents have commented on the powerful truth in these simple words. But there’s an assumption also: that the teacher knows the best way to do the task (that there even is one best way).

EVOKE has been an experiment in going beyond that assumption. We began EVOKE not knowing “how to fish.” What we did have was faith that, if we brought together enough people into the right kind of discussion, they would collectively figure out excellent solutions to problems.

This is nothing new, of course. Since time immemorial people have gathered around a campfire to tell a story which leads to discussions about what is happening and what, collectively and individually, we should do about it. The difference is that, with the electronic campfire of the Internet, we can now involve tens of thousands of people from all over the world.

The method is a long way from perfect. As agents well  know, the restraints of the Internet exclude many of the most desired voices from participating. Plus there are language barriers, cultural differences, distractions…

What is remarkable to me, however, is how powerful EVOKE has proven to be despite its limits. I speak both as an observer and as a participant. As an observer, I can see change happening almost anywhere I look on EVOKE. Agents build on what has been posted before, and other agents continue the building process through their comments. By being in turns both teacher and student, EVOKE’s agents have created a massively inclusive educational machine, one designed to continuously welcome new students, bring them up to speed quickly, and welcome a diversity of ideas. It’s not just intellectual; it’s social, emotional, cultural; it’s full-contact learning.

As a participant, I come away changed from each session with the agents on EVOKE. It will be hard, I think, for people looking at the game after it is over to fully appreciate its dynamic pull. But the agents will remember, and that’s what’s important.

5 Responses to “Manifesto: EVOKE and Beyond”

  1. buffyb

    Yes Ken, it has been a wild ride, I will never forget the things I’ve learned from playing this ‘game’.

    Anyone looking at Evoke who didn’t participate can say what they want, but the purpose was to educate and inspire people and that’s exactly what happened.

    Yes there are things to sort out, to streamline, to improve but never let that take away from the fact this method works to bring change for the good in the world from an individual Agent and as a collective Network.

    The Network is alive, the seed has been planted and watered, and it needs tending and protection is all.

  2. Nathaniel Fruchter

    “The Network is alive, the seed has been planted and watered…”

    Love it!

  3. Nangar Soomro

    EVOKE is not a Destination it is rather a journey and journey towards CHANING THE WORLD. I am please and privlidged to be part of Evoke and more than that I am a front seat passenger along with you all travellers. I have learnt alot by colloborating with evoke agents and has initiated my passion towards continuous improvement through innovation and creativity. I have drafted a Vision Mission for me and I hope the Evoke in future would be recalled as driving force for my success in changing and challenging the world conventional ideas……….. I am grate full to all of the members who atleast participated in different discussions, provided their input and particiapted in collective wisdom gathering excercise………. Last message for all of you TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE THE THINGS HAPPEN IN THIS WORLD so lets collobrate and evoke for innovation………… Soomro Nangar.

  4. Kate Purnell

    I happened upon Jane McGonigal’s TED talk only a few days ago and discovered EVOKE’s existence. To visit and glimpse the reality of your creative collaboration is awe inspiring. I find myself excited and profoundly reassured – all is not lost , it’s not too late.Thank you (all 19290 of you) for making it so much easier to believe that together we really can change the world.

    I look forward to joining the next adventure

  5. Tom

    Will there be another season of Evoke? I would love to play I think the social innovation here is awesome. In fact, I think this should be a game playable through facebook, combining the resource of social networking sites with a thought provoking tool like Evoke could have uncanny results and impacts on society.

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