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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Social Innovation in Canada: A shining example

How Indigo is helping you get when you give.

This one goes out to all you social innovation gurus in Canada who are waiting.  Waiting for Canadian organizations, entrepreneurs, and corporations to take risks and think outside the traditional approaches to drive social change.  It's happening, just very slowly, and today I'm proud to share a leading example of it: Indigo's 2011 Adopt a School program.

When I started working with Indigo a couple of months ago, I had no idea about the severity of the literacy crisis in Canada - the fact that most of Canada's elementary school budgets don't even allow for one book for every student is completely shocking to me. I had always simply related "literacy crisis" to developing countries.

It is a huge social gap I sense Canadians don't take seriously enough. 

For the past few years, Indigo has run the Adopt a School program in September.  For three weeks, Indigo mobilizes stores to raise money to give books to an underfunded school in its community. 

As we all know, fundraising is frustrating, time consuming, and competitive.  With over 85,000 Canadian non-profit organizations and less money to go around, how can we expect to attract public attention to our causes?

This year, Indigo asked my team at Better the World to work around these barriers. So we came up with an online platform completely driven by Indigo store employees, their adopted school principals, teachers, and parents, and the Canadian public.  We also realized that people are more willing to give when they can get value out of what they're giving.  Sounds selfish?

Well, if it fills an empty school library's bookshelves - who cares?

On the Adopt a School website, users can choose a school in their local communities to "adopt". For every 100 adopters of that school, Indigo gives a book. There is also the option to donate - every $12 gives a book. 

The coolest part is what we've added this year: You can buy yourself an Indigo e-gift card which gives a book to a school you choose.  

So if you were planning to buy some books, music, decor for your home, or a Kobo eReader - you can get it all while giving books to school libraries. 

It's a win-win. And there are only 3 days left.

Now here's where the REAL innovation comes in: Everyone can become a fundraiser for their adopted school. Once you choose a school, you can use our sharing tools to actually sell e-gift cards to your networks. The more you sell, the better chance you have of winning an Indigo gift card or Kobo eReader. We call this "grassroots fundraising".

We're leveraging the power of peer-to-peer networking to supercharge fundraising while giving people stuff they want. People have been stocking up now for holiday gifts or using it toward books they need for school!  

I think this concept has the opportunity to fundamentally change and improve the way fundraising is practiced. 

I chose to support Cedarwood Public School, near my home in Markham. If you are interested in supporting my adopted school, you can use this link to check it out and buy an e-gift card: 

So far, we've raised over 25,000 books for Canadian schools that need them.  
There are 3 days left to play your part.


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