One of the remarkable ideas at SXSW this year was the cause lab organized by wecanendthis.com This is a model for idea generation whether you’re a for-profit brand, a non-profit or a foundation. Here’s how it worked.
A whole bunch of people who didn’t know each other got in a room and literally brain stormed about how to end hunger. How do we use smart phones, school lunches, restaurants, SMS, community groups, advertising, whatever? Nothing was off limits.
No one really knew who anyone was and everyone came from different background. The point was to generate new and numerous ideas by getting people to collaborate around shared values.
This approach is both a very smart way to leverage the benefits of collaboration and build a community around a cause at the same time. 49 million Americans regularly go hungry including 14 million children. With the resources and brainpower of our community, we can – quite literally – end this.
By way of example, here’s a few ideas our group came up with:
The community mind shift
A big mind-shift has to happen. Brands and consumers are just getting to a point where they know they can connect through social media. But what hasn’t happened yet is that people need to realize that as much as they can connect in the virtual world, they can also connect in the real world and have real impact in their community.
How efficiently is your community run?
What does that mean? That means that in the same way we run a business as effectively as we can, we should also run our community as effectively as we can, especially since government is riddled with debt right now and non-profits are so stretched.
How about a social utility bill?
So what does that look like? When you assume that you need to run a community as effectively as you need to run a business, all the implications of data come to bear on the issue. For instance, the same way you get a utility like an electricity bill, you get a social utility bill which means every month in the mail you get a bill, which tells you how your region or your area is doing in terms of the hunger issue. Now that can play out across multiple platforms. But the point of it is you need to rob the community of the anonymity of hunger.
Leveraging civic pride
What you need to do is make a source of civic pride so people can’t ignore the issue as easily as they can ignore a hungry person standing on the street simply by looking past them. Now that can play out on API’s, that can play out on posters in school forums, that can play out on utility bills you receive every month, but it needs to be something that engages the competition that companies like Google are using, for instance, with power energy meters. Someone won’t reduce their energy usage just because you tell them, but if you tell them that their neighbor is using less energy, they’re all over it. We need to do the same thing in the realm of hunger. We need to make it a source of civic pride that you don’t have as many homeless people on the street, as many hungry people in the community as the neighborhood next to you.
API’s for hunger
That leads to our second idea, which is to create a hunger API, which would be data storage that has the best available data on where hungry people are and also have the best available data on where resources for hungry people are and that API can then be used by any project that wants to develop some kind of a solution, some kind of a visualization.
The third idea is the idea of a resource map. Getting back to the utility bill – the idea of getting these things printed – getting them into the schools, getting them in the community centers. The resource map might be a hundred-mile radius of wherever that place is and would have a digital component and a printed piece as well. The digital piece might look like a Google map, you might be able to put in your zip-code and produce a visual, but you’d also be able to create a PDF and maybe that tracks what is actually distributed to help us manage resources to end needless hunger.
So – me back again. You can share any comments here or, better yet, put that energy into their site. Your mind muscle and resources are truly appreciated. Just visit wecanendthis.com
Reading Time: 1 minutesSimon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.