A couple of months ago I did a popular "Second Life Do-gooders" tour of how various non-profits were setting up shop in the virtual world. I focused on non-profits featured in the Tech Soup non-profit HUD, which the Tech Soup folks had recently launched. I neglected to visit one of the featured groups though, the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Today I finally got a few minutes to drop in. (Direct teleport here.) Here's what I found....
The HUD describes the Boomer Esiason Foundation as a group that "provides financial support to research aimed at finding a cure for cystic fibrosis." Their forays into the virtual world are clearly related to their goal of increasing "education and awareness of cystic fibrosis."
The main "CF University" is a beautiful build, with a campus of six buildings enclosed by an ornate fence like an Ivy League university. There's a student union, an administrative building, a theater, museum and library.
What the campus doesn't have is much content. Most of the buildings are virtually empty with a few furnishings and wall hangings and that's about it. Presumably a work in progress.
Most of the more interactive parts of the sim can be found just outside the gates. There are a few note-givers set up that give basic information about the disease, its symptoms, diagnosis, causes, treatments, progress and outlook.
Another sign links to a website where you can ask Dr. Jamie Wells questions about cystic fibrosis. Nearby, you can click on the movie player to listen to the BEF podcast or visit their website for the latest news on the Foundation's work.
And of course there's a wishing well, where you can make a contribution.
I've dropped the staff at BEF a note to see if they have any comments on how the SL build fits into their larger mission and what their experience has been so far. Certainly Second Life is not going to be fertile ground for fundraising. So most of their activities must be focused on education and information dissemination about the disorder.
Cystic fibrosis is a pretty horrible genetic disease that affects 30,000 Americans, another 20 to 30 thousand worldwide. Any effort that can increase understanding and support for a cure for this disease is a good thing.
That said, I have to wonder at the wisdom of creating such a large build that sits mostly empty of content and people. It would be great if, instead of a giant imposing campus, if there was a laboratory where cutting edge research on the disorder could be presented by researchers in the field, or a family center where caregivers and those suffering from the disease could gather and support each other emotionally, or a "memory zone" where people could share remembrances of those who had passed from the disease.
Without more interactive spaces designed into a non-profit build, these well-meaning efforts become little more than 3D pamphlets.
UPDATE 9/29/06, 6:00pm: Dave Rimington, President of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, just sent me this note:
As you have seen from our sim this is a work in progress. We are just about finished with the build and will concentrate on content in phase II.The goal of this project is to educate general public about cystic fibrosis, provide resources to people with CF and provide an opportunity for a simulated face to face interaction.What makes Secondlife a great platform is the social interaction that it provides people with CF. Because of the threat of cross infection, people with CF are not encouraged to meet and talk face to face. Secondlife allows for the social interaction that is missed by people with CF in real life.
Thanks so much for taking the time to respond, Dave!