My boss gave a ridiculously inspiring speech for the Harvard Commencement this past weekend. Go read this: http://viralvoice.net/2007/06/11/bill-gates-harvard-commencement-speech/
OK, for those of you who didn’t read it, here’s a quick excerpt:
“Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it?”
The basic premise behind Bill’s speech is that many of the world’s big problems are unresolved not because of a lack of caring, but because of a lack of awareness. My idea is a response to that – a site where users are matched with specific, actionable issues that need more attention and given incentives to become a champion for their cause.
It’s a little complex to explain in just a few paragraphs, but here goes. First, a new user would come to the site and would be assigned to a very specific cause with a set deadline. For example, the issue wouldn’t be “disease prevention in Africa”, it would be “help 5 infants receive a polio vaccination in a village in Tanzania by August 30th”.
Instead of just asking for donations to solve the problems, the goal for the end user would be to generate awareness for their issue. Each activity would have a target number of points, and users would recieve points for performing various awareness tasks. For example, the issue I mentioned above may have a goal of 250 points by August 30th. A user might earn 20 points for posting about the issue on their Facebook profile, and 1 point for each friend who clicks on the Facebook add-in as a sign of support. Of course, the Facebook add-in (or any awareness campaign activity) would also have a link to donate actual money towards the cause. Also, each point would go towards the ultimate goal of the site: generate a total of one billion awareness points (aka voices) to motivate all users towards achieving a common goal.
Once a user achieves the target number of points, they would receive a “badge of honor” and the site would make a donation to fulfill the initial task. Users would then be assigned a new task at the next challenge level, which would have more points and/or a shorter timeline. Over time, users could build up their level and work towards acheiving bigger and better badges.
I’ll end with another quote from the speech:
“Yes, inequity has been with us forever, but the new tools we have to cut through complexity have not been with us forever. They are new – they can help us make the most of our caring – and that’s why the future can be different from the past.”