In the game of international development

GWupstart’s Melanie Fedri took a moment to sit down with Mariam Adil (ESIA MS ’15)

May 12, 2014

Q. Tell us about social entrepreneurship. What does it mean to you?

A. When you mix entrepreneurial passion with a vision to change the world for the better you get social entrepreneurship. At its very core is the ambition to contribute positively to the world around you.

Q. You had the initial idea to found GRID. What problem are you working to solve?
A. There is a learning gap between the science of international development taught to students and development practitioners, and the art of development practiced by professionals in the field. Until now, there have been few tools to bridge that gap – to provide the experiential learning required to practice complex decision-making at a scale well beyond one-to-one interaction.

Q. What is GRID all about? What does it aim to do?
A. GRID provides low-cost, demand-driven gaming solutions for greater understanding of the challenges encountered in international development. With a push towards innovative use of technology in international development, and the recognition of the effectiveness of games as learning tools, the stage is set for development games to be introduced as training mechanisms for development practitioners and students.

Q. Was there one moment or a series of moments that inspired you to action?
A. Being a student and a practitioner of international development, I realized the importance of the art of development and the need for learning tools that could simulate the challenges faced in perfecting this art.

Q. Have you had an “aha” moments of insight while working to get GRID off and running?
A. It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of a new idea. An important lesson for me was “not everything can be simulated as a game,” and this came as a random thought when I was trying to make sure our first game did not end up looking like an online course module. It was an important thought that allows me to filter between challenges that have the potential to be simulated with GRID games.

Q. Has anyone been a sounding board for you in the process of founding GRID?
A. GRID has been a team effort and our inspiration has come in little doses, in the shape of moments when we’ve gotten to discuss our idea with development experts and they’ve told us GRID is unique and meets a pressing need.

Q. The diversity on GRID’s team is notable. Tell us about that.
A. GRID serves a niche market of gaming solutions for the development world. This marriage of gaming with development is a fairly new idea, and it helps build holistic knowledge in the field, which is hard to gain because topics are taught in a fragmented way. Creating games that simulate realistic scenarios for international development requires an interdisciplinary approach. GRID has a number of students and mentors from different fields on its team. Our student team members have expertise that ranges from economic development to public policy to computer programming to business administration to fine arts and music.

Q. You and two of your teammates attended CGI U 2014. How did that experience benefit GRID?
A. Two days packed with inspiration, passion, and optimism made CGI U the perfect launching pad for our first game.

Q. Can you share a valuable insight you picked up at CGI U?
A. We met Asi Buran of Games for Change at CGI U 2014, and he gave great advice about marketing social games. The pricing and marketing of social games is very different from conventional games.

Q. If a GW student was on the fence about social entrepreneurship, and turning thought into action, what would you have to say to him or her?
A. It won’t be easy but its worth every ounce of energy! There will come a time when your venture will be the driving force behind all your ambitions, be they professional or academic.

Q. How does your work with GRID support your professional goals?
A. Being a development practitioner myself, I know that holistic knowledge of the development process is critical. The process of developing GRID games helps me do my development work for the World Bank so much better. I know it can help thousands of practitioners and students just like me.

Q. What’s next for GRID?
A. We’ve piloted our first game with the World Bank, and we’re looking forward to expanding our reach and making more games.

GRID was also a 2014 Finalist in the GW Business Plan Competition. Watch their pitch in the final round here:


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