Innovation In Giving

Standing Out From The Crowd

Philip Colligan

One of my favourite things about these amazing Olympics has been the Games Makers.  That’s the 70,000 or so volunteers that can be seen across Central London and at Olympic venues all over the country.

Whether you like the colour or not, there is something inarguably cool about a bunch of ordinary people standing out from the crowd in their Games Maker kits (kudos to Adidas).  You know there’s no pretensions, no cynicism – just great people giving up their time for someone or something else.

Are they motivated by the chance to be part of something bigger; to be a part of the greatest show on earth?  Of course they are and there’s nothing wrong with that.

These people are literally making the games possible by giving up their time to do everything from directing the flows of people at tube stations to mopping up the sweat on the badminton courts.  It’s social action on a massive scale.

What’s even more striking is how the rest of us respond.  We smile at them in the street and say hello, I’ve seen people stand on crowded trains to offer their seats to weary looking Games Makers on their way home and they’ve even got battle-hardened commuters like me having conversations early in the morning as we eagerly ask them what venue they’re at and what it’s like.

A few months ago I was in Cambridge town centre on what happened to be the day of Race for Life.  That’s another huge display of collective social action, as hundreds of thousands of women run 5k to raise much needed funds for research into cancer.  It is though, much more than a fun run.  The runners dress in a uniform of pink and wear on their backs the names of the mums, aunties, sisters and friends who have suffered that disease.  It is a collective act of solidarity with intensely personal motivations on display.  Too easily taken for granted, it is a remarkable thing.

That morning we went for brunch and again I was struck by the way that the “rest of us” reacted to the runners as they started to arrive for some well-earned food.  As each woman in pink arrived, the owner of the restaurant welcomed them with a glass of fizz on the house and a little cheer went up across the dining room.

So what do the Games Makers and Race for Life have to tell us about social action and what are the lessons for the many innovators that are trying to find ways to get more of us to give our time and money to causes we care about?

First, we need to look at the potential for collective action to engage new people in giving their time for causes they care about.  It’s a reasonable guess that many of the Games Makers and Race for Life runners were first time volunteers (if anyone’s got the data, let me know) and now that they’ve taken some social action, it’s more likely that they’ll go on to do something else.

The catalyst that got them giving might have been the excitement of being part of the Olympics or the pain of losing a loved one, but the effect is the same: they have taken social action and that will have changed their perceptions of themselves (see Timothy Wilson’s excellent book on how this happens).

And you don’t need an event as big as the Olympic Games to harness the power of collective civic acts.  New York didn’t win the Olympics and it didn’t stop them mobilising an army of volunteers through Mayor Bloomberg’s City of Service initiative.  They famously called on citizens to paint over 1 million square feet of the cities roofs white to help reduce carbon emissions from air conditioning.  Now hundreds of cities across the US regularly mobilise an army of ordinary people to take social action together.

Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t happen here.  Team London has been around for a few years now and is building a British version of the US Cities of Service in our capital.  Perhaps it is time we created Team Swindon, Team Leeds, or Team Calderdale?

Alongside mobilising people to do some good together, we need to think more creatively about how we make giving visible and celebrated.  Games Makers and the Race for Life deploy the very simple technology of clothing – a uniform that signals to the world that you are giving your time for others.  It’s an incredibly powerful mechanism, but it’s not the only one.

Increasingly we all define ourselves to the world through social media.  Innovations like Givey and Blue Dot are exploring the potential for these new social identities to capture information about our giving habits and make it part of the story we tell to the world.

Is there a possible future where alongside telling the world about our education, jobs and favourite films, social media platforms like facebook prompt us to say what social action we’ve taken?

Comments

11 comments on “Standing Out From The Crowd

  1. Saturday, August 25, 2012

    diy solar panel comments:

    Its like you learn my thoughts! You appear to grasp a lot approximately this, such as you wrote the e-book in it or something. I believe that you could do with a few % to pressure the message house a bit, but other than that, that is magnificent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. Monday, September 3, 2012

    شركة الزي الموحد لصناعة وبيع الزي الموحد و يونيفورمات تمريض comments:

    I will immediately take hold of your rss feed as I can’t find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me recognise so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  3. Sunday, September 9, 2012

    objavi|moda|slike|fotografije|klipovi|klip|fotke|sport|auta| comments:

    Hello my friend! I want to say that this post is amazing, great written and with approximately all important infos. I’d like to see more posts like this .

  4. Sunday, September 9, 2012

    Email Marketing, email profiteers, make money online comments:

    Wonderful site. Lots of helpful information here. I’m sending it to a few pals and also sharing. And obviously, thanks for your sweat!

  5. Sunday, September 9, 2012

    rijk worden comments:

    Wonderful goods from you, man. I have keep in mind your stuff previous to and you are simply extremely excellent. I actually like what you’ve obtained here, really like what you’re stating and the best way during which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to stay it smart. I can’t wait to learn much more from you. This is actually a great website.

  6. Monday, September 10, 2012

    beli buku online murah comments:

    Definitely consider that that you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the easiest factor to have in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get irked at the same time as folks think about issues that they just do not realize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as smartly as defined out the whole thing with no need side effect , other folks can take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

  7. Monday, September 10, 2012

    pillows comments:

    I was recommended this web site via my cousin. I am no longer sure whether this submit is written by means of him as nobody else recognise such designated approximately my problem. You’re wonderful! Thank you!

  8. Monday, September 10, 2012

    googlepo comments:

    Very informative

  9. Tuesday, September 11, 2012

    Lynette comments:

    Hello,

    Thank you for your comment. Although the Innovation in Giving Fund does not yet have it’s own newletter updates about the programme can be found in the Nesta Newsletter which can sign up to if you follow this link http://www.nesta.org.uk/newsletter_signup

    Kind regards,
    Lynette.

  10. Thursday, September 13, 2012

    căn hộ lucky apartment comments:

    I like the valuable information you provide on your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I am rather certain I’ll learn many new stuff proper here! Good luck for the next!

  11. Thursday, September 20, 2012

    Keeley Kossak comments:

    I just want to tell you that I’m new to blogging and site-building and actually savored this web blog. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You amazingly come with very good writings. Appreciate it for sharing your website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>