“You want to make a difference?” asks the video from Going the Extra Mile – also known as Gem. “You’re ready to help, but don’t know how? What if there was something you could do? What if your good deeds helped you?”
Gem is a mobile rewards platform for South African who want to play their part in society. Opening a Gem account is quick, easy and free, and can be done on both smart and feature phone. App users who have helped a cause are immediately eligible to win virtual rewards known as – you guessed it – Gems. The Gems can be used to buy airtime or data, prepaid electricity, or even movie tickets.
Brand South Africa, as part of its mandate to build pride, patriotism and a spirit of active citizenship, has partnered with the Gem project for July – Mandela Month. Organisations served by the app need help from fellow citizens with donations of clothing, help with homework, job shadowing, skills development and much more.
“The app is a social development drive that aims to mobilise communities within themselves so that they can help each other rise,” David Shields, co-founder and director of the Gem project, said during the launch of the partnership at the Nelson Mandela Foundation this morning.
“Volunteers are encouraged to donate their Gems back to needy causes during Mandela Month. In order to ensure continuity and mobilise support even beyond Mandela Month, corporates are also encouraged to donate Gems so that they can be allocated towards causes on an ongoing basis.”
“Users earn Gems by doing community work, for example separating waste or planting trees,” Shields told tech blog Smile and Mobile last month. “Users download Gem via USSD by dialling *120*GEM1 # or as an app.
“Once they’ve signed in, they are able to see which volunteering opportunities are available in their area. When they’ve decided on a day and a place, the app tells them how many Gems they’ll earn as a token of appreciation.”
The Gems are donated by corporate and public sector sponsors, and distributed evenly to the social partners that host events.
“Gem not only rewards people for volunteering their time at charities but also helps impact on behavioural change, such as rewarding people to go for HIV and pregnancy tests,” says Shields. “Or recycling their waste at schools and varsities.”
Co-founded by Shields and Camilo Ramada, the idea came about two years ago, but the non-profit organisation was only established in September 2014.
“One night Camilo and I were chatting about the South African socioeconomic situation,” says Shields. “More specifically, about how people are immobile to creating opportunities to do good – particularly if communities don’t acknowledge and appreciate such behaviour.”
Both Ramada and Shields have worked extensively in the digital industry, and know the power of mobile. “Camilo is a pioneer in mobile payments and has been at the forefront of the industry for over 10 years,” says Shields. “I’ve done media, PR and digital marketing for a variety of brands.”
Shields says the app helps create online relationships between civil society, the public sector and business. It allows these different entities to work hand in hand to achieve a greater goal: social development.
“By helping others, people have a chance to help themselves and by doing so, are able to network and create tight knit communities that contribute to long-term networking and social cohesion.”
Brand South Africa’s partnership with Gems is part of the organisation’s “Play your Part for Madiba” campaign, also launched today.
“This partnership is not only an extension of the commemorative month’s activities and actions of goodwill by South Africans,” Brand South Africa’s Acting Chief Marketing Officer Sithembile Ntombela said at the launch. “We also hope that the nation will continue to contribute to positive change because a nation of people who care deeply for one another, and the environment in which they live, is beneficial for everyone.
“This is our call to action so that every day can become a Mandela Day!”
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