Random Thoughts: From Aviva Community Fund to Positive Social Change to Women Empowerment

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I was so excited that our Aviva Community Program is getting such good response even before the official launch. It is a very important project for both our client and IC because it is something we truly believe in. It is about 1/ Empowering change in our communities while building brand 2/ Prove that social media is not a hype and if you use it right it is the most powerful communication medium 3/ Authenticity is the key ingredient of marketing, this program is about action and not just words. Check out the program here. It is truly where "Marketing Innovation" meets "Social Innovation".

The idea is that  Aviva Canada will be introducing a nation-wide pilot positive social change competition supported by (see) a large-scale $500,000 donation put towards the fulfillment of positive community changes in neighborhoods across Canada. So far our metrics are indicating that this will be a super hit for an insurance company successfully social media to drive awareness and action for positive social change and brand awareness. Quick stats to date (before official launch): Ideas created: 800+ (see map below), Registered Users: 60,000+ Site Votes: 160,000+ Comments: 6,400+ Not to mention the crazy Facebook links.  Kudos to the client and the IC team John, Paul, Caroline, Jeff, Jackie, Claire, Cheesan, Andrew, Patrick, Ryan (did I miss anyone?). Lot of hard work, big thinking and flawless execution. Thank you team!

I received some interesting positive feedbacks and discussion on an earlier post this week titled “A Simple Life Or Green Living Are Not The Solutions. They Distract Us From The Real Number One Problem”. I’ve received a dozen of emails and some great comments /discussions from the linkedin group "Design For Social Change" which I’d like to share here:

Manuel Toscano, Design Principal, Zago NY

“There are many problems and many systems that can benefit from more design thinking, more involvement and support from the design community, but I wound’t argue that it should start from one place, or in one way. I say this even while agreeing with you that empowering women (everywhere) is proven to be the social investment that brings the most significant returns.”

Jeremy Faludi. Green Design Strategist, SF

"I agree that nowhere near enough attention is given to this issue. The key is that it’s not just a social issue–it’s an environmental issue. Empowering women in developing countries is the only effective (and the only humane and responsible) way to stop the population bomb. Easing population pressure helps solve all the other environmental problems we have (all forms of resource depletion, and all forms of pollution). The fact that it’s also pivotal in fixing a lot of social and economic problems is icing on the cake. I agree, it should be a very high priority. (Note, though: why is it all three of us who’ve talked about this so far are men?)”

Kara Pecknold, Design Researcher at Emily Carr Institute, Van

“I’ll jump in as one female voice in this discussion. I’m sure there are others who could add additional ideas. I concur, we’re past "green living. After working with a group of women in Rwanda, I would suggest that empowerment is definitely needed. Actually finding out what these women regard as empowerment is something else altogether. The "developing world" is a broad title and each country faces its own political, social and cultural realities that can affect this empowering. But talking to the people we perceive as needing it might be a step in the right direction. They likely have some good ideas to contribute to this conversation. “

Maz Kessler, Creative Director, NY

“Hi all – such a huge area for discussion, but extremely glad to see it surfaced here. there’s definitely momentum building around an increasing awareness (at last!) of the benefits of investing in women globally, and what this brings to communities, regions and nations. This rapidly emerging awareness (hesitate to call it a movement yet…) has recently been given mainstream visibility in high-income countries through e.g. Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn’s book ‘half the sky’… through the ‘girl effect’, through the NGO Women to Women, and eve ensler’s work in DRC etc……as designers we can bring our creativity to communications and advocacy in high-income countries, as well as into advocacy and design projects in low-income countries (anyway, immense and great topic and yes I’m also female)”.

Growing up in big cities and having lived and worked in Boston, London, Toronto, LA, HK, Milan, the women empowerment thing was never under my radar screen. I worked with some of the smartest and well educated women and it never came to my mind this is such a big issue in the developing worlds. I always thought we were making good progress. While a lot of progress has been made in the last 20 years improving women’s health and education, women in the developing world are still at the periphery of the economy, marginalized in segregated low-paying jobs, or practically barred from education and work opportunities. The situations are different country to country but the problem is still very serious as a whole.

I am very interested in what innovation is needed to make the change. Social innovation that links to empowering women is what I am talking about. An example, in 1999, 35 women on the isolated island of Char Montaz in Bangladesh discovered they could make a huge difference in their community by going into business (none of them have MBAs no surprise). Taking a lot of criticism since they were breaking society’s rules by working outside the home and that’s a big deal there. They later got funding from the World Bank and the UN Development Program, and assistance from a local non-governmental organization Prokaushali Sangsad Ltd.

They started to build battery-powered direct current lamps to replace kerosene lanterns widely used in local homes—a known source of indoor air pollution. And as they mastered lamp construction, they also learned about quality control, business development and marketing. Soon, their critics were their customers. Within two years, they were bringing low-cost light and clean power to over 1,200 households, shops, and boats, and 300 businesses. Shops stayed open longer, children spent more time on school work at home, and incomes increased by 30 percent. My point is, this is not just a moral or a human rights or a political issue, it’s deep down also an economic issue as well as global climate change issue.

Hope everyone have a very scary weekend.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2009/10/random-thoughts-from-positive-social-change-to-women-empowerment.html