Collective action for social change in a virtual world

A new journal, Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, includes a peer-reviewed article about organizing for peace in a virtual world, Second Life.

Born Virtuals and Avapreneurship: A case study of achieving successful outcomes in Peace Train – a Second Life organization

Robin Teigland

Abstract

Borrowing from the international entrepreneurship business literature that uses the term “Born Globals,” I label organizations that have been created to discover and exploit opportunities primarily within virtual worlds as “Born Virtuals.” While relatively easy to establish, the challenge for Born Virtuals and avapreneurs, or entrepreneurial avatars, is to accomplish the critical task of coordinating the actions of multiple actors to achieve important outcomes – a challenge that has been repeatedly documented in research on virtual teams and organizations with geographically dispersed members. As such, this paper’s intent is to investigate two research questions: RQ1) What are the challenges for avapreneurs to achieving successful organizational outcomes in Born Virtuals? and RQ2) How can collective competence be developed such that these challenges can be overcome? To answer these questions, this paper presents a study of Peace Train, one Born Virtual organization created in Second Life. Peace Train was founded by three social avapreneurs interested in promoting peace in the world, and together with more than 100 volunteers, Peace Train organized during the course of eleven months PeaceFest 08, one of the largest fund-raising events to date in virtual worlds. This event attracted 8,000 to 10,000 unique avatars and raised 870,000 Linden dollars from approximately 3,000 individuals from across the globe, which were then donated to 10 real world charitable organizations.

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