The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the world in an unprecedented and unforeseen manner, its effects on health and daily living unforgiving and enduring. Its massive impact has ushered in the wave of the “new normal”, an inherently abnormal situation the world has been forced to adapt to. No country or person has been spared from the COVID-19 pandemic, just as the passage of the Biblical flood.

In the past few months, the inadequacy of the government’s resources and systems to cater to the resulting needs of the general public has become apparent, leading to the voluntary involvement of private institutions and individuals. Most governments around the world, especially in developing countries, do not have enough essential supplies such as food, water, medicine, protective equipment, and the like to fully provide for their less fortunate constituents. Moreover, even if they do wish to increase production and distribution of these supplies, they cannot because the shortage of manpower and capital prevents them from hastily meeting the demand pull.

Where the government has fallen short, the private sector has voluntarily stepped in by donating money, supplies or industry (“resources”). The altruistic effort of private institutions and individuals has become indispensable at this time of crisis. However, as the end of pandemic remains uncertain, there is an imminent threat of “donor’s fatigue” aggravated by an economic crisis. As the private efforts do not appear to change the overall situation, but only mitigate the harms thereof, the initial enthusiasm of altruism wanes.

Considering that most governments are still in the process of finding or implementing a viable exit plan, the welfare of the general public especially the isolated and marginalized is at risk without intervention of the private sector.

Thus, there is a need to continuously encourage acts of random kindness from existing donors at risk of donor’s fatigue or apathy, potential donors that do not know how to mobilize their resources, and non-donors that have not considered donating. While public reliance on the private sector is traditionally viewed as unsustainable, given the gravity and uncertainty of the crisis, we are determined to provide a solution that would sustain the willingness of the private sector to contribute throughout and even beyond the pandemic.

We believe that the collective response of humanity is key to survival in this pandemic. With the belief that acts of random kindness serve as the ark to navigate through the flood of problems of this pandemic, our team has developed ARK.

What it does

ARK is a mobile application that uses gamification to incentivize people (the “User/s”) to do acts of random kindness (a.r.k.) requested by partner institutions (the “Receiving Partner”), such as donating relief goods, producing protective personal equipment, transporting frontliners, among others. In exchange, ARK Users can receive in-game perks and real-life rewards from Partner Businesses.

For the minimum viable product, ARK uses Unity for the front-end and Firebase for the backend. When ARK goes to scale, the backend will be changed from Firebase to Node.js and AWS. Additional features have been identified for future development, including side quests and peer-to-peer interaction.

The game is simple. ARK Users are given an ark, which they can upgrade and fill with animals that they save from a pandemic. The user’s goal is to continuously build and expand the ark to accommodate and collect all species of animals in the ARK world.

So aside from being a fun game how does ARK contribute in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic? ARK, through its ARK Board platform, makes Users aware of the real-time manpower and supplies needs of Receiving Partners and enables them to directly contribute by performing acts of random kindness (“a.r.k.”) such as donating supplies or volunteering time to fulfill the needs posted on the ARK Board.

Upon accomplishing an a.r.k., ARK will then reward the User with in-game experience points and currency. The experience points can then be used to increase user level and the storage space of the ark, which is necessary for the User to be able to accommodate the continuous daily influx of animals seeking shelter in the ark. Meanwhile, in-game currency can be used to buy decorations and improvements for the ark and accessories for the animals in it. Thus, by literally making donating or volunteering rewarding, ARK Users are further incentivized to engage in altruism habitually.

To further incentivize users, ARK will also provide an increasing amount of real-world rewards and benefits from our Partner Businesses such as discounts and freebies, as the users increase in level. Thus, ARK users now derive real tangible benefits aside from in-game rewards for each act of random kindness that they accomplish.

Partner Businesses are encouraged to direct marketing efforts to ARK to align with corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) objectives and the public demand for businesses to do social good most especially at a time of crisis. Given the economic slowdown, the ARK platform becomes increasingly attractive to Partner Businesses, especially those in the food industry, which consumers view as most lacking in CSR.[1] In exchange, ARK is able to collect a service fee from Partner Businesses that can be directed towards operational costs and further donations to Receiving Partners.

Ultimately, through the User’s a.r.k. and Partner Businesses’ support, the Receiving Partner is empowered and equipped to direct the private sector’s collective initiatives towards addressing the problems and needs of the general public in this pandemic as it continues to unfold.

How I built it

We formed a team based on the core competencies and the alignment of vision of each member. Our team’s competencies include business development, brand development, UX/UI design, graphic design, marketing, app conceptualization and design. Our vision is to provide a sustainable and scalable solution to the COVID-19 pandemic that can be adapted in other crisis situations.

Over the weekend, we identified and dissected the problem, and designed a gamified solution. We completed the business model, branding, design, and prototype, and tested the same through market survey and competitive analysis.

We have made a collective commitment to execute the necessary steps to pursue building our ARK

Challenges I ran into

Forming and looking for a team. Also we had a difficult time fully conceptualizing and executing how the gaming experience will be.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

We were able to complete the conceptual framework for the full ARK gaming experience. We also were able to complete our whole prototype and have validated our concept with consumers and business owners through a survey we conducted during the weekend.

What I learned

We learned that there is a vast demographic in the private sector that can be tapped to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, provided that they be given the right incentive to help or to renew their energies in helping.

What's next for ARK

Aside from COVID-related acts of kindness, we wish to include acts of kindness for other initiatives as part of the tasks in the ARK board. Furthermore, we want to improve the gaming experience by adding more content e.g., new designs for the ARK and new collectible animals for it.

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