In partnership with the University of Southern California and Global Kids, the foundation will use the "island" as a laboratory for its two-year exploration of how virtual spaces can be used for social good, educate grantees and others about the potential for philanthropy in virtual worlds, and allow grantees and foundation partners to showcase their work and connect with new audiences.
The exploration of virtual worlds is part of the foundation's $50 million digital media and learning initiative, which aims to learn more about how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. Virtual worlds such as Second Life are user-created 3-D communities that allow users to connect with real people from around the globe. Participants in Second Life engage each through avatars — simulated representations of their physical selves — that can move from location to location within Second Life, talk with others, and even show emotion.
"We are just beginning to understand the potential of virtual worlds for social good, and MacArthur Island will make it possible for us to take the next steps in our investigation," said MacArthur Foundation president Jonathan Fanton. "Although the use of virtual worlds is exploding, we need to better understand when and how nonprofits should invest their scarce resources. Now is the time to do this work. Philanthropy should be an active player as these new spaces take shape."