What is "Social Benefit Storytelling?"

Tim Kring, the creator of the hit television series “Heroes,” has created a new creative genre called “social benefit storytelling,” which he defines as an “interactive story, that empowers its audience to take real-life action and create positive change in the world.”

His pilot project is the U.K.-based Conspiracy for Good (CFG), a combination of alternative reality gameplay through websites and mobile apps, videos, interactive theater, music and physical participation in events, which took place on London streets this past summer. This approach to storytelling is also referred to as “transmedia,” but Kring’s particular strand of telling stories through multiple platforms includes a moral element — for good.

Take for example, CFG’s partnership with nonprofit literacy organization Room to Read:

Since June, users from all over the world have been logging on to www.ConspiracyForGood.com and following the interactive mystery of a school library in the village of Chataika, Zambia, where a teacher (Nadirah) has gone missing, a shipment of books has been hijacked and a shady corporation may be behind it all…Followers are playing along and uncovering clues online that are furthering the narrative, and in doing so, they are helping to eventually build a real-life library stocked with children’s books…

Uniquely interwoven into the fictional plot, Room to Read has become part of the Conspiracy For Good storyline operating alongside Nadirah, the main character, and the CFG collective, or secret “members” that are fighting the forces of social and environmental injustice. The good news is that in the narrative, when the books are found and Nadirah is located thanks to the Conspiracy for Good, Nokia will establish five real-life Room to Read libraries in Zambia, including one to be built at the Chataika Basic School (which really exists!). Plus, Nokia will fund the education of 50 Girls’ Education Program scholars in the country.

The “real” books for the new libraries will be furnished by Room to Read’s long-time partner, the Pearson Foundation, an organization that has teamed up with Nokia to establish a one-for-one giving campaign, whereby a new English-language book will be donated to a Room to Read library for every digital book read online at www.wegivebooks.com.

Kring was inspired to start the project when he realized the “interconnectivity and global consciousness” of the world, according to an interview with FastCompany.com. It was especially apparent that audiences were closely connected when a proliferation of new media sprouted as offshoots of Heroes, with everything from mobile webisodes to graphic novels.

How cool would it be, I thought, to create a story that exists all around you all of the time? — On your laptop, your mobile phone, on your sidewalks, as a secret message hidden in your favorite song or while standing at the bus stop on your way to work. And, taking it further, what if your participation over a few weeks or months actually impacts the story’s development and creates positive change in the real world because a philanthropic mission is integrated into the narrative itself?

The project is made possible with support from Nokia, which provides its Obi mobile technology for games, apps and music, and The Company P, a Swedish production company that specializes in participant-based entertainment.

Kring is now working on a new transmedia company called Imperative. It will be interesting to see what other stories he tells along the way.

Read more about Conspiracy For Good here: