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C. Sven Johnson: American Cancer Society Virtually Expanding Their Reach

WC-SLRelay.jpgC. Sven Johnson is an independent product development consultant who holds a BSc in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a BFA in Industrial Design from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and who covers topics related to the convergence of real and virtual worlds over on the reBang website.

The American Cancer Society has begun actively recruiting volunteers for their Second Life Relay for Life fundraiser currently scheduled for 27-28 August. The organizationally-supported, virtual world version of the decades-old Relay for Life event may very well be trailblazing uncharted territory. As Randy Moss, Project Specialist for the American Cancer Society's Futuring and Innovation Center explained in a recent SL Future Salon presentation, "Our brand is our lifeline" (text and audio available here). It takes some guts to put your hard-earned brand equity into the hands of a bunch of avatars.

Charitable events and fundraisers within the videogame community and even inside virtual world simulations aren't new. They are, however, typically organized at the grassroots level. That's how it happened last year when Second Life resident Jade Lily linked virtual world donations collected during in-world auctions to the ACS's real world local fundraising event. After receiving a check for almost $2000, the local organization "didn't know what to do with it." That pleasant confusion apparently opened a few eyes to the possibility of reaching an entirely different audience inhabiting these virtual spaces. Perhaps a successful fundraiser will open a few more eyes.

In preparation for this year's event, ACS's Futuring and Innovation Center (FIC) is teaming with Second Life residents, all with the blessing of virtual world host Linden Lab. FIC was set up especially to leverage this kind of social/technological convergence, which is an indication of just how forward-thinking the ACS has become. Assisting with preparations is the non-profit Acceleration Studies Foundation.

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