Written by: Jonas Sylvester Kasperen; Edited By: Gioel Gioacchino 

Do you like treasure hunts? Actionbound is a mobile application that combines the adventure of a treasure hunt with technology.  This technique explains how to use Actionbound as a research tool to make research activities and learning experiences super fun. The bonus feature  is that during the treasure hunt you can easily collect and systematize data.

Our experience using this technique:

Jonas stumbled upon Actionbound in Hungary at a Training Course organised by Salto Youth. The app was used to teach young participants about the the opportunities for applying to Erasmus + programs. Since that day,  his mind was flowing with thoughts on how to use Actionbound as a research tool. It took some time before he found the way to put it into action… Half a year later, we organized an open house event in Medellín, Colombia. We were brainstorming about how to organize the event and Ping! Jonas’ lightbulb light up.

We utilized Actionbound to organize a treasure hunt to learn from our 30+ guest about their relationship to social innovation. We set up the treasure hunt on the Actionbound app, sent our guests up and down our house-office scanning QR codes. At each station they were asked to do a different research-related challenge to advance with the treasure hunt. At the end of the night we could enjoy and laugh at all the pictures and videos automatically stored in the Actionbound platform.

Since then, we are using Action Bound as a research tool for our projects such as Bathroom Research and Plata, Cultura y Cambio. We also utilized the app to evaluate the participants’ experience during Magnify 2016.

Research and Development:

What are we trying to understand about the community?

It all depends on how you use the app. At each stage of the treasure hunt you can integrate a different research activity (e.g. a questionnaire, a focus group, an art based research activity, etc.). This is particularly suited for exercises that can be done in teams of 4 to 6.

Utilizing Actionbound can also help facilitate a conversation about group behaviours, trust building, relationship to public spaces, work under pressure, as well as relationship to technology. Just get creative with it!

Why is it important for the community’s development?

Young people are the most frequent users of technology. Can we use technology to interact with public spaces in a dynamic way?

At what stage(s) of the research cycle is this method used?
We have used Actionbound in three different stages: Trust Building, Data Collection and Evaluation. By allowing participants to design their own hunts, the app can also be used to make the group feel more ownership in the process and experiment with the techniques they want.


What do I need?

To use the technique, you need at least 1 smartphone per team (ideally each team would have 3 to 6 people). You also need internet access to download the hunt you have designed and upload the results at the end of the hunt. This being said, you don’t necessarily need internet during the hunt.

Prior to the hunt, you need to download the Actionbound app and if you use QR codes, you will need to print them out. Apart from that, you need an interesting and inspiring place where you can host the hunt. We personally love organizing hunts in nature!

How long does it take?

Depending on how you design your hunt, it could take between 1 and 5 hours. It is a good idea to keep the hunt as simple as possible in the beginning to get a feel for the time required to put together the hunt and for the participants to complete the game. Creating 3 to 5 stations can be a good start. While you design the hunt, we encourage you to add instructions on the minimum and maximum time the participants should spend at each station – this should help you control the duration of the hunt.

As always in Action Research, it is also very important to leave time after the participants have completed the game to reflect upon their experience. What’s cool is that the application automatically saves the data created by the participants, so you can do a short debrief upon finishing, and later on explore the data collected. 

    • Define the objective. Define the objective of the treasure hunt. Do you want to integrate the group? Evaluate a program? Gather data around a specific topic?  
    • Create an account. Go to and create an account. Go to the dashboard and choose “new bound”. Give your bound a name, a url and choose whether it should be single (participants explore individually) or multiplayer (participants divided in teams). You also have the option to choose whether it should be in fixed (participants can only follow one path) or flexible. Now you are ready to be creative!
    • Exploring Actionbound. Now, explore the platform to get familiar with the interface. It’s quite easy! When you have more or less an idea of the different features the application offers (see Tips and Traps), go back to the drawing table to do a brainstorm.
    • Get creative and design the session. Do a brainstorming session on which activities you could use (HINT: check out the other techniques in the lab). We have used tools such as painting (asking participants to upload a photo of their drawings), theater (asking participants to act out their perceptions of a phenomena), or audio (to record interviews or focus group discussions). Basically, there are no limits!
    • Plan the session. Great, now you will probably have a lot of creative ideas. Depending on your objective, you can arrange the ideas to make sure that the teams get integrated before diving into more technical tasks. Upload all the instructions to your online platform. Make sure that the instructions are easy to understand and that there is cohesion between each station. Remember you can upload pictures and audio to make the hunt more dynamic and easier to understand.
    • Testing the hunt. This is a very important step, especially if you use QR codes. Print out the codes from the Actionbound website (as all the codes are very similar it can be a good idea to assign them a number according to the order during the hunt). Download the Actionbound App and go to test mode on your computer, to test every step and all the QR codes. If you plan to do the treasure hunt in an unfamiliar place, it is a good idea to check out the space in advance to plan the different stations.


  • Before starting the hunt make sure to mention to the participants, whether there will be a ‘competition’ or not according to your purpose with the hunt, as this can affect the group dynamic. Also make sure that all phones used can scan the QR codes. If you have no internet connection during the hunt, you will need to download the hunt before-hand on each of devices you will be using. Finally, it is very important that you mention to the participants, that they cannot close the application until the end of the hunt.
  • During the hunt. Participants usually need more support until they are familiar with the application (it doesn’t take long). Afterwards, it’s quite a smooth process as you have already added all the instructions in the hunt and you will just need to be available if the participants have any doubts. It is a good idea to assign a person as an observer in each station of the hunt. This will allow you to complement the data collected digitally with more descriptive data, especially if the activity requires some minimal facilitation.
  • After the hunt. Congratulate the participants on having completed their journey! Depending on the group you are working with, you can also consider having a prize to reward teams. Remind the participants not to close the application and remember to upload the results as soon as you have an internet connection. Debrief with the participants just after the hunt and when you have uploaded all the results. You can now review the data submitted by logging into and selecting ‘Results’.

actionbound results


Benefits and Challenges

What are the benefits of using this technique?

The main benefit is that all the data created by the participants such as photos and videos are automatically stored for you to access anytime, when the treasure hunt has been completed.

It is also a great way to combine technology with research allowing the participants to explore “the world” by themselves or in groups in a very dynamic way. In the same way, you can make the participants explore environments or communities related to the area of research. For example exploring a permaculture farm if your research is related to agriculture or at the office of an organization if you are researching organizational culture. Finally, it can also be a good way of having community members design their own workshops.

What are the challenges of using this technique?
  • Technology can be a challenge if you don’t have enough smartphones and a stable internet connection. If you are in an area with limited internet, it’s a good idea to test out the app in advance. Remember you can also download the hunt before arriving to the destination.
  • You can get so into the Actionbound app, that you may be tempted to add far too many stations. As a rule of thumb, try to keep it simple, especially if you are limited on time. You can always add extra layers, when you have tested the hunt.
  • People can get very engaged and also competitive. Depending on your purpose and who you work with, make sure to have a conversation before and/or after the hunt.


How to adapt the technique:

Actionbound is very adaptable, as you can choose the length, the topic, and the mediums used with the hunt according to your needs.

Tips and Traps :

Here is an overview of the different features Actionbound offers:

  • Information: This is where you include guiding text for the participants in terms of uploading: text, photos, videos and audios.
  • Quiz: Here you can ask questions, and allow people to answer through multiple choice, solution input (participants have to put in certain words to get it right), estimate number (participants have to answer a number within a certain range) or sort list (participants need to prioritize items).
  • Mission: Assign the participants a creative, solvable task for which there is no right or wrong answer. The answers can be submitted through writing, video (max. 30 seconds), pictures or audio.
  • Scan code: With the built-in scanner you can guide the participants around specific areas by setting up QR codes, which they need to find to move forward with the hunt. Participants can be made to start at different stations.
  • Survey: You can create multiple choice questions for the participants. This can be used if you have discussed certain issues and you want to know what they prefer.
  • Tournament: This allows members of the team to play against each other. You can use this to make the hunt more dynamic and related to a specific topic of interest for the group you work with. For instance, if you work with a group of young football players, you can ask them to juggle with a ball.
  • Find spot: Participants must go to a specific GPS coordinate in order to earn points and/or move on to the next step. For this feature, you need to have phones with good GPS and be in an area with good coverage. At Recrear, we have not used it so far. As soon as we do, we’ll let you know!
  • Stage: You can use this to divide the hunt into different stages using QR codes (if you choose the setting flexible stages).

Learn More…

Audio visual material

Here is a blog we wrote on our experience using Actionbound:


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