From 14th-24th September

WhatFutures is a game about the future of humanitarian need, played entirely through WhatsApp

The game was designed in partnership with OpenLab, a research lab at Newcastle University to secure voices of youth volunteers into IFRC Strategy 2030. Surveys and traditional platforms have proven to be ineffective in developing contexts. Then, why not innovate in the digital spaces young people already inhabit?

The story below outlines the results of a global rollout of WhatFutures played all around the world in English and Spanish. A French and Arabic version will launch early in 2018. The game had significant upgrades based on learnings from a pilot that ran in June this year.

WhatFutures in numbers

How does the game work?

The game was played in teams of four or more, who worked together to respond to two fun challenges about charting the risks, opportunities, and changes of 2030. In order to help players explore emerging global issues, different conferences were set up. The conferences were larger WhatsApp groups where players could interact with other teams on specific topics. Each conference included fun activities that encouraged discussions and reflection on trends and emerging issues to help players to solve their challenges

Click on each character to see examples of the discussions from the conferences

The WhatFutures Awards

Best journalists from the future

What if we knew tomorrow’s headlines? Would we be better prepared?
Each team produced a news story about the biggest challenges facing their communities in 2030.


Top three stories from 2030

Tunisian Red Crescent

Southern Tataouine


A short news bulletin that gives a glimpse into the future of Tunisia.

Netherlands Red Cross

Generation Alpha 9

The grey goo is coming!

Pakistan Red Crescent

Hawk Eyes

An interesting scenario of the future, go straight to jail, do not pass go.

Next generation responders

What will disasters look like in 2030? This is what the people who will be dealing with them think. Players created a report from disaster scenes in 2030.


Top three reports from 2030

Singapore Red Cross

Forlone for the future


Machine learning technology forecasted one of the biggest floods in human history, here a report from the field.

Armenian Red Cross

Bigger than yourself

Is 3D printing the future of refugee camps? A brilliant innovation developed by Armenian Red Cross

Brazilian Red Cross


Artificial Intelligence fights back after losing the election! Brazilian Red Cross give us an update on the situation.

The Spirit of Dunant Award

This award celebrates the effort of teams that overcame distance barriers and adversity to deliver a beautiful result.

English game

Germany / Kenya / Tunisia / Belgium 

The volunteer crisis

Four different countries came together to point out volunteering concerns we may face in 2030.



Spanish game

Mexican Red Cross

Have we learnt from our mistakes?

While the game was being played Mexico suffered a destructive earthquake which hit the centre area of the country on September 19th. Within minutes players from Mexico began sharing videos and reports of the damage and aftermath, messages of support poured in through the game’s platform from other volunteers from all over the world. Despite the players assisting with the recovery operations, this team also managed to submit their report.


The Decoders Award

WhatFutures possessed a hidden challenge for those particularly observant players who could find (hidden in the game) and follow the tracks of a secret character, the Red Adder. Somewhere in the global leaderboard for the first challenge, a mysterious link was waiting to be discovered.

This link led to a website where players had to introduce a password to unleash the Red Adder. The password combination was hidden in the posters of conference activities, only available for those few who could spot it.

Rumours about this secret challenge travelled fast within teams, however, finding the password was just the first step. The correct code would unlock a phone number that players then had to send a message to. Players were then sent an encrypted message (in computer based language) to decode, if they could decode the message then the secret character, the Red Adder was released as the prize.

Only one team made it through the last inquiries to set free this cyber personality. We recognise them as decoders of WhatFutures!


Hellenic Red Cross

Sam Thess Team


During ten days, thousands of exciting conversations happened over 32 conferences. Players discussed and debated major trends around the world and how they were impacting their local communities. For instance, potential armed conflicts over access to clean water in rural areas, food security in a world with changing climate and growing population, the future of volunteering and the impacts of the pervasive spread of technology including growing cyber attacks that may require a new form of volunteerism. The future of work was another key issue explored, how will ‘gig economies’ affect peoples wellbeing, will there be enough jobs for the burgeoning youth populations in some areas and how do we prepare for the new jobs likely to emerge in the coming years in data, robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

A selection of the multimedia stories produced by volunteers will be part of interactive displays, exhibitions, and newspapers of the future at the General Assembly in Turkey this year. These different approaches will enhance discussions and reflections on how the Red Cross and Red Crescent needs to change to meet future humanitarian needs.


Did you know? WhatFutures got nominated for the Digital Communications Awards 2017 as an innovative internal communications model.

What’s next?

The IFRC and Open Lab are now analysing the data through machine learning technology and specialised quantitative and qualitative approaches to draw key insights from both challenges and conferences. Game dynamics will evolve based on feedback surveys and in-game input to continue exploring online gaming as a model of engagement. Various National Societies have expressed interest in rolling an internal variation of the game to collaborate with their youth in innovatively designing new solutions.  

For more information about the initiative please contact


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