When the United Nations World Food Program debuted their test campaign of ShareTheMeal, a mobile app that enables smartphone users to fund daily, weekly, monthly, or annual meals for hungry children, they raised 1.8 million daily rations for people in need in Lesotho. That test, which took place in Germany, tapped 120,000 active users, out of some two billion global smartphone users.
ShareTheMeal is a savvy attempt by the United Nations to leverage technology's global reach to help address and accelerate their set of global initiatives.
Originally founded as a startup by Sebastian Stricker, the UN recognized the potential of crowd-funding meals for hungry children around the world by making donating increasingly easy for any individual with a smart phone, and 30 seconds. They brought ShareTheMeal in-house, and the startup is now hosted and given the tools, resources, and global reach of the UN's full World Food Program. While hosting an innovative startup within a large bureaucracy is a delicate task, if done right it can offer a powerful combination of scale and pace of innovation.
Today there are 20 smartphone users for every hungry child, and it costs 50 cents to feed a child for a day with the World Food Program. Therefore with just one in twenty, or five percent, of smartphone users utilizing the platform and donating $0.50 per day, the World Food Program could fully eradicate global hunger. Technology provides the most powerful toolkit in the world of social innovation.
ShareTheMeal's first campaign, which launches today, won't target global hunger. Rather true to "Lean Startup" form, where it's better to launch and iterate, to build, to measure, and to learn, rather than to wait for the perfect solution and launch, ShareTheMeal will at first seek to provide 20,000 Syrian refugee children with food. These are the some of the children who inhabit the Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan.
As of today, users can download the app on iOS, Android, or Amazon. Using Facebook integration, users authenticate through the sign-up process in seconds, and can see who within their social graph is involved, and to what level. While they don't yet have Apple Pay, users can donate using a credit card or PayPal, allowing users to make micro-donations of $0.50 to share a meal with a child for the day.
International organizations and non-profits have mastered the "donate" button on fixed devices and static sites, driving traffic through content, and securing donations to help advance important initiatives. ShareTheMeal is a uniquely well designed and forward thinking example of the United Nations going a step further, optimizing this process for the mobile web, and making a version that is cross-platform.
The next step, which I believe will come, will be for organizations such as the World Food Program to consider business development partnerships with forward thinking food providers such as Instacart or Thrive Market, where consumers can -in the flow of their normal user behavior- share a meal, while they shop for their own online. Using a deep linking platform such as Button, for example, ShareTheMeal could enable consumers to transact in-app, as they shop.
The world went from offline to web to mobile and then to an app-based economy. The new web will be one of deep-linked commerce user-driven app navigation, powered across device. Commendably, the United Nations is well positioned through the World Food Program's ShareTheMeal to actually be ahead of trend.