By Edward West
A couple of days ago, I was approached by my friend Brooks Hassig. He asked whether I’d like to be involved in the “Shop For Japan” event that he and his friend Kathryn Storm had imagined.
The idea he proposed was simple: find a business that would like to help raise money for Japanese disaster relief by donating a specified percentage of their sales revenue from all purchases made on Saturday, March 26th.
We would then use social media networks to drive customer traffic to that business. The business would get a sales boost by participating, the customers would get to support a local business who shares their values, and both would be able to contribute some much-needed money to relieve the devastation and suffering in Japan.
Brooks and Kathryn are talented brand strategists and designers, and they were already designing the campaign and graphics that would drive such an effort. As we began to explore the idea together, we wondered: Instead of just one business, why not have multiple businesses in our city (San Francisco) participate? We explored further: Why not make this global?
Would it be possible to design the infrastructure of a global event in a weekend, and to make a real impact just one week later?
We wanted to find out.
I am deeply fascinated by the power of social networks, and the evolving manner and accelerating speed by which we are able to communicate, connect and share for the benefit of all. Shop For Japan is be an experiment in harnessing the geometric scalability of communications, community organization, and the building of a network and a global event overnight.
We knew it would involve software. We enlisted the support of rock-star coders Alex Grande and Noel Vaugn, to help us build the web platform that all of this would depend on, leveraging Facebook, Google Maps, Twitter, and Tumblr. And, to help with our strategy, community organizing, and partnerships, we enlisted the extraordinary Jacob Park.
We holed-up at I/O Ventures (thanks Ashwin and Keaka!) over the weekend to design and build the site, the participant kits, and the social media strategy.
It’s simple. Here’s how it works:
Participating businesses pledge to donate a percentage of their revenues from March 26th to one of Shop for Japan’s partner charities. These disaster relief charities are rigorously vetted and will all be participating in relief and reconstruction efforts in Japan.
Consumers can access a directory and map of participating businesses at www.shopforjapan.com, where they can find more information about businesses near them, the percentage of their donation, and the charity that business is supporting.
The website will also provide tools making it easy for participating businesses and their supporters to get the word out. These will include customizable posters that can be downloaded and printed, digital website banners, and social media-ready announcements that can be posted to Facebook and Twitter.
The Shop For Japan Flickr and Facebook pages will enable participants to post photos associated with the event, and the Shop for Japan website will post a final tally of the funds raised.
We see this as something that is at the intersection of both global and local: a global community event. It is intimate—bringing communities together to shop locally—as well as a global, making common cause with people around the world.
We don’t see the concept as encouraging crass consumerism—if you’d prefer to just donate, or find a way to volunteer, please do so. Rather, we see this as an experiment in building a new kind of network, with businesses and consumers working together to do good.
Shop For Japan empowers businesses to join a movement that will allow them to support themselves, a network of other businesses, and, most importantly, the people of Japan and victims of disasters worldwide.
More broadly, we aim to show how much can be done, and how quickly, on a global scale, for nothing other than a modest investment of time and creativity. Shop for Japan is united only by an idea, without any official or formal affiliation, organization, or incorporation.
So, dear reader, we leave you with the question that we are interested in trying to answer: Is it possible to build a global network over the course of a week to make a real impact?
We believe it is possible.
But we have to answer that question together: Please share this article and follow us on Twitter, “Like” and Share Shop for Japan on Facebook, get the word out to local businesses that you think could benefit by participating, and, of course, support participating businesses next Saturday. May we work swiftly to benefit all beings.
Visit ShopForJapan.com and get involved!
Edward West is a serial entrepreneur and educator. He is the Co-Founder of Mission Motors, manufacturer of high-performance electric motorcycles and electric powertrains, and has taught Entrerpreneurship at both the Presidio Graduate School and the California College of the Arts’ Design MBA program. He has a deep interest in the social web and Integral Theory.
Follow Edward on Twitter.