I was uneasy about what I was witnessing around me, so I decided to launch an initiative at Wizeline, called “Goodness Boost.” The paragraphs below are the problem statement that I wrote for an ideation exercise in which volunteers participated. The great response I got from them made it clear that others were uneasy as well and ready for action.
Following the health authorities’ recommendations in your location is the best thing you can do to help your community right now.
Following those recommendations makes many of us safe, but witnessing people going through rough times can bring us down. Be it seeing someone suffer because of health, economic problems, or any other challenges caused by the measures that the authorities are asking to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19.
For empaths, watching and waiting while others suffer, can produce anxiety.
Could we do more?
Here are the ideas that I collected from everybody.
- Separate trash and recyclable items, leave them in the street with tags for other people to take them and sell them.
- Reduce the waste you generate: take your own reusable containers to the grocery store, buy less stuff or try to get it secondhand, borrow rather than buy, choose loose and fruits and vegetables that don’t come in a package.
- Feed the birds. I install a hummingbird feeder, throw some birdseed on the sidewalk, rooftop, or backyard. Birds are fun to watch and their populations are declining.
- Leave your trash at “clean spots” or recycling centers in your city. This will stop people in the streets ripping the bags and leaving them destroyed. Instead, you can leave them with actual food.
- Make animal food donations to local Animal Shelters.
- Support sustainable infrastructure programs in your community.
- Donate to global organizations, such as WFP or UCS.
- Try to “share” deliveries from Amazon or any other provider with close friends or peers to reduce cardboard waste.
- Volunteer to serve breakfast at a local hospital.
- Rethink the way we’re using public space.
- Support initiatives to distribute public space in a more human way (not car-centered).
- Help someone start using a bike to commute so that person can avoid crowded public transportation.
Caring for your loved ones
- Create support networks; let your digital groups know that nobody should have it too rough if their loved ones can avoid that. For instance, if someone is not able to pay for their rent or their food, can friends/family organize to save that person for a month? Or give that person a provisional job?
- If you’re living with someone else, cook something nice for them. Surprise them!
- Send food to someone you care about “Just because”.
- Have video calls with your family or friends, plan a Sunday “remote” brunch, or a Friday “remote” get-together.
- Call every day randomly to your acquaintances.
- Play virtual Bingo with your grandparents and elderly loved ones.
- Call your grandparents!
- Keep constant communication with your family members (mental health is important too).
- Listen to your loved ones. Listen to how they feel, respect how they feel without judging them: “Oh, you are privileged. Don’t feel like that”.
- Let your partner know you love them. Sometimes we forget.
- Let your friends know you are always with them even when you are not physically close.
- Create a donation channel/group in your company, or a physical container: post what you want to give either to other people in your company or for people in need (like furniture, kids clothes, toys, food, dog food).
- Investigate if there are people organizing pantry donations in your area, and donate.
- Clean your house. Get rid of non-essential clothes, stuff, and even emotions.
- Help a student to get proper tech equipment.
- Have a couple of spare face-masks in case you see an essential worker without one, give one to that person.
- Prepay for coffee and food in restaurants and ask the restaurants to give them to someone who can’t pay for them.
- Order extra food and leave it where the homeless can find it.
- Organize a “bank” for construction materials leftovers. When we make reparations we all have leftovers that can help those without a home or that are living in bad conditions and that cannot buy these things.
- If you have available food coupons from your company, choose a family in trouble and spend the monthly amount in groceries for them.
- Offer any fun stuff that is unused in your house (board games, puzzles, etc.) to others.
- Offer to teach a non-techie person how to use digital communication tools.
- Organize a course about remote working tools and best practices for organizations that don’t know where to start (e.g. my sister has a team at her university that is starting to use Slack, after I nudged her).
- Share with local businesses all the online courses they can view to create a better experience. For instance, Google has one for digital marketing.
- Share your experiences and lessons learned from this quarantine.
- Follow good news accounts on your social networks and share them.
- Create/organize crafts clubs for low-income workers staying at home to fight boredom via WhatsApp (or the most popular messenger platform in your area).
- Teach people who sell goods how to do it online.
- Teach people who sell goods how they could execute logistics and delivery for remote sales.
- Share interesting readings to people you think might be interested to know about the topic.
- Help kids with their English homework via WhatsApp (or the most popular messenger platform in your area).
- Offer to pay now for ‘gift cards’ redeemable after quarantine to your: barber, car-wash, coffee shop, restaurant, bar, etc.
- Create a directory of people who offer services like grocery delivery, home improvements, food, etc. Share it with your acquaintances.
- Ask a small-medium business owner what would help them; recommending them? Sharing their social media posts?
- Work with restaurants to create “free meal tickets” for workers and people in need.
- Always get local food and products.
- Recommend great workers or sellers in a public (virtual) space as social networks, along with their stories, so people can relate easily and help them survive.
- Recognize the good professional qualities in other people and let the world know about it.
- Provide data-entry jobs for low-income people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
- If your company provides meals, ask them to order catering from local restaurants every Friday when people return to the office.
Caring for yourself
- At the end of the day be thankful for anything that you have and value, and write it down.
- Allow yourself to feel (from happiness to frustration): Everything is allowed.
- Allow yourself time to be vulnerable and reach out to your loved ones.
- Create spaces (a talk or session) for meditation and talking about dealing with stress.
- Invite people to fill “I’m willing to help with…” cards, then put them all together in a single accessible place.
- Find out folks who’ve lost jobs because of the pandemic and see if you and people in the neighborhood can engage them to do possible chores, and pay them.
Nice details for others
- If you have hired a cleaning person or a babysitter, and if you are able to, keep paying them while they are unable to continue working.
- Send an anonymous surprise to your colleagues or neighbors who live alone.
- Water the neighbors’ plants when they look dry.
- Send a postcard thanking a doctor you know.
- Touch base with the people you know who have a disabled person in their family, and offer your help.
- Make it a purpose to make somebody laugh or feel better in your immediate next conversation.
- If it’s somebody’s birthday and you can’t be with that person, order a nice dish to their home address (Uber Eats, Rappi, etc). They’ll receive something delicious and a local restaurant will thank you.
- Cook for yourself and while doing it cook for your neighbors, the trash person, and anyone around.
- Offer to take medicines or groceries to houses of at-risk folks, so that they don’t expose themselves.
- Leave kind notes in public spaces.
The process behind this list
This is a bit about the design-thinking techniques used to create the list. Consider if you’re interested in further ideating with your teams or acquaintances in the future.
We ideated in an online board (Mural). The method of choice was brainwriting: such is a bit less famous than brainstorming (which is done verbally) but it has been observed to produce a larger amount of ideas in the same amount of time, and good ideation is about quantity, not about quality.
The way brainwriting is done is by asking participants to write down their ideas in a place that others will be able to see and allowing them to read some ideas from others during the process. This way, inspiration is produced by mixing existing ideas to create new ones or complementing partial ideas with others so new and coherent ideas can be added. Everything should be done in silence, and as it happened in this case, it can be done remotely and asynchronously. There are many variations of this method, but the first one I encountered comes from the great book Brainstorming and Beyond, by Chauncey Wilson
It’s important to let your participants know that they should not worry about repeating ideas: merging or deleting duplicates can be done afterward. The purpose at this point is to write everything down and create as many ideas as possible. It’s also good to indicate that wild, crazy, or incomplete ideas are OK. Nobody knows how a creative piece can influence another for the better. Finally, ideas should be written in anonymous cards or sticky notes. This way, nobody will reduce their contribution to ideas that they think that they will make themselves look good.
After having closed the ideas reception period, I organized ideas through Affinity Diagramming. The purpose of an affinity diagram is to create a manageable amount of groups, so an unmanageably big amount of ideas can be explored and processed: Whenever you find two ideas that are not equal but related somehow, put them together physically. Categories will start to emerge, and as more ideas get into groups, you’ll be able to think about category names that work for them. If a category gets so big that it doesn’t feel useful anymore, or that it has a lot more than 7–12 ideas, break it down and think of more precise groups for the ideas that were inside it.
This is how a bunch of ideas look after being organized by affinity.
Commonly in digital product design workshops, the best ideas are selected through silent dot-voting. Then, they are prioritized in an Impact vs Effort matrix; you will look for the ideas that require the least effort while producing the biggest positive impact. However, these are only suggestions: This is not a startup or a work initiative. This is food for thought for you to contribute to your community. Pick whichever and as many ideas that fit your style and your surroundings, and get into action!
Thanks to Joel Monteon and Meeta Gupta for their tips and kind support to make this initiative more effective.