Charitable Donations and Sustainability
2 week sprint, followed by a 6 week long process
In beginning of my networking project, I had a very clear idea of what my process looked like: eight weeks of work, with each week dedicated to a specific portion of my project.
That eight-week-long project lended itself to some amazing insights and learning opportunities and got me thinking: what would it look like if I experimented in my process while experimenting in my subject matters? How could I shape my process to be equally considerate of the same amount of research and ideation I might do in eight weeks but format it in a different structure? How can I best find what forms of process work for me? ment, on both the giving and receiving ends.
With that being said, with this next project, I structured my process a little differently. Instead of one, long, eight-week project, I wanted to see what sort of inspiration I could drive into a two-week-long sprint, and then if I could use that sprint as inspiration to drive a following six-week-long project. Right now, all of my work (in both the sprints and the longer piece) surrounds the topic of charity engagement, on both the giving and receiving ends.
I started with secondary research, learning primarily about those that donate their income and what percentage of their income they donate. I found some interesting statistics: significant research has shown “that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans.” (NYT, 2010) On average, the wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent. (The Atlantic, 2013)
In a study done by Paul K. Piff, a Ph.D candidate in social psychology at UC Berkeley, it was found that the “lower class” subjects in his experiments tested were more “attuned to the needs of other and more committed generally to the values of egalitarianism,” in comparison to the “upper class” subjects that prioritized their own needs.
With that information, I asked the questions ‘How might we influence upper-income Americans to be more generous? How might we engage upper-income Americans in greater generosity?’
Sander van der Linden, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Cambridge, found recently that in these sorts of emotionally driven videos, “instead of relying on abstract statistics, effective campaigns ask people to identify with someone who will benefit from our collective goodwill. That empathy can be contagious, especially when paired with emotional imagery.” (Mashable, 2017)
Content that is personal, emotional, and story-driven can be particularly addicting- so much so, that “In 2013, when Facebook decided that the curiousity-gap headlines and clickbait articles offered by viral websites like Upworthy (“the fastest growing media site of all time”) and ViralNova were wearing thin, it changed the algorithm for News Feed, the main river of content for Facebook users.”
However, engagement in content does not necessarily mean donation or action. Slacktivism as it’s been coined, was highlighted by Unicef during a 2013 campaign: “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio”. (The Guardian)
This is where Facebook’s “Donate Now” button comes in. The tappable button provides an opportunity for easy and integrated action, where users can click on ‘Donate Now’ and select suggested donation amounts.
With all of this information in mind, I started to think about the intersections in emotionally engaging (and sometimes manipulative) content and donation.
In my brainstorming phase, I quickly ideated on solutions revolving around emotionally engaging content and charity donation.
As I looked through my brainstorms, I began to notice something: while the intention of charity engagement might often be positive and well-meaning, the usage of tools based in emotionally engaging and manipulative content could easily be negatively consequential.
This is something that, in my own life, I constantly notice. It seems as though the virtual attention economy we see on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram sometimes lends itself to the creation of and engagement in cute, fun videos of puppies getting along and random acts of kindness- but sometimes, this content can suck us into hours of time we might not have planned to spend online. This problem can also be explained in great detail by Tristan Harris’ Time Well Spent, so I’ll leave that here for more discovery.
This got me thinking. What if in my first sprint, I worked on a sort of Black Mirror-esque idea: instead of considering a good and ideal solution, I decided to explore a solution that easily would have both positive and negative consequences and emphasize what the negative consequences would be.