​​​​​Turn your dreams for a better world into real and measurable change

Join our community of world-changers and get access to my free resources that show you how to apply data, behavior change and game design techniques to your cause for the epic win.
Why you should use progress bars to motivate your tribe
Progress bars a common gamification tool.

Even without gamification, progress bars are a common feature of user interface (UI) design, conisdered an essential part of any good app design. I even added a basic progress bar to my Google Slides doc for my Save the World with Gamification online course. They are not just for watching big files download you can add them to just about anything, even a powerpoint.

But here's the genius of a progress bar: a progress bar requires a beggining and an end. This might sound ridiculously obvious.

Here's the other (disturbing) thing. Many people and organisations who are trying to change the world, actually don't know where their begginging and end is. They don't know where they are. They don't know where they are going. The process of looking at the metrics of measurement might even be considerably confronting to some people and organisations. It can bring serious hidden ogres of bad strategy out into the light. 

To make a progress bar, you need some numbers worked out that designate your beggning and end. This is powerful stuff. 

The theory of disclosure shows us that just by bring the numbers into the sunlight can be.

Gathering the data on these numbers to find out your beggining and end is a critcial, and possibly difficult process. 

To make a progress bar for waste, animal product consumotion, pesticide, acess to clean water, you need to understand your data set and have an acheiveable goal in mind.

Think about climate change. Do you know what the current parts-per-million (ppm) carbon dioxide is in the air? Do you know what we need to get to in order to stabilize the climate? Don't worry, most people don't know this. 

That's why Bill McKibben's 350.org campaign is such genius because it brings the goal right into the title of the organisation.

If we were to make a progress bar for the global climate, we'd be starting at about 400 ppm of CO2. The end of our progress bar would be 350ppm. 
When it comes to environmenta data literacy, we are all illiterate. It's not our individual fault, but it is a huge blind spot that we need to rectify to start makign the big leaps we need to make to solve these problems.

Progress bars have been minimally utilized in the reduction of environmental footprint, which is a shame. 

You could use a progress bar to help you audience:

> Reduce the intake of animal foods towards zero
> Reduce their trash towards zero
> Progress towards the lowest possible water usage
> Eliminated toxic pesticides.
> Reached gender or racial equality.
> Access to clean drinking water
> Increased elephant populations
> Got people to sign a bill
> Electric vehicles sold
> Number of coal mines / coal power plants shut down.

A progress bar might actually be complex (in a good way) to implement
if you want to make your progress bar update automatically, you are going to need to build a feedback loop. That means that you need to find a way to get the data about your cause measured immediately as it happens, sent to a server stored in a database, then graphically displayed on a computer in your progress bar. Read more about how to get started building an electronic feedback loop in my article of hardware hacking for the planet.

Low tech progress bars are easy to make
Don't get overwhelmed by the idea of implementing a complex measurement system and feedback loop to make your progress bar work. You can make a simple progress bar using a peice of paper and a marker, or using a free graphic design program like canva.com (which I absolutely love). As you observe changes in your data 

Progress bars can be creative! 
You don't need to settle for the usual plain progress bar with one color and a grey background. You can get super creative! Check out my pinterest page that contains many creative approaches to progress bar design.

Progress bars get us focused on one thing
It's easy to get fixated on trying to acheive many different goals: new members, social media followers, fundraising, trees planted etc. But a progress bar only allows for one metric. This means we need to get serious about which metric really matters. I talk about "The God Metric" in my presentation "How to Save the World in 10 Steps". It's about isolating your key metric in real world numbers, and being very careful to differentiate between "real world" metrics (like kg, lives, or trees) and "business" metrics (like sales, clicks or subscribers). The process of creating a progress bar should utilize the God Metric and like tributaries leading to major rivers, all of your other goals should all funnel into this one main goal. 

The common and humble progress bar, when utilized on a real world problem, with real world data, can be a powerful tool for change that can really shake up any environmental program's approach to creating real and measurable change.

Comment on this article in the Facebook group.

Learn more about gamification for the planet in my video course "Save the World with Gamification"

Find this kind of thing interesting? Join our community of world-changers and get access to my free resources that show you how to apply data, behavior change and game design techniques to your cause for the epic win.
Author: Katie Patrick
Katie Patrick is an environmental engineer and a designer. She helps sustainability professionals, entrepreneaurs and civic innovators to apply powerful techniques in data science, game design and behavioral psychology so they can make epic wins in environmental and social change. She lives in San Francisco with her little daughter Anastasia.
Download free things 
Let me help you get really good at changing the world.
Effective Action Checklist

Don't let these 42 critical points hold you back from your mission to save the earth.
Download >>

The Gamified Earth Matrix

Looking for ideas? Download this matrix of gamification features and environmental data indicators for new  insights into how to wrap gamification in to your project. 
Download >>

Top 3 Biggest Mistakes

Don't fall into the traps that many NGOs, start ups, and cities have made before you. Make sure you avoid these all-too-common mistakes
Download >>

Sign up for news and updates
I occasionally send out updates on projects I've been working on, interesting research, new startups. and events etc.
Your email will never be shared, sold, abused or sent annoying things that are not totally awesome.