The Who, What And Why Of GRID

This is for all those who have loved, supported and endorsed GRID but don’t fulllyyyyy understand what GRID is. I present to you GRID 101.

Who is Mariam?

A passionate development practitioner, an international development student and an aspiring social entrepreneur, Mariam Adil believes in the power of young people, especially women, and has a vision of a world where empowered girls are not a minority but a norm. Her favourite quote this year is “Why can’t “run like a girl” mean win the race?”

In addition to her roles and responsibilities as an Economist (Consultant) with the Africa Education Global Practice at the World Bank, Mariam is working towards mainstreaming games as development solutions through her initiative GRID – Gaming Revolution for International Development. Mariam is committed to making the world a better place, one game at a time.

What is GRID?

GRID, The Gaming Revolution for International Development, gamifies the practice of International Development by creating low-cost digital games that simulate the challenges in designing, implementing and monitoring development projects. We aim to revolutionize the practice of international development by introducing video games as development solutions. These solutions range from capacity building tools for development workers to awareness building tools for project beneficiaries.

Imagine a world where policy-makers can simulate the impact of providing textbooks versus training teachers in public schools in Ghana or teenagers in Malawi can play a simple quiz game on their phones that raises AIDs awareness or young adults in India can be inspired for a career in hoteling by an interactive game on hotel management. With a push towards innovative use of technology in international development, and the recognition of the effectiveness of games as social impact tools, the stage is set for games to revolutionize the practice of international development.

GRID Games:

  • Randomania: Allows development practitioners to think about the challenges of evaluating projects and designing randomized control trials. The game takes the player through the different scenarios they can face in the field and walks them through a decision tree based on the actions of the player.
  • StereoWiped: Inspired by the design of mahjong tiles, it challenges the player to match portions of a stereotype such as “ I am a girl” and “I like pink” and then breaks them using a statistic such as 2 out of 3 girls around you like blue more than pink. So you keep having fun, but you raise awareness about stereotypes in the process.
  • Pipeline:
    • Games for creating behavior change around the issue of open defecation;
    • Game for encouraging Science and Math Education in Gambia;
    • Games for changing parental perceptions on Early Childhood Development.


Mariam’s Achievements related to GRID:

  • Presented GRID on stage at Clinton Global Initiative University at a session moderated by President Clinton
  • Awarded “Best Social Venture” prize at GW Business Plan Competition
  • Awarded The GWU Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning
  • Recipient of the Elliott School’s Wilbur J. Carr Prize
  • Received “Honorable Mention” award at UN PeaceApp Competition
  • GRID has been featured in Washington Post, WB Today, GW Today, Global Voices and VentureBeat.

Why Games?

  • Games can be used to promote social change: Games can help raise awareness, bring social issues to the forefront and provide a fun opportunity for introspection as well as public action.
    • Behavioral Change: “Tell me, & I will forget, Show me, & I may remember, Involve me, & I will understand” Confucius. Games offer a platform to engage and involve in the process of building awareness. Games can offer an interactive medium for information dissemination that moves away from brochures and pamphlets. Policy makers can use games to build awareness around projects such as health interventions and trigger behavioral shifts.
    • Promote dialogue: Dialogue around serious social issues such as racial stereotyping, birth control or women empowerment can be tricky to initiate and sustain. These issues are so deeply inscribed in our social constructs that few people question them and even the ones that do, find it difficult to engage in a dialogue around them. Video games can target these social constructs and prompt individuals to challenge them in a fun way. Games can bring the dialogue to the comfort zone of people, specifically youth, and leverage the convenience of technology and interactive nature of video games to promote social change.
  • Games are a great tool for capacity building: Video games can help development practitioners and students better understand the challenges of designing, implementing and evaluating development projects by offering a complementary learning method to more formal training.
    • Simulate decision making: The interactive nature of video games can prepare development practitioners for the complex decision-making and behavioral challenges that they face on a regular basis. Games are able to simulate several layers of decisions (or nodes of a decision tree) in an engaging manner, a complexity books or presentations cannot fully address.
    • Build perspective around trade-offs in utilization of public resources: Games offer a safe environment to simulate the effects of policies and understand the trade-offs involved in the decision-making process.
    • Visualize the counterfactual: We often hear that policy makers cannot attribute the impact of their projects to their intervention unless they are able to observe what would have happened in the absence of an intervention (counterfactual). Since the counterfactual is unobserved, advanced econometric techniques are used to estimate the counterfactual. Imagine if policy makers could now also visualize this counterfactual by simply “undo-ing” a policy in a simulation. This allows development practitioners to compare and contrast different policy interventions through video games. For example a game that simulates the education sector in Nigeria, can provide a policy maker with a sense of the opportunities and challenges of investing $10 million in teacher training versus curriculum reform.

The GRID Team (in no particular order):

Rizwan Nusrat, Adil Shafi, Taimoor Ul Hassan, Maryam Bilal, Kiran Javaid

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