This is the post of what I’d prepared to talk about at Minecon, the Minecraft user event in Las Vegas. It presents the background, thinking and the road ahead for My Blocks (Mina Kvarter in Swedish), You have to excuse whatever ”Swenglish” you encounter in the material.
If you’re interested in more information or getting in touch, I’d be more than happy to help you out. My contact information is at the very end of this post or mentioned elsewhere here at my blog …
First the intro.
The My Blocks project
With My Blocks we (Svensk Byggtjänst) take slightly different use of the possibilities in Minecraft. To take the imagined and translate it into real life, instead of the other way around which I believe is a more common way. We take this tool, this game and the creative power, and use it to help drive social change, as a tool for empowerment, for dialogue. To use it as a platform to create a common ground in workshops where young people in suburban areas in Sweden work together with the house owners in order to visualize ideas, suggestions and future development of the areas in which they live.
To take these visualized ideas and actually transforming them into real-life development projects.
The backdrop is the housing areas in Sweden that is called “the Million Programme”. A social initiative during the sixties and the seventies, when we decided to build one million habitats during a 10 year period. Now these areas are in dear need of renovation and development. An enormous project that affects about 25 percent of the population in Sweden. And to an investment of around 45,5 billion USD.
We believe that this mega task has to be done taking in account the sustainability aspect – a development that includes social, economical, and environmental sustainability.
And focusing on the social sustainability is important. The housing areas have in many cases been thoroughly worn down. The impact on the residents in the areas that has to be renovated is big. The size and scope of the projects and the work that must be done in and around the homes, places great demands. In addition, the residents has to remain in their homes while the renovation takes place.
And we do believe that Minecraft is the perfect tool to use for this. We use it in what we have dubbed ”My Blocks”, or Mina Kvarter in Swedish.
The vision of My Blocks is part of our long-term focus on how we participate in achieving a sustainable solution for “the Million Programme” in Sweden.
My Blocks is also our first foray into the social web area. A completely new area for us being your typical B2B company within a “reasonably” conservative market. As all brilliant ideas this evolved over time. And to be quite honest, it’s still evolving as I speak. We’ve been live less than a month with our Facebook page and Minecraft server.
It all started when we had this brain wave that Minecraft could be an innovative way to help people to visualize their ideas about improving their neighborhood. After all Minecraft is about exploring, constructing and visualizing. But to use a global game success in this context? After all, we’re a small company in a business that is considered anything but hot.
But to our surprise and gratitude we got both the attention and approval from Mojang and CEO Carl Manneh. And us being complete and utter noobs in this area their help has been invaluable.
They helped us locating two Minecraft specialists through their vast network. It took them all of about 15 minutes to get around 600 interested in the project. The job to set up the Minecraft server and content was put in the competent hands of David and Emil.
So from the day we gave the go-ahead on the My Blocks project internally, things has moved at a blinding pace. From start till launch it took us 10 weeks.
Minecraft is being used as both a workshop tool but also as an inspirational tool. So My Blocks is also an open Minecraft server that can be used by any interested “virtual builder”.
It’s easy to descibe how My Blocks is constructed. In the center there is the Portal. This is where new users can get acquainted with the concept and get some guidance before their first visit.
By using the two “teleporters” the visitor can choose if it wants to go the already fabricated showblocks or to the Open Space and start creating their own environment straight out of their own imagination. It’s a simple and straightforward solution which everyone can understand.
The already built area, the showblocks, are intended to resemble real life neighborhoods – with multistorey buildings, town houses, squares, parks etc.
David and Emil are also close by most of the time. We wanted to assure that visitors are well taken care of and get the help they need. Once they’re in My Blocks the visitors help each other with ideas, advice and construction.
Recently we put up a message area where users can leave signs (notes) to us or other users. A very simple way to keep in touch with things.
The result of this project has been a nice mix of gamification, interactivity, dialogue and engagement.
So the workshops. Very early on we received a great interest in the workshop solution. By using Minecraft to visualize ideas and suggestions in workshops, we have reached the youth living in the Million Programme areas and it has been very successful.
We performed a “pilot” workshop with great result with some great people from the suburb of Fisksätra in Sweden. There they have established a Youth Council, which is part of a nationwide network consisting of local neighborhoods, communities or cities. It’s purpose is to improve the social conditions for the local youth. These young people are already very involved in developing their neighborhood. The result is dramatic with reduced vandalism and crime rates, lessened unemployment. They’ve created a safer, better neighborhood.
Around 15 youths gathered to learn Minecraft and to jump to the challenge of visualizing their ideas. Our Mindcraft heroes David and Emil took the challenge and guided and instructed with their expertise.
We also conducted workshops at a weekend conference when all Swedish youth councils were gathered.
When we communicated about our workshop in Fisksätra, other cities and neighborhoods came to us asking how they can take part in this. Honestly, every single time we talk about this concept we get tons of feedback from local towns, cities, real estate companies and organizations who want take part of our solution in one way or another.
An extremely exciting project is Telge Hovsjö where they will use the resulting Minecraft work as part of the construction documents. This project will commence during winter and will be finished during 2012.
In order to be able to cater these requests, we have made a workshop package in order to offer as many as possible to use our concept. This includes framework, documentation, agendas, moderators/facilitator as well as, of course, Minecraft introduction.
We have just started. We have come as far as a couple of 100 yards in a Marathon race. And our Marathon race is only a fraction of everything that needs to be done like achieving a sustainable development and renovating housing areas which covers 25 percent of our population. This is the great renovation project of the Million programme.
Our project My Blocks is just a small part of this great challenge in Sweden, and My Blocks is a small part of a global phenomenon which engages millions: Minecraft. Nevertheless, we’re proud of what we’re doing.
Therefore I invite all to join us at My Blocks. Join the Minecraft server, take a tour around the block. And, why not leave a message at the Message area (the huge sign with Mina Kvarter). Here’s the information you need.
About me, Svensk Byggtjänst and getting in touch
My name’s Mats Hultgren and I’m the Publishing Director and CTO of a Swedish company called Svensk Byggtjänst. We’re an information and knowledge company supplying our customers with the tools, information and knowledge regarding the technical aspects of the construction, civil engineering, real estate industries as well as the public sector.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send tweets using the hashtag #myblocks or addressing them to my Twitter id @matshultgren. That way I can answer all your questions, if you don’t want to address them here. Also, feel free if you want to leave any comments, suggestions or feedback using the Comments here at the blog.