Bringing out the Change-Maker in All of Us

Can you think of a game that uses some form of currency (coins, tokens, etc.) to encourage people to keep playing? Have you ever gotten hooked on such a game, motivated to earn a reward?

Now, imagine if instead of virtual coins that allow you to level up or unlock a fun hat for your avatar, the points you earn have real-world value and could be used to motivate users to take actions that deliver real-world benefits.

That’s what we’re doing at PIPs Education Fund (PIPs). We’re deploying the power of games and rewards to engage students in everyday actions that can make a positive difference for themselves, their communities, and the planet. With the PIPs Rewards™ App (PIPs App) and our PIPs for School (P4S) programs, smart tools and key behavioral drivers are combined to unlock the natural change-maker in all of us and to help students stay in school.

In this short video (produced by Tamera Brown, PIPs Partnerships Associate) for the 2022 Global Conference for Sustainability in Higher Education (GCSHE), PIPs Communications and Marketing Manager Mikayla Zeitlin talks with Sammi Zheng, a student at CUNY Hunter College, about her experience as a P4S Scholar, how her everyday actions have changed, the lessons she’s learned, the value she’s derived, and what she believes to be the program’s long-term impact.

A psychology course helped Sammi better understand that a program like P4S can create “a shift not just in behavior but in mindset…prompt[ing] people to make better choices when they see that their actions can lead to good outcomes for themselves and others.”

Sammi has been a P4S Scholar since summer 2021. P4S Scholars is a national initiative implemented in partnership with secondary or post-secondary institutions and community-based NGOs and intended to help low-income students persist in school while learning the power of individual action. Sammi learned about P4S Scholars through RIVER FUND NY, a poverty-fighting organization where she volunteers at their food pantry.

P4S provides students custom access to the PIPs App, which offers multiple “touch points” through which personal responsibility is recognized and rewarded with Positive Impact Points (PIPs). As society’s challenges are complex, PIPs-worthy actions are purposefully “doable,” from taking public transit, recycling, and volunteering, to meeting with a mentor or completing a social-emotional learning course. The message being: you can do this, you can make a difference.

A particularly inspiring part of the video is when Sammi talks about her setting up a tutoring program for younger siblings and neighbors (6:38 in the video). In the evenings, she makes herself available via Zoom to provide free tutoring to anyone who needs help. The PIPs program “opened me up to the value of helping others,” Sammi realized.

Once students accrue enough PIPs, they can convert them into grants for school. The PIPs App also provides real-time impact data, including carbon footprint calculators. Research indicates that along with the grants which will help students persist in school, PIPs’ data feedback loops — activity tracking and impact analytics — are proving to be highly motivational, leading to not just lasting behavior change, but an increased sense of personal agency.

Our hope with this video is to present the PIPs case to institutions that are also committed to deepening student engagement in beneficial actions and to driving up persistence and graduation rates. Partnering institutions can customize the P4S program to encourage engagement in programs and services they offer, such as regularly meeting with a college counselor or taking part in community service projects. We encourage you to watch it and consider how the program could help your organization meet its goals. To learn more, visit our two websites: https://pipseducationfund.org and https://pipsrewards.com.

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PIPs Rewards

Probing behavioral science, PIPs explores questions like: Why reward people for doing things they should do anyway? Learn more: https://pipseducationfund.org/