Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”
I couldn’t agree more because every single time I have returned home from travelling anywhere in the world, I have come back a changed man.
I remember a warm July afternoon as I sat sipping beer in a quaint but busy eatery in Hanoi with my affable tour guide Quy. We were soon joined by a number of Quy’s friends, and over drinks his friends became mine. The conversations soon took the shape of comparative questions like“ How much does a beer cost in London? How much for a year’s school fees in Hanoi ?” etc. Of course as a tourist, I was aware of the forex difference between the British Pound and Vietnamese Dong but it wasn’t until now that I was able to tangibly co-relate how far a stronger currency could go in my host country.
In my fuzzy mind I worked out that for what I spent on a frivolous takeaway back in London, a child in Vietnam could go to school for a year. And so by extrapolation, if a large number of people in a developed country did the same one weekend, a very large number of children in a developing nation could go to school. If that’s all it takes, then why aren’t we all doing it? We don’t have to give up our takeaways but surely we can find several logical ways to connect the dots.
Over the years, I have been part of several such conversations in various countries that has highlighted not only the obvious divide between developed and developing nations but also that the economic disparity could actually be positively harnessed to change things.
Buy-One-Give-One pioneers like Blake Mycoskie have ably demonstrated what a big difference can be made if a business connects itself with change. I have read accounts of critics slamming the model to say that it was not the solution to the world’s problems. I don’t think Mycoskie set out to solve the world’s problems in the first place…he merely figured that every time his company sold a pair of shoes in North America, he could afford to give a pair of shoes to a child in South America. Over the last 10 years Tom’s have donated 60 Million shoes and provided for 400,000 eye surgeries. If that wont open our eyes to what a Buy One Give One model can do, then what will?
At Globe Travel Centre, the UK based tailor-made travel business I am associated with, we experimented with similar (albeit smaller) ideas. For example, we realised that £30.00 could support the education of a child in India for a year. So we took £30 out of our profits every time a client booked a holiday to India with us, and donated it towards the education of a child. One of my colleagues who was looking after handing out the donation cheques related how some of the parents broke down when they got the donations. For us it was a meagre £30.00 and yet for the needy parents, it had made a world of difference. We were overwhelmed and fulfilled. We however realised that while the donation was being made possible because of clients booking with us, they themselves were not fully being able to appreciate the change they were bringing about.
So we added a one-to-one spin to the whole process. We gave travellers the opportunity to give the scholarship cheque themselves when they were at the destination. To our delight, we found that each interaction was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the traveller and the child who benefitted. And here is when we realised that for buy one give one to be a worldwide norm, a buyer needs to feel connected to the person who benefitted.
New Globe Traveller was born as a realisation of such experiments. If a One-for-One model has the potential to very easily help someone in need and a One-to-One angle adds meaning to the whole equation, we wondered if we could start a small revolution in change.
Can a few Buy-one-Give one-business models solve the world’s problems? Possibly not. However,Tom’s and other similar companies have shown that they can change lives.
Every business can engage in creative introspection and find ways to connect to change. Furthermore, rather than saying that a percentage of profits go to charity, if businesses can find ways to connect buyers tangibly with the people whose lives they change, perhaps it could be the start of a small revolution in creating a more equitable, more fulfilled society.
Imagine a world where every time a modern consumer bought a product, she not only made a tangible difference but also formed a meaningful bond with the person who benefitted. Instead of leaving the world’s problems to governments, charitable organizations and philanthropists, every consumer could be a catalyst in change, and find more meaning.
To quote Rumi;
“Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups!
They swim the huge fluid freedom.”
Read more about our premium range of products, where every time you make a purchase you not only help protect the planet but also directly fund the education of a child for a year.