Monday, Jan 7, 2019
Child Advocates – CASA of Silicon Valley is collaborating with a virtual reality company to create an experience that places users in the shoes of a child in the foster care system. The project is being funded by a grant from The David and Lucile Packard and Heising-Simons Foundations as a creative way to engage donors and volunteers.
“Funders are looking for deeper engagement and for personal experiences that allow them to explore, interact and immerse themselves in a particular issue or problem they want to help solve,” says Executive Director Karen Scussel. This is difficult due to confidentiality protections in place for the children being served by CASA programs.
Child Advocates conducted focus groups with former foster youth before creating story lines to be converted into virtual reality videos by the chosen developer, Epic Immersive. The stories aim to generate empathy and interest in this vulnerable population. Final testing of the product is happening now. Once ready, a companion interactive workshop will accompany use of the VR stories in educating individuals, small groups and corporate teams on the needs of foster children in the community.
The strategy is supported by a new Stanford University study suggesting that virtual reality fuels stronger feelings of empathy than traditional mediums.
Parts of this article first appeared in National CASA's December 2018 Newletter.