Climate Advocates Capitalize on Pokemon Go Craze to Recruit

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DES MOINES, Iowa - "Gotta catch 'em all" might as well be "Gotta recruit 'em all" when it comes to one statewide advocacy group's mission.

NextGen Climate Iowa  is luring young voters from all over the state to their cause Friday...by luring Pokemon to your smartphones.

The climate change advocacy group says it recognized the massive popularity of the mobile game, Pokemon Go, and wanted to capitalize on it to educate young voters on its mission.

"So, over the weekend, we had a bunch of staff actually playing the game, and they were out there noticing a lot of other young folks at these Pokemon stops. And that's precisely the audience we're trying to talk to about climate and clean energy in this election cycle," said Zack Davis, state director for NextGen Climate Iowa. "So we decided on Monday to actually send the staff out, see how that was working, and with huge success - so we've decided to host these events across the state today."

Volunteers with the group used what are called "lures" within the game of Pokemon Go to attract more Pokemon to the sculpture park in downtown Des Moines. As more people gathered to catch Pokemon on their smartphones, these volunteers would ask them about climate change issues and whether they were registered to vote. And they say it was quite a success; plenty of Pokemon Go-ers were willing to register to vote and commit to supporting clean energy leaders in the November elections.

"The way you're engaging with voters these days - especially young voters - is not the traditional door-knocks and phone calls," Davis said. "So, we're constantly trying to find innovative ways to talk to voters where they're at. So, when they're out here playing, it's a very captive audience - they're engaged. But it's also - one of the top issues that voters care about is climate and clean energy. So, being able to have that conversation with them where they are is great, but it's just one tactic that we're trying to constantly see, 'What is the best way that we can talk to voters where they're at?'"

NextGen Climate Iowa also hosted Pokemon Go meet-ups on campuses at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, as well as downtown Cedar Rapids.