A marketplace connecting products and consumers, directly to grassroots impact.
Everyday Ann is on the road with a megaphone calling traffic-jammed drivers to give +$0.005 to treat & care for cancer tumor-faced children. When I saw the same faces on my way to office every month, I knew Ann wasn’t getting much.
Working in Digital Innovation, I felt my skills can help Ann invite more care than bystanders by targeting Millions to buy from Merchants who offer a small percentage per sale. On further study I concluded; the root cause is inaccess to basic resources; and that helping more people out of poverty reduces chances of this and other such pain & suffering.
But how are we to lift more people out of poverty if the engine of capitalism — Innovation is a preserve of the ’haves’. MIT Solve says “while over 70% of the world’s population lives under $10 a day, most research, technological development, and innovation are designed to solve the problems of the top 30%.” E.g. there are more nutrients in our shampoo than in a poor kid’s daily meals — if she gets any. I visited ATOS’ innovation centre in Netherlands and 9 in 10 high-budget projects are futuristic solutions looking for a problem, which is a common theme nowadays. Innovations’ focus on the haves explains the elusive global economic inequality.
The root problem however is; innovation requires investment yet the poor are high risk for business & investors. This innovation gap still exists because the poor lack the ingredients of innovation to do it themselves. They’re ill-educated & unexposed, can’t do basic R&D, and can’t access capital to do even the MOST BASIC innovations to their products and market reach. They still use rudimentary processes, models, and cultures which limits their products’ value to a few & only to fellow poor consumers, which also limits revenue margins, employment and how much they pay employees. WHO IS GOING TO INVEST IN THE POOR?
The shorter answer is NO ONE
Today nothing gets done without money and yet it is you and me — consumers who literally fund social and environmental needs — #worldneeds. More consumption means more taxes to gov’ts, more profits to individuals who become philanthropists — if they do, and more profits to corporates to do CSR — if they do. So, the connection between consumers and #worldneeds is infested by inefficient, costly & bureaucratic self-interested social middlemen.
Some governments spend more tax money on clinging to power and financing wars to create even more social problems than on uplifting society. Philanthropic foundations & development agencies have lengthy, impossible grant processes that grassroots change-makers like Ann will never win and the majority of CSR initiatives aren’t aligned with social needs but self-serving profiteering — it’s rigged middleman game.
Even with over $600 trillion in global financial assets — Bain & Company, there’s still a $2.6T Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME) credit-gap — IMF and a $2.5T SDG annual funding gap upto 2030 — UN. And as populations grow, more adults starting a business will fail because they can’t access credit, and can’t innovate — meanwhile the growth-hungry financial system continues to hoard progress. So, as a matter of priority, no one will readily invest in #worldneeds — only a self-interested #worldneeds AI agent.
It gets worse, the haves will instead squeeze even the last penny from the poor.
While market-researching for a P2P Lending solution for companies with a contract, we interviewed an officer of a Microfinance bank with roots in New York — she advised us as an insight to instead focus on informal microbusinesses because they are more profitable and that the bank lends them at +75% interest and that “THEY PAY IT WITHOUT KNOWING”.
This microfinance is unethically profiting from the ignorance of my mums, aunts, old village-playmates and is keeping them in the very poverty they borrow to escape. My aunt ran away from her village because of group pressure to pay a -$500 microloan. In Andhra Pradesh -India hundreds of people committed suicide for failure to pay microloans.
Born under a banana plant, I grew up in a rural village and experienced first-hand the indirect torments of poverty. At 8, a bicycle rider knocked and broke my leg as I played on the road to fetch milk for my siblings — this was golden playtime because we worked the fields morning to evening. How it was fixed is another funny story for another day, but you guessed right it wasn’t at a hospital.
When the village ‘brown-water’ well dried up, I pushed 60 litres of water on a bicycle along a 15-mile hilly road from the lake — this at age 14 and I was the lucky one, others had to walk. So, when the microfinance lady advised us to exploit the demographic that shaped me, it was obvious whose side I was on.
Obviously, there is no shortage of money rather a superabundance of self-interest and super-shortage of social-interest. A quick hack for this is dressing a socially-interested AI agent with self-interest. Since her interests are social, she amasses wealth at ++unicorn speeds and directly distributes it to urgent, neglected and solvable social issues.
People are recognizing the urgent need to bypass middlemen to directly effect grassroots impact. On GiveDirectly, people with disposable income, give away ≅ $500 to poor families deep in villages to cater for household needs, on kiva.org people give out interest-free loans to improve productivity of small businesses, and other social needs. But with over 70% people living below $10 a day, the current supply of such altruistic actions is a drop in the ocean.
With increasing pressures and demands of our consumerist society and lifestyles, we will naturally keep more to ourselves — the ‘cost of sacrifice’ is high, so fewer people are able to give even if they wanted to. We can reduce the ‘cost of sacrifice’ to zero so millions of altruist consumers give not money but regular purchase decisions where a percentage impacts causes, they care about. And this is where advertising’s role comes in. The current advertising model pushes us — consumers to satisfy our personal needs and interests, ignoring our social interests. In the process we end up enriching individuals — billionaires creating products that satisfy our personal needs while our social needs worsen.
On Oct 7 2019, I received an update from KIVA — $1 Billion deployed to 3 million women in 94 countries since 2006. It’s great impact but it’s very slow. What if this #worldneedAI gave Kiva $2 Billion every year. How is this possible?
The longer answer is EVERYONE — you & me
Funding the Poor: A marketplace where consumers are linked to buy products/services and a percentage instantly goes to the grassroots impact they care about e.g. interest-free microloans, education, health, climate adaptation, hunger etc. They can instantly see what their purchase has generated, the lives & environment impacted over time, create groups to fast-track support for causes with daily purchases, etc.
“91% millennials would switch to brands that support a social cause” Deloitte. “67% are more likely to integrate their causes into daily life by buying products that support social or environmental causes” BCG. This data suggests there’s another important secondary consumer need that merchants aren’t competing against. Millennials/Gen-Z thirst to change the world but lack an efficient model and platform.
At the core of capitalism is Advertising/Marketing — a powerful but extractive platform pushing consumers to support profits and shareholder value, most times at the expense of #worldneeds. Advertising fuels competition and then further innovation to meet even the tiniest of consumer (the haves of-course) needs and more wealth to the top. So, advertising, competition and innovation are the calibrating buttons of capitalism. Unfortunately, they are designed to run in unidirectional cycles — gushing chunks of wealth to the top and breadcrumbs down the pyramid.
A new distributive design of advertising/marketing that deliberately pushes consumers to directly & instantly support profits, society and environment will naturally fuel distributive cycles of competition and then further innovations in the neglected direction to impact urgent #worldneeds. Impact Advertising feeds on the now inevitably growing secondary consumer need of inclusive wellbeing of people and planet from especially generations Y & Z.
Capitalism has done miracles — It pushed me and a billion others to the next wealth level, and now we have access to piped water, power, gas, a bank account, access hospitals on insurance, among other basics. But it has also brought upon us the ‘tragedy of the commons’ which occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.
It just emerged that Exxon Mobil knew the -ve impact of CO2 emissions 35 years ago but chose to stay the course for shareholder profits. Some 2 billion people are still stuck below $3 a day, and have to choose one or two of life’s basics but not all, and it isn’t that we worked harder than them but it’s just the design of capitalism — push a few up, doom the rest. As a result, 18 million people — 6 million (22,000 today) of them children die every year because of preventable poverty-related causes.
Now more than ever, capitalism needs to focus its engines — innovation and competition to FOCUS on the poor and the environment. This means unleashing impact-oriented advertising to rally consumers to now actively demand #worldneeds as another consumer-need for products/services to compete against.
Impact advertising’s economic advantage is that; more wealth going at the bottom especially in the form of interest-free microloans drives more innovation and production which increases household income and then purchasing power. As people become wealthier, they acquire new tastes and assets. Alex Tabarrok puts it well, “if China and India were as rich as the United States is today, the market for cancer drugs would be eight times larger than it is now. “it’s a win, win, win not the usual win, loss, loss — i.e. business wins, society and environment lose.
As more rational purchase decisions occur through impact advertising, the social advantages are even enormous — more people access life’s basic resources, good education, health, nutritious food, water and can fairly adapt to climate shocks, businesses will be forced to pay better wages, there will be less deadly-immigration journeys, less terror, crime and violence, more peace, more conscious concern for the environment and animals, etc — not an utopia but close to self-governing world.
Inequality will continue to widen until the capitalist architecture that cultivated it is reconfigured. This project and four core features;
1) New Corporate Ownership: e.g. 40% to individuals and 60% to a decentralised autonomous AI agent called say #worldneeds. Because capitalistic ownership imposes self-interest which our socially-interested AI agent needs to prioritise society & environment, just like you will spend the last $50 in the pocket on food or something that brings in more money rather than the 20th idle pair of shoes.
2) Impact Advertising: connecting consumers to products/services and grassroots impact for a commission to #worldneeds. Because advertising is the wealth router pushing consumers to wherever it is calibrated to.
3) #Worldneeds AI Agent: programmed to instantly spend its wealth on the most urgent, neglected and solvable social and environmental issues at the grassroots. Can be improving production, education, health, pro poor R&D, emergencies, relevant opensource software projects, investing in scaling climate smart technologies etc.
4) Pro poor credit & innovation: to extend interest-free microloans, fund product innovation centres — that work with the poor to improve their products/services, market access, etc.
Because pro-poor credit & innovation is the number one urgent, neglected and solvable yet most impactful and sustainable initiative.
Here’s a futuristic vision of this; Google made $136B in 2018. What if it was 40% owned by persons & 60% by an AI software agent running on Bitcoin or Ethereum called #worldneedsAI that auto-spends on the most urgent, neglected, & solvable #worldneeds. Now imagine there are hundreds of such companies around the world.
This Impact-Product-Consumer marketplace;
· Fires-up markets to COMPETE on fixing #worldneeds. i.e. People, Planet, & Profits. Because it’s not always about competition but contribution.
· Overrides the self-interested middlemen & directly distributes funds for grassroots impact; disrupting governments, CSR and philanthropy.
· Reduces the cost of sacrifice: to zero so millions of altruist consumers instantly act on causes they care about and see instant change.
· Reduces cost of conversion for online sellers: as customers are energized to buy by the need to save a life not by manipulative ads.
· Quickly Fixes a World Need: e.g. a child with a curable malignant cancer tumor or heart-disease won’t have to endure another year of pain, suffering and stigma, will go to school
· Increases Happiness: studies from Harvard and elsewhere show that altruistic actions reduce stress and improve mental health, especially if done on a regular basis.
· Increases awareness of global challenges and effectively rallies the world in solidarity against them. Every purchase sends a message.
· Reduces plutocracy — government by the wealthy because #worldneeds funds won’t have strings attached.
Rethinking Business Focus
I pitched this project to an investor friend. He loved it but said it lacked focus. Are you doing, microcredit, pro-poor digital innovation & transformation, or impact marketing? He asked. He showed me graphs of how long it took Amazon, Facebook, and others to grow before doing other things. For a moment I thought I needed to focus like he suggested, but as I showered later that night, I thought, but I’m already focused, just not on billion-dollar growth but to this poor person. What does he/she need to create more wealth for her household?
I remembered Amina, the single mother of six we interviewed to get credit for her stone masonry business. Amina cried not because they sometimes go hungry, but because she isn’t sure her “clever son” will attend school next term. If not for impact marketing, she can’t get unsecured/cheap credit as she has no credit score, and credit without basic innovation to improve her product and to target digital customers instead of waiting for them at her stall would limit her sales, and she won’t be able to pay back.
So, she needs this combo of services to survive in the market. This is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the poor. Everyone is already focusing on growth, this model will focus on solving the Social Finance problem to fix the urgent, neglected social/environment issues. This means removing the bureaucracies, inefficiencies, and middlemen, that stand in between consumers and social impact.
This project is not just building a social robot company but most importantly ignite a paradigm shift to build an ecosystem where businesses and consumers act for the wellbeing of themselves but also of society and environment. Lifestyles, Laws, transactions, innovations, research,
Prospects for Cryptocurrencies
For the first 3–6 years this project will use fiat as technical developments in the crypto ecosystem evolve to be scalable. But the whole design of this new advertising model is to decentralize capitalism, wealth and resources. Such a decentralised economy needs a decentralised currency with its principles.
Impact Advertisers will need low-cost value transfer as they route traffic to merchants, or even better a totally new value-based tokenized web-traffic model. Eg when a consumer is sent from the impact website, a token is created, updated when she/he orders and pays, and also when the merchant, social cause, and advertiser instantly receive the agreed percentages of the sale.
Merchants and suppliers and others within the value-chain will increasingly find it cheaper to use the base currency. As more consumers virally join the system for their daily purchases because of its instant connection to social/environmental causes they care about, they will also find it convenient, cheaper and efficient to use the base currency.
Existing and new crypto services in banking, lending, insurance and others will be highly boosted by the influx of millennials and gen-z thirsty to make a social difference. These crypto services can now also offer an instant percentage to social/environmental causes per user transaction to attract more users.
This means this new impact advertising model will be a divine trojan horse for not only a decentralized economy and crypto but only if the base currency is crypto.