Master the Meaning of this Word…

Let me just cut to the chase. The word is ALTRUISM. For those who are going eeh? Here’s the definition.

“Altruism is the practice or principle of concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious groups (i.e. giving of alms to the poor)… Altruism is the opposite of selfishness.

Altruism is a motivation to provide something of value to a party who must be anyone but oneself…. Pure Altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self (e.g. sacrificing time, energy, possession) with no expectation of any compensation or benefits, either direct or indirect…”1

I have this inkling that most if not all professional designers have this quality. It is selfless. Another thing (and this is debatable) is that I reckon Design is slowly moving away from ‘consumer culture’ and into ‘welfare culture’.

There is even an organization called 🙂 I kid you not, these are a bunch of professional web developers, graphic designers, copywriters, marketers who volunteer 5 – 6 hours each month of their time to do design work for FREE to non-governmental organizations. No strings attached. They believe that true service should require nothing in return.

 Think Generation G (for Generous and not Greed -this word just keeps popping up), Free Love, Random Acts of Kindness (RAK), Reward INC. Embedded Generosity and many other similar trends associated with altruism are proving to be the new fad when it comes to marketing.

One good example is Tide, a detergent brand in the US started an initiative dubbed ‘Tide: Loads of Hope’ – a mobile laundry service that provides clean clothes to families affected by disaster. Through a partnership with Feeding America and Frigidaire, the program washed more than 36,000 loads of laundry for some 27,000 families in disaster-struck communities. One truck and a fleet of vans house 32 energy- efficient Frigidaire washers and dryers capable of cleaning more than 300 loads of laundry every day – the project’s staff carry all of this out for free and even fold the clothes afterward.2

Closer home, a Kenyan based non-profit athletic brand, Kourage, produces running t-shirts designed and manufactured here in Kenya. They then exports them to developed countries for sale. Priced at USD 39, the garments are manufactured from soft, light and breathable performance fabrics that use quick-dry technology. All profits are reinvested into the Kenyan economy in the form of awards given to small businesses and entrepreneurs working to improve living conditions and communities within Kenya.

Another recent example done early this year is the Kenya 28Feb which was a call to action for all Kenyans (sacrifice a few minutes) to all stand up at 1.00 pm and sing in unison the national anthem. 1 pm. 1 people. 1 nation. 1 anthem united in 1 prayer for Kenya. This was an initiative by a committed, patriotic group of Kenyans to celebrate and promote our country. Others could interprete it as a way of reminding us that most of our leaders are not delivering on their mandate, therefore voting them out in the next general elections is a must. Or to others, it could simply have been a time to refresh their memory on all the lines of the anthem! Brand Kenya should brand and patent this movement, but that’s just me saying.

Hence, designers, it is high time for us to rise up from the ‘pretentious aesthetic appealing’ executions that frazzle clients and start thinking of using more impactful, authentic models that ask customers to co-decide and/or co-donate, using either offline, online or mobile technologies to make the most of impulse-driven initiatives. Our intention must start building relevant experiences that shape society, otherwise we shall be shortchanging clients and wasting our efforts.

Get into your consumers (and not clients :)) psychic. Think content, content, content. Know what they want and soon you shall be designing more meaningful, engaging interactions and ultimately creating long term connections with them.

 Read more on it. Chambua maana ya ndani na ya nje. The word is ALTRUISM.


1 Wikipedia extracts

2 – Non-Profit & Social Cause Industry Report pg 21 & 23


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