September 1, 2020

Chewata Awaki: Changing Society Through Games

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We live in a world full of problems, some are minor issues with simple solutions while others…

Avatar: Leul. M Allebachew
By Leul. M Allebachew

Chewata Awaki: Changing Society Through Games
We live in a world full of problems, some are minor issues with simple solutions while others bring forth unbearable complications that even the smartest minds combined can’t solve. With this in mind, there are several organizations worldwide that built a whole business around problem solving alone- each with their own philosophy on how to solve the problem. Of those companies set out to solve humanity's problems Chewata Awaqi was eye-catching. Different to most in their field and based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia they have a unique approach to problem solving.Chewata Awaqi was founded by six aspiring entrepreneurs and their German mentor. “After seeing the power of games in social changes via our ‘Battle of the Times’ initiative, we decided to form Chewata Awaqi” the team told Addis Zeybe, Chewata Awaqi is an Amharic term that roughly translates to ‘a wise man with a sense of fun’ and that is exactly what the team tries to portray. When asked what they wish to achieve as a company they replied by saying “we want to bring back the fun in learning, loving and living experience”.The team believes that games are the highest form of expression “they make the audience more than just a spectator/listener” says Nahom Teklu one of the founders. The Chewata Awaqi team believes that they can create a significant social impact through game thinking, a philosophy that links learning with fun. When asked what they do he explained simply by saying “We Design Experiences, We Design Human Expressions, We Design Aha’s, Oooooow’s, hmmm’s, OMG’s and No Way’s”.The philosophy of game thinking is accepted and implemented by game and product designers all over the world. Chewata Awaqi are no different. They believe game thinking is the solution to society’s problems. “Game thinking is more of a way of life” Nahom went on “Game thinking aims to look at what it is than what could be. Rather than trying to solve these huge century-long questions, game thinking resorts to addressing what life is and works from the premises that we all agree upon which is the realistic essence of life that is interaction” meaning instead of focusing on explaining the meaning of life, game thinking focuses on the daily interactions within the community.Most people may conclude that since Chewata Awaqi creates games they are targeting youngsters and kids but the truth can’t be far from such an assumption “might sound a bit far-fetched but our audience is everyone in our community” Nahom continued “Kids already know the power of games and they’re always playing, even when you think they’re doing serious things. Our main audiences are adults, especially those we categorize as the passive part of our community”  explaining the target members of the society that avoid engaging with the community.Seriousness and foolishness are the two extremes in performing any action and Chewata Awaqi functions in between. Using fun as a basis to solve the society’s problems is an interesting approach. “One thing we always make clear before we start doing anything is that our job is not to solve our client’s problems” Nahom told Addis Zeybe “The problem with the solution provider mindset is that it from the get go immobilizes the client as the desperate helpless actor of the interaction” he went on explaining “we question the relationship between our client and their problem and what they’ve been doing till now. Once we make this clear then we give our offering which is a journey with the client to assist them in solving their own problem. And our assistance ranges from the simple action of listening while the client thinks out loud, to asking questions, to crystalizing and simulating client’s potential solutions to the problems to finally producing and delivering that solution that was thought out in the client’s mind.”An ongoing project, Chewata Awaqi is participating in is ‘Tibeb be Adebabay’, a creative platform where members of the society can engage with one another in different ways. “We were one of the founders of ‘Tibeb Be Adebabay’. We were there three years ago when it all started” said Nahom. The first year of ‘Tibeb be Adebabay’ introduced social experiments to see how playful the society is, as the years went on a series of experiments were held including a free hug experiment where random people would be offered hugs from strangers.Nothing comes easy in this world and that is the case with Chewata Awaqi’s journey. Nahom told Addis Zeybe about the difficulties that come with implementing their ideas “the challenge starts with the name and the perception of our community to the term “game”. Whenever you tell someone you are making games, the first thing that comes to mind is a pass-time or a leisure activity and even in most cases a waste of time” and he explained how they tackle these issues “we usually don’t use the word “games” but rather use terms like “simulation”, “interactive/educational tools”, “playful/immersion design”, “engaging elements”, “gamification”. Once this challenge is passed and you have your client onboard, the next challenge expectations and willingness to change.”The Covid outbreak has also affected the Chewata Awaqi team, “ever since the Covid crisis our team has been experimenting with various scenarios of a post Covid existence. And that’s what we’ve brought for this year’s Tibeb be Adebabay. We’ve a project we called “We the People” a sort of inspiration and also pun to the opening remarks as put on the American constitution. With this project we’re trying to address two specific topics. The first one is the most popular archetype of the word “we” being used by every activist, freedom fighter, leader… and the second is to give a spotlight to the new emerging ‘we’ of the digital space which has been accelerated with the emergence of Covid” said Nahom.Finally, Nahom put into perspective how the team will continue amid the pandemic “The concept of game thinking is basically related to the perception of problems as challenges and solutions as achievements. Indeed, the strive towards achieving a solution for a challenge is where game thinking fits in the new world of Covid-19, the new normal”.