Centre for Internet & Society

As a part of the Making Change blog-post series, in this post we will identify a new technique: gamification. This technique is being used for sustainable environment conservation by modern day change-makers. We interview two out of three co-founders of Reap benefit- Kamal Raj and Gautam Prakash who believe in the adoption of more sustained environmental practices that induce social change towards conserving the environment.


CHANGE-MAKER: Kamal Raj,Gautam Prakash and Kuldeep Dantewadia

METHOD OF CHANGE: Gamification and Human centric systems for consistent behavior change towards better waste-water-energy management. 

STRATEGY OF CHANGE: Building a new era of environmentally conscious youth in India through technology and an interdisciplinary approach to change.

We depend on the environment and the resources that it provides us, but surprisingly we are unaware of the effects of its depletion and the need to save these resources. A few of the problems that people now face are with resources like- water,waste and energy because we do not acknowledge the fact that we are wasting them unconsciously. This only triggers the need for more and more solutions which would change the way people perceive the resources and realize the need to conserve. While trying to start an initiative to come up with some solutions to manage these resources, we are approached by the question of the accessibility, affordability and sustainability of those solutions. The solutions and the practice of that solution is a two-way process for any sustainable making-change initiative.

In this post I will be introducing to you Reap Benefit and the technique of Gamification. I will bring out a comparative analysis of the various definitions by renowned gaming authorities across the world who are involved in the process of using games in non-game contexts to bring out change in the offline space. Only after this, will I be acknowledging the importance of the strategies used by Reap Benefit for making these solutions sustainable. The strategies will be- human centric solutions and gamification. Then, I will bring out the connection between these two strategies to provide you an inter-disciplinary understanding of the making change process. Next, these strategies will be coupled with the discussion on the use of technology to speed-up the process. Also, throughout this post we will be referring to the blog- Methods of Social Change written by Denisse Albornoz and we will also make an attempt to answer the questions- 'Who,Where,How' of this making change project in relation to Reap Benefit. The blog post can be accessed here.

Before the journey of the post, I would like you to read this little success story narrated by Kamal Raj in the interview that led Reap benefit a step higher in its aim for making change:

Reap benefit went to a school which received only 400 litres of water supply a day resulting in poor health and care conditions. This water would be used for washing their plates after the mid-day meal and also for sanitation systems. This would only make the place a platform for water, food and breeding mosquitoes all together. Since the students usually consumed food with their right hand, while taking the plate to wash it, they would leave the plates at one side; they would open the tap with their left hand, would take their plates again and start washing them. During this time interval, they would waste a lot of water.

As, a solution to this, Reap Benefit changed the taps which would discharge 60% less of water. They also created a clean water purification system. Now, with the same 400 litres of water, students washed their plates and adopted better sanitation practices. The challenges that they faced actually made them innovate better systems for remarkable change.

taps without aerators taps with aerators

Think about these questions for a minute..

  • Does this story relate to physical needs?
  • Does this story relate to creative problem solving?
  • Is it a story that brings out better affordable solutions?
  • With this solution were the students benefited?
  • Was this a successful idea?

Reap Benefit

First of all, take a look at a brief introduction of Reap Benefit given by Kamal Raj:

Kamal: "Reap Benefit works to implement affordable solutions, enabling quantifiable waste-water-energy management systems, as a way to facilitate behavioural change by engaging the head, hand and heart of the user. Having worked with many people, we have realized that behaviour modification allows for more sustained adoption of environment sustainability practices. We take them through a 4-stage behavioural change process – ‘Unconsciously Wrong’, ‘Consciously Wrong’, ‘Consciously Right’ and ‘Unconsciously Right’ (we will understand this process later in the post). A link to the website is here- Reap Benefit."

Reap Benefit is bound together by the deep concern for the environment they have and the dead-lock issues that it faces. They aim for affordable solutions with maximum impact in the least time. Kamal marks that they work only with the students within the age group 10-16, because the use gamification is most effective in this age group. Also, he makes an addition to that by saying the rewards the older age groups demand are not as easy-to-meet as those of the age group they work with. It also aims to co-create experiences by working hands on with the youth: their target audience for creating change.

Reap benefit

It is said that the more you practice the better you get. By this, I would like to introduce you to the concept of quotidian activism. Reap Benefit deeply believes in this concept. But, what does quotidian activism mean? A working definition is: the form of activism occurring everyday. This form of activism may lead to people making actions sustainable and  achieve consistent behavioural change, supported by products and innovations provided by Reap Benefit (later in this post, I will introduce you to some of these innovations).

Finally, Reap Benefit highly focuses on the need to answer the why’ behind the problem. This answer would provide a more personal understanding of the problem for creating change. By engaging the participant with the 'why', he will also be able to evaluate the impact and the benefits of his actions, take ownership of the problem and comprehend the need for innovation.

What is 'change' for Reap Benefit?

Presuming every organization has its own design to making change, Reap Benefit's understands it in the following way:

Gautam: “Change for us is a very sub-conscious part of your life. (It is also a) two stage process- knowledge: which will tell us we need solution and the solution. The knowledge will tell you that you are unconsciously doing the wrong thing. Then when you realize it, you go to a stage of consciously wrong. When you keep doing this you reach a stage when you know that you are consciously doing right, and soon, you are doing it every single day and then you unconsciously do it.”

I will attempt to understand their process of change by adding that this 'to be good' drive in the individual or the need for public approval is what makes them do unconsciously right everyday, and then it is only the last stage what makes it a habit. Gautam also mentions that each of these stages has an impact of its own and altogether, they become more powerful. This change process will lead to sustainable change according to him.

We have seen the change agents that are vital to create change, but how is this change executed? In the next section we will look at two strategies used for making change: gamification and human-centred design and later, we will only try to produce a connection between them.

Discovering Gamification

In this section, we will unpack the first part of the 'how' question. First of all, we will compare the various definitions of the technique given by people involved in understanding the use of game elements in the non-game contexts, to create  change in the emotional and social behaviour of people. The definitions of these three people in the big list of so-called gamification authorities will be used provides us with keywords for a comparative understanding of what the technique means. These three people are:

JANE McGONIGAL: She is an American game designer and author who advocates the use of mobile and digital technology to channel positive attitudes and collaboration in a real world context.

GABE ZICHERMANN: He is an author, public speaker, and self-described "serial entrepreneur." He has worked as a proponent of leveraging game mechanics in business, education, and other non-entertainment platforms to increase user engagement through gamification.

JESSE SCHELL: He is an American video game designer an acclaimed author, CEO of Schell Games and a Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Entertainment Technology.


“It is a blissful productivity acquired by the  flourishing feeling,
that is, accomplishments in a game but only with a volunteering
of the participant.”
“Games are the only
force in the universe
that can get people to take actions against their self-interest in a
predictable way without using force.”
“It is a problem solving situation
that you enter into because you want to.”

I would be like to bring points of intersections between these three definitions.

  1. VOLUNTEERING ATTRIBUTE VS. USE OF FORCE: The volunteering attribute is an efficient way to foster sustainable participation, as opposed to the use of force which makes a campaign less appealing.
  2. PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS: Games are a very responsive way of trying to accomplish problem solving as the person is engaged with the problem and willing to solve it.
  3. PRODUCTIVITY: There problem solving skills leads the participant to a desired outcome.
These points also give you a clear understanding of Reap Benefit who works along the same lines with the volunteer or participant to solve the problem of conservation.
But, does the usage of games actually produce behavioral change? If so, how do games provide this function? These are some of the questions we will try and attempt to answer in the next section.

Games as a Tool to Influence Behaviour

Playing games results in obtaining rewards in some form of the other. These rewards psychologically induce a positive emotional feeling in the participant. When the participant learns something through games and when that emotional feeling arises, he tries and incorporates the same solutions in the games to solving the real life problems. This brings out an improved result and problem solving ability. But what about the affordability of that solution? We need to understand ways to make it affordable because any task once done will not induce consistency in the behavior change. But the task repeated many times will improve or change the behavior over a long period of time. So, when the question of affordability (financial fear) is answered then the emotional feeling primarily can bring out change in the behavior of the individual. (Yongwen Xu, 2011).

There are also some game mechanics that are to be kept in mind to change behavior while designing games apart from just the element of fun and affordability. So, we will now look at another authority involved in gamification in the upcoming section to explore these mechanics. We will also try and understand these mechanics in relation to Reap Benefit.

Game Mechanics

Seth Priebatsch is the creator of SCVNGR and LevelUp social gaming sites. He has provided a list of game mechanics which could be necessary to understand games and why they produce particular changes for a better environment. These are:

  • Appointment Dynamics: to bring players to do something at a pre-defined time and place.
  • Influence and status: any participant or group that is involved in the change-making process, is influenced by the presence of others because of the competition and the envy that leads them to carry forward the task
  • Progression Dynamics: the success of the student is measured through the tasks by giving rewards.
  • Communal Discovery: the entire group or community works towards making change.

Seth's model could be applied to the process of creating change that Reap Benefit uses, and this is illustrated through their experience of a student-run energy audit in the field. A set of students were assigned the task of doing an audit for the energy conservation and the energy usage of a Puma store. They were just given the base for the audit but the criteria for the audit was planned by them. The students were encouraged by the thought of getting rewards for the task. Kamal recalls that they had used games to make the children understand it.

Relating this to Seth's Model, the children were given a pre-defined time and place for doing the task and were influenced both, by the element of competition between the students and also the idea of receiving a reward once the task is completed. The task only ends by obtaining a sense of communal discovery that, all together they can make change on a personal and team level. We understood Seth's model but we will try and comprehend deeper, the use of rewards for inducing behavioral change in the next section.

Rewards Mechanism

Kamal commented on Reap Benefit's 2-3 months periodic reward mechanism. He believes that this makes students equal in position before starting every task.

Kamal: "We use a lot of things like rewards to motivate them to play a game (with us) and we personalize all these rewards based on the questionnaire that we do at the beginning where we subtly understand what they like."

This information which gives ideas of how to encourage each student to get the best performance out of them.

a) Extrinsic rewards: The extrinsic reward here, for example would be allotting points to various participants/ teams. Michael Wu, a chief scientist in subjects like digital technologies, says extrinsic rewards are like a jump start to intrinsic rewards.Once the student acknowledges them, they acquire a sense of ownership and innovation and are empowered to create new solutions. Hence, awareness is not created before the task but an output from the task.

Refer to Gabe Zichermann's video for more on the importance of gamification and the rewards mechanism.


b) Intrinsic rewards: Apart from producing behavior change, gamification's can also indicate learning. One of the elements that facilitates learning would be:

Player Control: A participant will have certain amount of control while gaming which would lead to a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Learning could be intrinsic only if there is responsibility of gaining a reward through a task.

There are many other elements that produce learning and they could be accessed here.

Human-Centric Model

Human-centred systems aim to preserve or enhance human skills, in both manual and office work, in environments in which technology tends to undermine the skills that people use in their work.

We will now answer the second part of the 'how' question and show another strategy for making change. Human centric systems do not use machines to create solutions to the problems but rather design the game with the importance of the 'user-friendly' element. This has been explored in a past post by Denisse. Access it here.

Reap Benefit's ‘transparent dustbin’ is a great model to illustrate this. The dustbin is transparent for people to see and then throw the waste in according to different types of waste. It is kept at an eye-level so that the waste already thrown inside can help the person perceive and throw his waste in the exact dustbin and to make it easily accessible for the public.


transparent dustbin

These human-centric approaches provide a consistent change in the behaviour of the individual because the method is user-friendly and make segregation easy. The objectives is to engage in unconscious behavioural change. The transparent dustbin is better explained by this audio byte of Kamal Raj:

Another innovation of Reap Benefit, is the compose mixture

Kamal says: "The idea was to throw something with it, like the degrade compost product we innovated and the waste would compost, without smell, without taking 3 months."

This mix, by giving visual feedback could be accessible by anyone due to its low cost and easy-to-use method. So, these innovations justify and explain the benefits of human centric models and also produce many new ideas in the minds of the students( James,2010). I would like to explain this by a chain of ideas that arise while segregating plastic and non-plastic waste.

The participation in the structure (waste segregation model)

The negatives of the model (harmful effects of mixing plastic in the model)

Realizing the need for another mechanism (dustbins for different types of waste)

Another idea to support the new mechanism (dustbins should be transparent and named)
The need to spread this (start campaigning for the system)

Explaining this model in brief: the waste segregation model is the segregation of plastic and other waste. During this process the three ideas that arise are: a) the harmful effects of plastic, b) the need for a plastic waste dustbin and a non-plastic waste dustbin, and the last one, b) the transparency of the dustbin. Then the major question of spreading the model by using technology arises. This would be the model thought by the participant during the discussion of  the usage of technology for sustainability.

But what is sustainability and how is it important? Complementing the technique of gamification and the human- centric approaches with technology to make it a sustainable solution is a challenge. This system may be adopted by all. But the aftermath of implementing this apparatus is a challenging question. In the next section we will comprehend the role of technology adding a more positive result to Reap benefit.

The Role of Technology and Media

This section will look at how Reap Benefit uses technology and media and then try and understand how the use of technology can make these solutions sustainable.

Kamal: "There are two aspects that are already existing- knowledge and the products. So, when someone starts the journey, technology enables us to be with them in this journey without us being there. Without the sharing of photos through digital media like facebook, keeping track of the journey would not be possible. We need technology to bridge the gap."

Information access is facilitated by the use of technology and digital media or social networking, as they share the systems with their online community. But, when this access is denied the only solution is to be a part of the in-tutor system and realize the positives of the same through experience. Technology takes Reap Benefit a step higher in its aim to make sustainable change by targeting youth, the main users of social network platforms.

Making Change

We started this post with an introduction to a very strong initiative- Reap Benefit. Techniques such as gamification and human-centric systems are used effectively by this organization to create maximum benefits. It focuses highly on the use of these strategies to induce behaviour modification in youth. We attempted to build a relationship between these techniques to answer whether they are sustainable, intelligible and accessible solutions to making change.

Summing up the 'WHO,WHERE AND HOW' question- We have only understood that, to use the opportunity and take charge before others do so, we need a 3-stage plan. We understood that the WHO means the target, the change agents who will lead the initiative and comprehend the need for change by themselves. The question of WHERE focuses on the idea of making change in the public space rather than in the private sphere which limits the extent of the change. We have summarized this only by bringing out the importance of technology to make change the largest priority of youth. The question of HOW is understood in this post by the use to affordable solutions.

The problems faced by the environment call for solutions that are affordable and accessible. These two qualities of the solution would only make it sustainable.These solutions are met by various game elements in a game and the human centric approaches that engage the individual in problem solving by disseminating knowledge to them and informing them about the problems. This makes those solutions to problem-solving evaluatable through quantity and the quality of the result of the problem. Behavior change will be only possible by solutions that break the existing schemas in the society and create new innovations. (James,2010).  Now, through sustainable, innovative solutions through these techniques we can make the dream of a clear and clean environment a reality.

While this blog may help you gain a positive understanding about gamification it would certainly lead you to many more questions. In this digital age, we would surely have to ‘re-game-think’ the methodologies for change again and agai,n not only in terms of using unique techniques such as gamification but also in terms of accessibility of such techniques for change in the structural divisions in society.


  1. Reward is one of the elements that drives the individual to adopt the gamification technique- the reward/feedback mechanism. You can acquire a profound reading on more of these elements that leads to further making-change here- http://www.yukaichou.com/.
  2. A few more elements like the player control and communal discovery that indicates learning through Gamification could be found here- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification
  3. More information on persuasive messages, strategies for changing behavior, rules for effective delivery, and how to manage the participants/audience in the making change initiative can be found-http://sustainability.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/Promoting_Sustain_Behavior_Primer.pdf
  4. To hear a talk show of Yukaichou on TEDx about Gamification- check it here- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5Qjuegtiyc
  5. To hear another talk show of Gabe Zichermann on TEDx about Gamification- check here- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2N-5maKZ9Q
  6. The process of creating sustainability through gamification and technology, according to Rachel James, goes as follows:
    • Attracting attention by breaking the existing schemas (mental structures of preconceived idea, Jean Piaget,1926) This can be done by creating a mystery for them and then involving the individual in complex thought processing to change the schema. Story-telling could also induce emotional reactions to inspire or simulate them.
    • Persuade them through gamification
    • Make the strategies for change very rigid which cannot be changed often and acknowledge what you deliver to your audience.


    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification
    2. James, Rachel. “Promoting Sustainable Behavior- a guide to successful communication”. Web. August 2010.
    3. Xu, Yongwen. ” literature review on web application Gamification and analytics”. Web. August 2011.
    4. http://www.yukaichou.com
    5. Albornoz, Denisse. 'Methods for Social Change'. Web. February 2014. The link for the same is here- http://cis-india.org/digital-natives/making-change/methods-for-social-change.


    About Dipali Sheth:

    Studying in my 3rd year at Christ University gave me the opportunity to intern at Centre for Internet and Society. This post has been a result of my internship for a month under the Making Change program at CIS. My interest in Research and New Media started the journey here and has only added to making Research my zeal in the near future.

    The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of their individual authors. Unless the opposite is explicitly stated, or unless the opposite may be reasonably inferred, CIS does not subscribe to these views and opinions which belong to their individual authors. CIS does not accept any responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the views and opinions of these individual authors. For an official statement from CIS on a particular issue, please contact us directly.