Once upon a time... I donated money to plant trees as a birthday gift for a friend, and all I got in return was a lousy digital certificate.
I couldn’t see where the trees would be, what they looked like, let alone if they got planted at all. The certificate was nothing more than a receipt of the money being well received, and not any proof of it being well spent.
It struck me that the moment the money is donated was the end of my customer experience, where it really should be the beginning of the journey to impact!
I looked into similar donation experiences, and came to realise this lack of feedback was common. Many text-heavy- and outdated reports and certificates, but hardly anywhere could I see the real-world results of the work (supposedly) being done. In short: one of the most important tasks for humanity, has the worst customer experience in the world.
Now here’s why that’s a problem. Given the magnitude of the task ahead, the lack of visible progress discourages a lot of people. They end up losing hope. They end up doing nothing. That’s the exact opposite of what they should be doing.
But it’s not like the technology isn’t there to fix this! Just think of how you can see on Instagram at any time where your friends are and what they’re doing. Or a postal app that enables you to track your package down to the minute. With this kind of technology in everyone’s pockets, not in the last place the people doing the actual work to restore nature, surely we could be doing much better!
Now, I knew a thing or two about digital platforms. I knew how it could help to visualise results and validate them. I had experienced first-hand how a marketplace can aggregate many small transactions whilst still keeping traceable links between both sides. And how it can add up to an ecosystem that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.
So, I shared the idea with two close friends: why don’t we build a digital platform for donations that you can follow, so you can watch the impact being made? Surely this would be a way to get more businesses and people to join in!
The very next day we started to reach out to restoration projects around the globe, and quickly learned that;
- All projects are in need of a higher, and more stable income
- Most projects have nothing to hide and would love to operate more transparently, but simply don’t have the money or capabilities to build the required digital infrastructure. The money they receive is meant for nature, and not technology!
- Only few projects were already taking steps to build digital environments where they could share the results. But because it’s not their core business, they struggle to get it right.
Not only did we now have a ton of learnings, but we also had a set of pioneering projects ready to start collaborating with us and share their results in a more transparent way!
The basis of our collaboration was set: we’ll focus on what we do best in the digital cloud, so they can do best on the ground to restore nature! And by working together we might ultimately even make the entire ecosystem work more effectively!
We were fed up standing by doing nothing, so we decided to start Sumthing: the platform where people come together to restore nature.