Minecraft and the UN

We all know Minecraft is an incredible game in its own right, but did you know it is being used to actively solve real life design problems in developing countries?

Block by Block is a charity set up in 2012 by Mojang to support the United Nations’ Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and its work with public space design, using Minecraft. The purpose of Block by Block is to raise funds for the improvement of public spaces worldwide, with a focus on poor communities in developing countries.

Early pilot projects in Nairobi and Mumbai evolved into the Block by Block Methodology, designed to engage people who don’t typically have a voice in public projects—from women and kids to elders, disabled residents, and refugees.

“For me the most amazing thing about Block by Block is the methodology, using one of the world’s most popular video games, Minecraft, for community participation in urban design processes. It’s not a gimmick—it really works. Using a simple, 3D tool like Minecraft is a great way of helping hard-to-reach groups such as youth and disadvantaged people in poor urban settings make their voice heard.”


Block by Block gives neighborhood residents the training, the tools, and the platform to participate and contribute their ideas, in a collaborative process that helps all participants expand their view.

Featured Project: The Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement

When the local Turkana County government in northern Kenya wanted to transition the Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement from a short-term emergency response into a long-term settlement, it worked with UN-Habitat and Block-by-Block to involve local residents in the design of shared public spaces.

Participants gather for a four-day workshop to design their proposals.
Credit: UN-Habitat

Over the course of two four-day Block-by-Block workshops, participants learned design skills in Minecraft with the ultimate goal of virtually designing four public spaces. The group of more than 70 people spanned six nationalities, and 52 of the participants had never used a computer until that day.

One proposal focused primarily on trees and walkability.
Credit: blockbyblock.org
Another proposal showed a park design with open seating and additional trees for shade cover.
Credit: blockbyblock.org

Participants designed a total of four sites. One site was completed in 2018, and the other three began construction in 2019. Even before the sites were complete, residents knew all about the plans and gathered in the public spaces that were still under construction.

Through the Block-by-Block program, residents were able to participate in their own urban planning and ultimately feel more connected and invested in the final outcome.

The Block-by-Block program is just one example of how gaming can positively influence changes IRL.

Learn more at https://www.blockbyblock.org

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