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Obama did it. So can you!

Jos van der Lem - Friday 16 January 2009 - 19:03 - 337 x read

For those that misunderstood the title of this blog, no, you can't become the first black president of the United States. That glorious honour befell the charismatic community organizer from Chicago. No, it's about Barack Obama's campaign slogan: "Yes, we can." I couldn't agree more with him. Let me tell you why.

Before starting up Play it Forward (PiF) I was working in online advertising. I spent nearly six years of my life trying to find out what makes consumers ‘tick' on the web, how to engage them in brands, ultimately trying to influence their behaviour. Basically getting them to buy stuff.

The rise of Hyves (a Dutch social network and the country's biggest website) made me realize the potential of an interacting community. Just imagine the power nearly half of the Dutch population can have if they would focus their energy on, let's say, politics. Once combined, this ‘power in numbers' can have major influence on environmental legislation or pressure producers of consumer goods to start producing in a sustainable fashion. From this point on I was thinking of ways to mobilize the crowds instead of exploiting them.

When I met Harmen van Doorn in the summer of 2007 I had found this way: Play it Forward. With Play it Forward we try to instigate mass collaboration towards a positive change. On the interactive globe that is featured on our platform we bring to live all kinds of development projects from all over the world. You can choose to support those people and projects you can truly identify with. To increase the chance of ‘your' project becoming a reality (and earning some social status for it on the side), you can do online advocacy for the project and involve your network to really leverage your support. This way many small donations add up to a big difference.

Play it Forward in 60 seconds

How mass collaboration can lead to a significant impact - or ‘crowdsourcing' as Wired Magazine's Jeff Howe coined it - was demonstrated by more and more online initiatives, some of which I mentioned in an earlier post. That many small donations can indeed add up to a big difference has been illustrated by Obama's campaign for presidency. Realizing that communities had the power to organize themselves using the Internet and influence whatever they set their mind to, Obama embraced the concept of crowdsourcing. He launched the hugely successful website where users could very simply make a donation or access and use campaign resources (such as videos, ads or gadgets) to involve others. It even featured a community platform, which enabled his supporters to create their own webpages, post blogs, invite and connect to friends, advertise local events, even actively participate in fund raising by setting up a personal fundraising page.

When I think of the impact the crowds could have through Play it Forward my eyes start twinkling. People building schools, supporting entrepreneurs in developing countries or preserving wild life in the parks they make possible. Still, now that we're getting closer and closer to the Play it Forward launch, I can't help but wonder from time to time if people feel the same sense of possibility. Can existing communities can be inspired and mobilized to participate? Can we really bring about a positive change through our combined energy? November 4th, Barack Obama proved in an unprecedented way, that YES, WE CAN. Jos van der Lem - Marketing manager Play it Forward

Jos van der Lem Marketing Manager Please share your ideas with me!
See also:
How Barack did it:
More info on crowdsourcing:
Latest Change by: Jos van der Lem on Friday 16 January 2009 - 19:07


Kees Romkes
Kees Romkes -  (2009-01-17 11:18)
Very interesting topic you're talking about and what an impressive start on the network ! Welcome !
Bob Stam
Bob Stam -  (2009-01-17 13:43)
Your article made me think of the interesting presentation by Jackie Huba at the first Marketing Pioneers conference in Felix Meritis - Amsterdam about one month ago.


I certainly want to read / experience more about your ideas!

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