Sphaira plays for climate changes

SphairaSphaira Innovation is one of those climate nonprofits that have teeth, not a charity that is sitting on the fence.

There is little doubt that climate change is having an increasing effect on the health and lifestyles of humans on our planet. According to the UN, 2023 saw the warmest year on record with the global average temperature ‘1.45°C above the pre-industrial baseline’.

We are seemingly careering towards the 2°C limit that was agreed at COP21 in Paris and precariously close to the 1.5°C that world leaders have subsequently set as a figure that must not be breached by the end of the century.

Naturally, everybody is trying to save the world. Extraordinary nonprofits such as Friends Of The Earth and Greenpeace have their own particular approaches to doing so and there are any number of global guerilla groups that are more strident in their exploits in making the world aware of this global catastrophe.

Others are trying to do it in a different way and in the process stretching the concept of what a nonprofit does and how it can work in the most efficient and commercial way.

One such nonprofit is Sphaira Innovation, which is bringing people power and technology together to make positive change. It does this by leveraging a platform through which consumers can contribute to combating climate change while enjoying their usual entertainment, such as playing a game.

Sphaira recently tasked its auditors EY to examine the ways the effectiveness of eco-donate platforms can be measured, particularly how  nonprofits can grow and do good things by harnessing technological innovation.

To that end, last week Sphaira acquired videogames market insights specialist Playmob. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, creates a formal relationship between Playmob and Sphaira’s PlanetPlay, which is bringing the games industry and players together to fight climate change, including working closely on initiatives with the UN Development Programme.

Playmob CEO Jude Ower now becomes Chief Strategy Officer of Sphaira UK and will be working with Sphaira CEO Rhea Loucas to take the new entity to the next level.

Playmob has previously worked closely with PlanetPlay on the launch of the latter’s Make Green Tuesday Moves campaign, which helps games studios and players make important real-world impact in the fight against climate change.

In 2021, Ower worked with the UN Development Programme on the ‘People’s Climate Vote’, the biggest survey of consumer attitudes towards climate change, which was facilitated through Playmob’s game insights platform and reached 33 million gamers worldwide. The survey had 1.2 million validated votes in 50 countries around the world.

Recently returned from the UK Government’s Department for Business & Trade GREAT FUTURES event in Riyadh, where she discussed how the UK video games industry can work with Saudi Arabia in areas such as gaming and sustainability, Ower has always been interested in taking games beyond entertainment. 

“I had always loved games and played a lot when I was younger,” she explains. “At University I created a startup with friends, developing games for education and training. To me this was the ‘aha’ moment of games being used beyond entertainment. 

 “This then led to thinking about how games can be used to turn online actions into offline impact, at a time when social gaming was starting to boom. The new model of free to play (this was pre-mobile and mainly on Facebook) was opening up opportunities to bring in millions of players, and monetise through micropayments, giving a % of this to good causes.”

 In 2012, and after running a number of activations with the likes of EA, Ubisoft, Rovio, Niantic, Pixelberry and others, Ower discovered that there was a great opportunity to engage with players at scale and learn about what they care about.

 Six years later in 2018, the UN approached Playmob with its Climate Promise initiative and began exploring how they could use games to enable players to speak up on climate action, so they could then give that data to world leaders to help inform their climate policy decisions. 

 Playmob developed a playable ad for the UN called Mission 1.5, and rolled this out to over 60 countries, reaching 33 million people and gaining 1.2 million validated votes. This was the world’s largest ever study on climate attitudes. 

Under the Sphaira Innovation umbrella, Ower will once again be working with the UNDP to find out whether people consider climate change to be a global emergency, and how they would like their countries to tackle the issue.

At a time where we hear so much about climate change, but are unsure what to do and in some cases face climate anxiety, we are offering something that really engages a mass population,” adds Ower.

“Because of this want and need, we see incredible results for participating games studio partners, such as new players, deeper engagement, re-engagement, monetisation and more virality. Even with in-game surveys we see around 60% engagement and 50%+ completion.”

 As Sphaira continues to scale by means of other partnerships in the USA/MiddleEast/Asia, proving how a nonprofit can grow by acquisitions and innovations that other major charities and non profits may find difficult, Loucas and Ower will have a crucial role to play at the highest-possible level in implementing those aims.

Together they may be two of the special few who will actually help save the world.

Monty (713 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.


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About Monty

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.