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Renee Farris headshot

UNICEF Gamifies Giving Water, S’well Makes Water Bottles Fashionable


You don’t have to have a superpower, wear a cape or risk your life to save someone. In fact, the UNICEF U.S. Fund has created a new way for you to save a life, and all you have to do is not use your phone. What? That sounds like a superpower to me.

Welcome to World Water Month. Here’s how it works. For the month of March, for every 5 minutes you don’t use your phone, a child gets clean water for one day. This opportunity is brought to you courtesy of water bottle company S’well and Giorgio Armani Fragrances. Never has a fundraiser tasted so good and smelled so sweet. Together, they will donate $175,000 if you can give up something you don’t think you can live without, for something people really can’t live without.

A shocking 663 million people do not have safe, clean water to drink. That’s over twice the population of the United States. But, even losing one child due to lack of access to water would be one child too many, said Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. She believes access to water should be a basic human right. So far in this campaign, 3 million days of clean water have been donated.

To join the friendly competition, go here on your cell phone. Next, set your phone down and start the game. While you wait, the site will tell you fun stats. For example, today people have helped kids instead of viewing 37,000 cat photos. California is winning for having the most players. At this very moment, 27 people are setting down their phones to give children water. The record time today was 621 minutes and the all-time record is 71,000 minutes, or almost 50 days. Wow.

Giving water is a great way to celebrate World Water Month. It's also a great time to consider our personal use of water.

If you’re not familiar with S’well, you’re about to be. Not only is the company amazing for donating water to kids in need, but it’s also amazing because it’s saving the world (and clean water) through fashion. Yes, fashion. Expensive purses and watches can move over and make room for this new glamorous accessory… the water bottle. Oh, really? Yes, S’well is selling stylish water bottles at high-end retail stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

In an interview with Daily Worth, S'well founder Sarah Kauss explained her strategy.

Gamifying giving water and making it fashionable have been successful innovative strategies. In fact, UNICEF has had such good luck gamifying social change that it has another tech game called Kid Power rolling out.

Kids will wear power bands that calculate their steps and then be challenged to walk the minimum number of daily steps, about 12,000. “For every 2,400 steps they walk, they earn a kid power point and it lights up, it buzzes and it’s very exciting,” Caryl Stern of UNICEF said. For every 10 kid power points they earn, a food packet is given to a malnourished child, thanks to donations from Target and Disney.

One in four American children today is under-active, and one in four children around the world is malnourished to the point of starvation. Stern said this year over 100,000 children will participate. The goal is to have a million children in the program by 2017. “You get active. You get healthy. You save a life.”

If saving lives makes someone a superhero, then you can be a superhero. All you have to do is set your phone down for a few minutes, go for a walk and drink from a S’well bottle. Saving the world just became fun and fashionable.


Photo credits: 1) S'well 2) UNICEF's Tap 3) S'well and 4) Target

Renee Farris headshotRenee Farris

Renee is a social impact strategist who works with companies to help them focus on key social and environmental opportunities. She loves connecting with people so feel free to contact her at renee.a.farris@gmail.com.

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