We present a game concept that serves multiple purposes within a larger project to promote empowerment and community development. The game is called Abhi Ya Kabhi (AYK, pronounced aBee yaah kaBee), a Hindi phrase that means, “If not now, then when?” It was designed in a highly participatory process and was tested with eighty-one participants in eight rural village sites across five states in India. It’s original purpose was to teach life skills in a more informal setting accessible to people without any game literacy; however, in practice we found that it was also a successful means of building trust with the community and with project staff, and promoted a healthy dialogue around addressing community problems. The discussion activities around the game also support the participants in identifying and defining the real life problems they face, and reflecting constructively upon them as a starting point for developing solutions. As it occurs as part of a game, the feeling of ‘play’ enables more freedom for discussion than the often rigid social norms village life typically allows; bringing people together across caste, gender, age and economic divides and building trust with project staff. Our participatory model using AYK is designed to be contextually sensitive and maximally productive for the target communities. We put forth this model of community engagement as a best practice for empowerment interventions.
S. Kongeseri, Sheshadri, S., Coley, C., Muir, A., and Rao R. Bhavani, “Games for Community Development and Problem Solving: A Multi-Site Case Study”, Advanced Science Letters, vol. 24, pp. 2358–2361, 2018.