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The team behind SPARX

The SPARX programme was built by a team of dedicated researchers and clinicians from The University of Auckland.

Below is a little bit about us.

A photo of the SPARX team
Our journey

The story so far

In 2012, a team from the University of Auckland began developing a digital tool to help NZ youth repair their mental and emotional wellbeing. First, we pulled together proven strategies to combat depression and anxiety, inspired by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Then, in order to reach youth with maximum impact, we combined these therapeutic strategies with online gaming and storytelling.

In 2013, the team began randomised controlled trials (RCT) and by 2014, the first version of the SPARX game was live; the name representing our goal to promote Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts. From the outset, SPARX was specifically designed to be relevant in Aotearoa, incorporating a fantasy wawata setting with the use of Māori-styled graphics.

In 2018, further milestones were made when SPARX became available on mobile, getting our e-therapy programme into the hands of even more youth, locally and internationally. By 2021, the second iteration of SPARX was launched; the further refined version of the game, with better support for LGBTQI+.

SPARX has far surpassed expectations, reaching communities far and wide, with new international partnerships and adaptations in the works.


Those who made it happen

Awards and recognition

Netexplo Logo

2013 International Digital Award from Netexplo

Netexplo is a ‘global observatory on digital society’, hosted by UNESCO. The awards were presented for projects that Netexplo call “the 10 most innovative and promising digital initiatives of the year”.

WSA Logo

2011 World Summit Award

The World Summit Awards honour excellence in multimedia and e-Content creation. Forty winners (five in each category) are selected from 100 countries. The World Summit Awards are under the auspices of United Nations.

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