Goodness Powered by an Omnichannel Social Media App

This is part 2 of a writeup on the case for building a social media happy place for goodness. Sukarma is the given name for a social media app that can be built to create the goodness experience. In case you missed it, check out part 1 here.

Sukarma aims to create a social movement for doing good by enabling a networked group of people engage in a simple, and personal way through the power of technology at scale.

Sukarma makes a distinction between giving and goodness. We are not a “giving platform”. We are a “goodness experience”. This difference is key to how and why we are genuinely focused as a new-age company to drive changes in people through social impact and empowerment.

Unlike traditional giving programs and platforms that focus primarily on a cause and its outcome, Sukarma places emphasis on the “action” of an individual and celebrates it among a group of people, hence completing a triangle of goodness. We believe that the majority of corporations, foundations, non-profits and even individuals get stuck in the act of giving, thereby making the entire experience “transactional” in nature.

We wish to make the experience more human, as it should rightly be among a group of people, in spite of technology being in the hot seat.

CSR at Companies- A key focus area for Sukarma

Companies or Giving Foundations/Trusts play an important role in building good citizenship. Many corporate CSR initiatives and technology solutions in the marketplace that enable them (Philanthropy Cloud by Salesforce, Goodera and several others) focus on the act of giving through mechanisms such as donations. Payroll deduction is a favored mechanism to encourage consistency in giving. While volunteering time is encouraged, it is not given much prominence.

The experience can be summarized as:

  1. Pay and Pray
  2. Search for giving opportunities using technology and a large database of pre-determined causes
  3. Analytics and reports to show outcomes

The typical CSR gameplan can be looked at through this lens:

Anchoring on non-profits gives access to causes that are active in a community (or beyond) that a person (you) can contribute towards either through a donation or volunteering activity.

Focusing on giving keeps the company and non-profit interconnected in the efforts being driven.

This is generally good and perhaps the right way of doing things when it comes to CSR. But, is it enough!?

At Sukarma, we look at this from a different lens:

By merely shifting the anchor and the focus areas, Sukarma aims to achieve a lot more in value and support to the needy in this world.

This is how a typical FLOW works in corporate social giving:

[i]

The transactional nature of giving is evident in how information and time/money flows between the various players in the ecosystem.

Platforms are invested in increasing the dollar contribution of companies and donor individuals. Companies are interested in increasing employee (as a donor) engagement and in turn build the company’s social responsibility image in public.

Except for rare instances of actual volunteering, the donor and the recipient are separated by a network of physical and technological aiders that can sometimes make the experience broken.

The nature of information exchange also changes between the various players. For e.g., a donor gets inputs on causes that they can invest their time and/or money in based on what a platform chooses or is capable of presenting. This platform in turns receives its database of causes from a non-profit entity. A donor in such scenarios is contributing towards a cause that is predetermined.

Take an alternate example into consideration.

In company A, an employee X belonging to the Sales Team is cycling from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise a contributions target of $5,000 that would go towards cancer research. This is a community-level initiative and she is need of all the help that can be provided, even from her colleagues. This can be considered as a non-corporate initiative and wouldn’t attract the necessary mission or target of the company and the NGOs they partner with.

Generally, this scenario is quite common and most people use emails, conversations with team members and generic social media tools like Facebook to raise awareness and generate interest.

What if there was a social media capability that can serve even such a purpose? What if it is designed in such a way that employee X could create a campaign that includes all her team members in sales, or employees in company A and at the same time, any other team that X (as an individual) wants to simultaneously reach out to and raise awareness about outside of company A? All with a few clicks and no repetition of any information across teams, making the experience simple and seamless.

This is what Sukarma aims to achieve, even giving the company an opportunity to support an employee’s personal initiative that she is passionate about.

We focus on an individual as the center of 3 core experiences-

  • Beyond an NGO presenting causes to serve, the individual has the freedom to define a campaign that can serve a cause that others find interest in.
  • Rewards and recognition are inherent in the experience in order to motivate and drive more energy into a campaign while having fun at the same time.
  • Social connections and the ability to build a sense of belonging within a team drives a great sense of self-worth. The positive feeling in turns makes an individual hungry to do more for the society.

At Sukarma, we look at FLOW as the uninhibited flow of resources between all the players in the ecosystem combined with the necessary rewards & recognition mechanisms to drive interest and passion in the goodness being done.

Unlike a regular CSR flow, Sukarma looks at the entire donor and receiver network as a system of circles of influence. On one side, we have an individual who can engage with another individual, Non-profit or a platform capability on the other side. This is the horizontal reach that Sukarma enables. Also, this individual can reach vertically into a TEAM and further into a larger GROUP to engage horizontally at a bigger level for more impact.

What is a TEAM?

A team is a group of people that an individual connects and engages with in her goodness mission. For e.g. a Technology division within a company could be considered as a team. Or a sales team within a company could be considered so. There are no specific rules for creating a team. However, a small group of people no more than 20 is usually considered a team with the assumption that each member of the team knows the other person at least by name or face.

What is a GROUP?

A group is a larger organization and is the highest aggregation of a similar type of people under it. For e.g., Google as a company is considered as a group. It could also perhaps be organized by geography so that Google USA is a group. Each organizing entity has the flexibility to define its own way of operating within Sukarma. A group could also be a large family of people, an educational institution, a community in a township, an alumni network, a school network and so on. It is generally assumed that there is one large group representing a major corporation or institution. Any breakdown of it will be into several teams. This breakdown of several people into teams and groups gives Sukarma the power to offer a company, an access to a unique CSR experience for its employees. It also gives teams of employees within the company to organize themselves separately within the umbrella group to run their own goodness campaigns. A person could belong to several teams and a few groups. But the combinations are limitless.

Sukarma believes that an act of goodness is not just about someone helping another person in need. More importantly, it is not a one-sided flow of positive energy from a person doing good to the person receiving goodness.

Now, imagine this story:

Santosh is a production engineer at an automobile factory in Pune, India. He is married and has a school-going kid. He spends an average of 14 hours in a factory shift every day managing the production lines. He works on Saturdays too. He gets Sunday off and has the time to himself. Some days, he may be required to extend his work hours to meet unplanned demand. Santosh and his wife Prema enjoy going to the temple on Sundays following which they religiously donate food to the needy who assemble at the temple. Santosh and Prema prepare the food on their own and spend about four hours early in the morning getting things ready before they head out to the temple and personally distribute it.

One day, a friend of his visits the temple. On seeing the good work that Santosh is doing, he recommends that this could be done in a bigger way to serve the poor. His friend also mentions in passing that there is an app called “Sukarma” that he should explore one day. He asks Santosh to join hands with a local charity that educates children of poor laborers who cannot afford an education for their kids. As part of the free education, the kids are provided with free lunch every day. Santosh goes to visit the charity after taking a day off from work. Prema joins him too. They are highly impressed by the work the charity does. Moreover, he is shocked to see that there are so many poor children who never get to eat anything for the day if not for the lunch they are served at the school. Santosh always felt that the hungry poor are mostly the old and disabled people in society. He gets to learn something more that day.

That night Santosh and Prema sit at home and wonder what they could do to help the local charity house. They could cook more food and distribute it but they can never do it every day. They barely managed to do this over the weekend for their temple visit. Moreover, the costs shoot up as more food is produced. Prema works at a community library. Both cannot afford to donate more in money even if they hoped paying for food can compensate for the charity house managing things on its own. They were also starved of time. The daily grind of life is never ending and even though they led a comfortable life, the one luxury that is difficult to attain for the middle-class is ‘time’.

Santosh recollects his friend mentioning about the app Sukarma. He downloads it on his mobile phone and checks it out along with Prema. To begin with, he registers on the app and enters his details. He then uses the journal feature to log details of his own good deed at the local temple. He tags the location of the temple and a few friends to join the app and check the work at the temple. Prema likes that based on their entry, similar initiatives by like-minded people show up for viewing. She realizes that there is a temple in a nearby city doing similar work through a network of volunteers who receive funding from an NGO. Santosh and Prema add a few more campaigns they have done recently, including raising funds for the community library where she works. Something delightful happens next. All their campaign related work are automatically built into a visual interactive experience that anyone can see and appreciate. It also acted as a motivation for others to do similar work. Santosh never sensed that there were like-minded colleagues interested in his cause sitting right next to him in his team at the factory. With a download and few clicks, they are also signed up on Sukarma and ready to join Satosh’s team and support his campaign. Based on the number of new friends who appreciate their work, Santosh and Prema feel a sense of fulfillment when their work is recognized in a good way.

Santosh goes ahead and raises awareness of the local charity that educates poor children. He makes a specific request for attention towards ensuring the free lunch scheme is not only continuing to operate but also growing. To his amazement, his call receives immediate attention from the local municipal authority that has some funds to allocate. Given his ranked status as a “human influencer” in Sukarma, an automated intelligence-driven ranker of people who have done good deeds, Santosh is able to get prime interest in his call for help. A businessman based out of Mumbai city find the work of Santosh interesting. The businessman pledges a big donation on Sukarma and immediately gets in touch with Santosh and the charity. Sukarma tracks the good deed while letting the two parties figure out the details of how to get things done outside the platform. The local charity also joins Sukarma and appreciates the work of Santosh and the businessman. This boost both their good deed ranking. This pushes the attention further in the social network and things begin to grow in a compounding fashion. Sukarma does this for many people by giving the attention that goodness deserves while motivating many more people to do their part. The power of social media ensures that this turns into a global movement. Santosh and Prema now have a new hobby. They learn about the stories of other people who are doing other good deeds in this world. They even pick their next project. Working with a global NGO to pack essential food items for people affected by a natural disaster in a far distant country. Good people have no barriers in society. Goodness has no borders in this world!

The Product Offering

Sukarma offers a mobile app (mobile first design approach) for the following users. The users of the app will be called “members“. A member gets free access to all features. There is a paid membership that allows members to have some additional capabilities.

Who are the target customers?

Sukarma is offered for the following types of user bases-

  1. Companies and Foundations (B2B)
    1. Sukarma will provide an employee engagement and campaign management capability for a company by allowing all its employees to have special member access to the app (mobile app and a future desktop version).
    2. Companies will be set up as a group and different departments (and sub-departments) can organize themselves into collaborative teams.
    3. Impact will be captured at an individual employee level, a team level and group level.
  2. Institutions & Communities
    1. With institutions (like universities and schools) and public communities, a similar experience as the B2B will be available.
    2. Members will have free access to the app.
  3. Individuals (B2C)
    1. Individuals will generally have free access to the app.
    2. A paid membership for a nominal fee will give access to extra features not available to the general member.

Who are the competitors in this space?

The competitive landscape that Sukarma operates in is highly fragmented and vastly served by a plethora of solutions. The “goodness universe” can be visualized in the below form among several other interpretations possible of the range and kind of work that several of these entities and solutions provide.

Justice cannot be done to trump one solution over the other as the need of the hour today is more goodness. The fact that several of these entities are active and are running campaigns supporting causes of some kind globally indicates that there is a huge unmet need and large demand for solutions that make a difference. A few that interest us at Sukarma have been highlighted with their areas of influence as understood by us. Many of these solutions and entities are constantly innovating, changing and disappearing. Hence, this can be used for a broad strategic understanding of the landscape.

As can be seen from the Sukarma logo, we wish to operate on the boundaries of intersection between “social networking” and a “giving management platform”.

This is a relatively unexplored or rather less-focused area that is by far the most critical link towards clearly offering a goodness experience to people.

We hasten to add that we wish to play as an “outsider” within the vast goodness universe rather than get stuck in circles.

While the social networking area is crowded with several innovative options, they are skewed towards garnering attention and immediately veer towards a cause and its fundraising needs. On the giving management platform, two key competitors being looked into by Sukarma are Goodera and Salesforce.com’s recently launched Philanthropy Cloud. However, both these platforms are focused heavily on corporate giving programs and are built to enable faster and easier donation mechanisms for employees.

Sukarma is going to be social media-centric while being flexible enough to truly be inclusive of both the B2C and the B2B space that also includes companies, institutions and individual people. Philanthropy Cloud and Goodera may also slowly be moving into this area based on limited indications of their intent in the public sphere.

What is the target market to consider for product-market fit & launch?

Sukarma will be launched globally across all markets. However, for the initial two years of its operation, it will focus efforts in the following two key markets:

  1. US – mature market – concept testing and B2C + B2B growth
  2. India – market introduction – drive engagement and B2B interest

The entire app experience will allow for members to have more familiarity, connectedness, more fun, the right social pressure (to do good) and self-worth.

What social influences & call-to-action are built into the member experience? [i]

  • Members need prompts or visual pointers that others are doing good deeds so that they contribute too. It is better if the members are known to each other.
  • Endogenous effect to be created by making members do more by making them realize that their peers are doing more.
  • Identify the influencers vs. the influenced in a group engaged in goodness in order to benefit from the influencers and increase participation by the influenced.
  • Share information on other possible good deeds with the members with the focus on influencers getting to have more details. For example, influencers get contacted by people or groups that need help more directly.
  • Friends increase the possibility of contributions and good deeds by watching each other. Connecting them automatically through social links (e.g. Facebook) could help.
  • Remove or reduce degree of anonymity between members so that their contributions to public goods is increased. This will address the “free rider” problem by creating the illusion of social exclusion if a member doesn’t do much.
  • Allow for profile pictures and usage of pictures that show human faces to leverage the power of “looking glass self”.
  • Goodness increases and contributions are higher when members are allowed to have conversations prior to doing a good deed. Style and degree of conversation could use traditional methods of Facebook or Instagram. It could also use a Twitter-style character restriction to keep conversations meaningful.
  • Potential member data to be valued are contributions made, good deed characteristics, demographics (location, age, gender) and income data of members and the group dynamics that members create.

The UX Design for the Sukarma App

The Sukarma app follows a design principle based on generating excitement, curiosity and simplicity at each stage of the user journey. The prototype for this engaging experience can be found in the below link:

Sukarma UX prototype design

What is the product stickiness or enticement being created to ensure members join (to begin with) and stay (continue participation) in Sukarma?

The ability to create member interest and sustain it is based on a model where levels of interest are generated in the member experience based on the level of engagement of the members. It can be understood as follows:

What is the product monetization opportunity to consider?

  Member (Free) Member (Paid annual plan) + Extra Features
Campaigns & Postcards –the work done by a person will be auto-generated as a “postcard” under a campaign – create a sense of sharing and excitement Yes Paid members get special promotion and ad placement for their campaigns in the social network
Emoji stickers for online download and sharing in postcards – There will be three member categories based on their level and impact of social work done – Maverick (medallion), Crusader (cape) and Champion (crown) Option to also print & ship physical stickers to share with friends, team members and family
Stamps in profile section: build your own online stamp with avatar picture or social cause picture (stamps will be auto-generated based on profile and the causes supported to act as “fun” social motivators) Option to download and buy physical stamps that can be shipped to friends, team members and family
Picture postcard – add to home feed + profile (back of card where the photo is shown is displayed here) Option to print the postcards and ship to share with friends, team members and family
Caps/T-shirt to buy with your favorite causes etched on it as a person moves from being a Maverick to a Crusader to a Champion Get a cap/T-shirt for free shipped once a person achieves a certain category status (e.g. when moving from Maverick to Crusader to Champion)
Group level benefits (for companies, institutions, Non-profits, Communities) Vet potential nonprofit board members based on their Sukarma scores and goodness work done Option to use Sukarma’s AI-driven finder to get targeted suggestions of high potential candidates
Vet potential students from applicant pool in universities/schools based on individual’s goodness history Option to use Sukarma’s AI-driven finder to get targeted suggestions of high potential applicants based on their well-rounded profiles
NGOs, charities, social communities etc. can register and place online ads in social feeds of members to get attention from the right target members related to a cause   Option to place online ads at special discounted rates
Social growth benefits Place Sukarma profile in professional job platforms (LinkedIn, Indeed etc.) to attract potential employers with profile strength Option to have special promotional runs with professional job platforms to place members in top-list of recruiter candidate pool
View campaigns and good work done by other members in a team/group to identify interesting options to pursue Option to get tailored AI-assisted (chatbot) recommendations for what causes to pursue and what actions to take for increasing impact and visibility in social and professional networks  

What is the high-level product development plan?

Phase 1 (0-6 months)- POC:

Build a prototype and test POC for product viability, member interest and market readiness.

Phase 1 hypotheses: Test whether a person enjoys the idea of sharing his good deeds on a separate social platform for others to see. What measurable and known rewards and social ranking can be built into it?

Metrics: # of app downloads; # of users; # of user content generated per user; User engagement with content generated

Focus on US and India markets

Phase 2 (6-12 months)- MVP:

Launch MVP with focus on core features and end-end social experience on a mobile app – android and iOS

Refine social ranking algorithms

Build metrics collection and measurement mechanism

Build financial model for market opportunity based on metrics gather during POC phase

Phase 3 (1-2 years):

Alpha launch: invite-only members test the social offering

Business case built for investor community

Business partnerships with recruiters, companies, NGOs and Government

Phase 4 (2nd year):

Beta launch: Launch extended to open market under A/B test conditions

UX and product feature improvements and additions

Marketing

Phase 5 (2nd year onwards): Full public launch with readiness for scale

[i] Certain ideas derived from – 1) “Social Influences and the Private Provision of Public Goods: Evidence from Charitable Contributions in the Workplace”; Katherine Grace Carman, Harvard University. 2) “The Psychology of Social Media: Why we Like, Comment, and Share Online”, Courtney Seiter, Buffer.com; Nonprofits that populate employees’ profile pages pull from two different databases – Guidestar and United Way.

[i] platform by Eucalyp from the Noun Project


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