The Metaverse Can Be a Force for Good in the Real World

Going virtual helps nonprofits make an impact

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The metaverse is a seemingly endless playground of possibilities for advertisers. Luxury brands creating NFTs to connect one-of-a-kind assets with products to build loyalty. Brands translating virtual experiences into real-world commerce. Musicians putting on concerts for many hundreds of thousands more than would be possible in a real-world venue.

When we think of the metaverse, however, we typically do not think of homelessness. But homelessness isn’t the dream of virtual worlds; it’s a stark reality.

HomeStart, a nonprofit organization with a mission to end homelessness, is changing how we perceive the metaverse by bringing purpose front and center. They launched into the space last week with a video exposing the trauma of eviction through one family’s story.

Virtual apartments went on sale for upwards of $3,000, money that in the real world helps one family facing eviction for one year. Investors can visit a website that looks like any real estate business to check out floor plans, the metaverse neighborhood where they’re located, and the collective impact of the project.

In this scenario, the apartments are NFTs and the investors are the owners. It’s fundraising like we’ve never seen before and has the potential to turn the metaverse into a place for purpose.

HomeStart is an early pioneer. And if they are successful, we will likely see more. But we can’t ignore the natural dichotomy between what is virtual and what is real.

Nonprofits and purpose-driven brands exist firmly in the real world, standing up for people’s rights, protesting the fur trade to protect animals and lobbying for eco-friendly policies. So how do they make the pivot to the virtual world and still make a real impact?

The metaverse is new enough to be moldable. And purpose might just have a place in it.

Purpose without borders

Social good often relies on experience to demonstrate impact. People volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter to see the impact of purpose.

Purpose-driven marketing, on the other hand, has no walls. We may not live in a rainforest, but we know that brands like The Republic of Tea protect the environment. We may not be able to see equality, but we know that P&G is standing up for all of us.

Telling stories beyond words

Social good can be conveyed through effective storytelling. We put the audience in the shoes of the affected to show challenge and opportunity.

The virtual world creates new opportunities to tell stories beyond words on the page or a narrated commercial. A Walk Through Dementia is a virtual reality experience through an app created by Alzheimer’s Research U.K. in cooperation with people affected by dementia. Users encounter common scenarios as someone with dementia would, which does more than tell a story; it’s an experience in empathy.

Are metaverse fans here for social good?

It seems improbable that the consumer purchasing clothing for an avatar to attend a virtual concert in Fortnite would also be interested in fostering social good within the metaverse. However, brands have proven that theory wrong. Charmin sold “nonfungible toilet paper,” with almost $7,000 in proceeds benefiting the nonprofit Direct Relief.

Brands can host concerts in the metaverse for charity. Nonprofit organizations can fundraise by partnering with artists on NFTs. These are just some of the initiatives that have already happened—and the possibilities are endless.

The metaverse is ripe for social innovation. It’s up to us to uncover the possibilities.