Editor’s Note: This weekend marks the return of Craigslist Foundation’s Bay Area Boot Camp, which takes place in Berkeley, CA. Now in its seventh year, the event features speakers, workshops, and strategy sessions designed to help emerging social change leaders build their capacity to make a difference.
While many of the speakers are known luminaries on the social change landscape, Cindy Gallop, founder of IfWeRanTheWorld.com, is new to the scene. This week I asked Cindy what her service — which promises to help transform good intentions into action — is all about.
Q: Where did the idea for IfWeRanTheWorld come from?
Gallop: It came from two places – the kind of person I am and the industry I work in. I’m naturally action-oriented and all about making things happen – with, ahem, a rather low tolerance level for people who complain about stuff and never do anything to change it. Which got me thinking that the single biggest pool of untapped natural resource in the world, is human good intentions that never translate into action – and that if you could just find a way to turn all those good intentions that all of us have every single day into action, then you would unleash a source of energy and power, that really could do extraordinary things in the world.
Based on 25 years of working in advertising, I know there is another equally large and untapped pool of corporate good intentions. Companies know they must be corporately socially responsible, but don’t see how to integrate social responsibility with business in a way that enables them to do good and make money simultaneously. I wanted to bring those two things together – human good intentions and corporate good intentions – and find a way to activate them collectively, into shared action against shared objectives, that would produce shared and mutually ownable results.
Q: How does IfWeRanTheWorld work?
Gallop: IfWeRanTheWorld is what I call “emotional software” – the synthesis of technology and psychology. It’s based around the concept of the microaction – its atomic unit, in the same way the tweet is the atomic unit of Twitter. A microaction is like the action equivalent of “140 characters or less” – an incredibly small, simple, easy to do action, so easy why wouldn’t you do it?
At its simplest, IfWeRanTheWorld enables you to start up or join an actionplatform to achieve any goal that is your answer to the question, “If you ran the world, what would you do?” You and the community break that down into microactions, which you can target as invitations to act, to anyone – friends, neighbors, colleagues, brands. businesses – who’s perfectly positioned to do it. Every microaction completed dynamically generates your profile so that you self-identify and self-express as literally, you are what you do – creating Action Branding for individuals and businesses.
Q: You write that you started IfWeRanTheWorld as a “quick, simple and easy way for people and businesses to turn good intentions into action.” Do you feel that other services weren’t quite doing it?
Gallop: Not at all – there are many, many wonderful people, brands, organizations and institutions all working on this – and given the scale of the task, you can’t have too many people trying! (I yearn for the day when someone corners the market in turning good intentions into action and the rest of us can pack up and go home!)
Q: A lot of new Web services talk about how they are helping people turn good intentions into action. Can you share how your IfWeRanTheWorld is different?
Gallop: I wanted to focus in on the one thing I felt could best help everyone – that exact point where the rubber hits the road: how do you turn intention into action, at the very moment of intention?
So IfWeRanTheWorld is different because it’s not actually intended to be a destination website, or an online social network in the conventional sense – it’s a utility: a web-meets-world collaborative tool designed to do one thing and one thing only, which is turn intention into action via microactions. We designed it to plug into anything and everything where someone wants to make something happen.
I believe the future of the world is about collaboration; I believe the future of business is about collaboration (in a way that we don’t see currently). IfWeRanTheWorld is designed to collaborate with and work for anyone who just wants to get shit done.
IfWeRanTheWorld’s business user proposition and business model is also different. We craft tailored, customized Action Programs for brands and businesses that are deliberately designed to do good and make money simultaneously, to demonstrate how social responsibility can be integrated into the way a company does business on a daily basis, to make it a key driver of future growth and profitability.
Q: You’ve said that “The old top-down model of making things happen through hierarchies and organisations and institutions is broken.” Where do you think nonprofits fit today in social change?
Gallop: I think that fact represents a huge opportunity for nonprofits – in the same way it represents a huge opportunity for businesses. The old world order way of doing business demanded specific structures and processes that nonprofits felt pressure to replicate. The new world order allows anyone to redesign how they do business around the model that works for them, and to do so in a far more collaborative, bottom-up way.
I would recommend all nonprofits read “Rework” by Jason Fried & David Hansson, just as I recommend all businesses do. It’s a great primer for operating a business in the new world order, and representative of many of my own philosophies and beliefs.
Q: Many corporations are looking carefully at how to raise the real-world impact of their CSR investments. Is there a place for microactions in this?
Gallop: Absolutely. We designed IfWeRanTheWorld to work in exactly the same way for individuals and businesses. We wanted to bring together individual passion, commitment and motivation, with business resource, funding and clout, through Action Programs where they could act together and be judged together by one thing and one thing only – “What are you DOING?”
Action is a great leveler – and it’s also a great unifier. Businesses set up their own action platforms and invite individuals to microact with them, and we also match them with individual or non-profit action platforms where, often, a business can come in and pick up a whole load of microactions in one fell swoop, and shortcut the process of getting to the goal. When a brand takes out full page print ads saying “Look how socially responsible we’re being,” people go, “I know why you’re doing that – so you can advertise it.” Whereas if you just do it, and invite people in to do it with you, you don’t have to say anything – it’s self-evident.
The new business reality is complete transparency. Everything a business does today is in the public domain, courtesy of the internet. Brands are judged by their actions just as people are – so Action Branding is communication through demonstration: walking the talk.
Q: Any lessons learned from this first early year?
Gallop: First early six months, you mean! We are extremely new. And we’ve been very much learning as we go – we deliberately launched with a demo at TED back in February as minimum viable product, so that we could real-world test alongside our development timeline. So we are still building, with the benefit of ongoing user input, feedback and help – we are not just a crowdsourced platform, we are a crowdsourced venture.
And I cannot overstate the value of real-world testing, because we are surprised and fascinated every day by the way in which people use IfWeRanTheWorld. In fact, I would cite a key lesson to pass on to everyone coming out of this process as, the worst thing any entrepreneur (or brand marketer, for that matter) can say is ‘It’s going to work like this.’ Because it won’t.
Q: What’s on the road map at IfWeRanTheWorld? What can we expect to see in coming months?
Gallop: Well, if all goes well, very soon after this post goes live, you’ll be seeing an exciting new iteration of our homepage – and on Saturday, you’ll see us, live and in person, helping activate the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp!
We have a bunch more features and functionality in the pipeline, plus we’re experimenting with a way of enabling you to microact immediately when you encounter something online you want to do something about. You’ll also be seeing our first brand/business Action Programs, and communities using actionplatforms to self-organize, self-manage and self-sustain in different parts of the world.
People have reached out to us from different countries to say they want to help make IfWeRanTheWorld operational on the ground there – which is why I am writing this from Auckland, New Zealand, and why I will be in South Africa next month. But… as we make clear on our homepage, we are an experiment. So I guess the honest answer is, I really don’t know – but I hope it’ll be good!