'Block by Block': The Official Minecraft Charity

All about the official Minecraft 'Block by Block' charity!

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In the words of the organization themselves, “Block by Block is an innovative partnership between Mojang, the makers of the videogame Minecraft, and UN-Habitat, the UN Programme for Sustainable Cities. We use Minecraft as a community participation tool in urban design and fund the implementation of public space projects all over the world, with a focus on poor communities in developing countries.”

Since the charity’s beginning in 2012, Block by Block’s initiative has been to improve public places throughout the world, all the while “promoting sustainable and healthy living, providing space for walking, cycling, and collaboration” in places that may be deemed underdeveloped. To make these places better for the communities in which inhabit the locations they are trying to improve, Block by Block attempts to bring various people in from the community to help design what could be the next perfect public space.

In the about section of Block by Block’s website, they claim, “Public spaces are vital ingredients of successful cities, providing the backbone to urban life. They are the cultural, social, political, economic and environmental spaces of cities. They are the first thing that shows that a place has gone from a chaotic and unplanned settlement to a well-established town or city.” Block by Block ensures that with the help of the community who volunteers to aid in designing their new public space within Minecraft, that they may be able to make a difference.

Does It Really Work?

After Block by Block’s original testing in both Kenya and Nepal, eighteen various locations have gained projects to help better their public spaces in thirteen countries around the world. With numbers like that, you can for sure assume that Block by Block is definitely off to a strong start in the short amount of time that the charity has been launched. Block by Block had this to say about their program on their website, “Our experiences from projects all over the world show that Minecraft is a great tool for involving people, particularly youth, women and slum dwellers in urban design. Through participatory design workshops, UN-Habitat and partners bring people together to visualize their ideas in Minecraft, and present these to city authorities and local government officials. The Minecraft designs are then used as part of the process of implementing real public space improvement projects.”

This project has shown large amounts of potential in helping communities grow into a more developed version of themselves. The website continues to go on and claim, “The deliberative process also encourages people to develop a broader understanding of the urban environment, speak in public with greater confidence and improve social relations. For many participants, this is the first time they have publicly expressed opinions about public issues and many say that the Block by Block process makes it easier to communicate their interests and ideas.”

The Process

When a location is picked to be apart of the program, the UN-Habitat begins by recreating said location within Minecraft to begin work. This recreation is based on “images, plans, Google Maps, and other available materials”. After the build is complete, the UN-Habitat selects a “Minecraft expert” to teach the community of said location how to properly build and do various things within the game for the project at hand. The selected expert will then hold community workshops where youth, project staff, and partners of the program are able to come in and learn the basics of Minecraft, speak about issues within their public space, create models within the game to represent the ideas they have come up with, and to bring all of the ideas together in a way that works.

After all of the ideas have been spoken about, participants are given two to four days to create their ideas in Minecraft. These participants are put into groups of anywhere from two to four people while working on the same computer. After their time is up, the builders will showcase their creations to “stakeholders - including urban professionals, policymakers, government officials, and UN-Habitat staff.” After the designs are decided upon, budgets are processed and work begins on creating the community’s new public space.

How You Can Help!

Like most charities, the best way a person can help is to donate to the cause at hand. With the Minecraft community’s various past and current successes within charities, this organization is guaranteed to have major success. As claimed by Block by Block organization on their website, “Funding for the program and the resulting development comes from a mixture of local partners, both public and private, UN-Habitat and Mojang. To date, Mojang has mobilized about USD 1.8 million from the Minecraft community through fundraising initiatives.”

“At Mojang, we believe that games can be used for more than just entertainment. With Block by Block we want to show that they can be used to make the world a better place!”, exclaims COO of Mojang and Director of Block by Block, Vu Bui.

With as much positive praise as this organization has gotten in the past few years since its initial launch, we can only expect big things. Block by Block is a one of a kind program, enabling communities with the ability to create a version a public space they’d love to see in their location, and having the potential to get it made. As stated above, the best way you can possibly help is by donating to this charitable cause. Luckily, your contributions to Block by Block are tax-deductible as the organization is a Section 501(c)(3) public charity! Whoever has claimed video games were bad for the world has clearly been proven wrong!