Every Thursday morning, we record a new episode of “Dollars and Change,” the social impact show on SiriusXM’s Business Radio channel powered by The Wharton School. Our summer fellows frequently sit in on this live tapings, hearing insights on impact from CEOS, entrepreneurs, civic leaders and more. Undergraduates Emily Ulrich, Lucy Porter, Sophie Debode, and Madison Briggs share their take on slacktivism and a new app introduced during a July 7 taping.
Social media has connected us all. It’s created a positive forum for discussion and has increased access to news and current events for a broader audience—however, it has also bred more passive engagement in those events, referred to as “slacktivism”.
Slacktivists substitute acts of physical intervention (i.e. activism) with low-effort support for a cause. An example of slacktivism may be tweeting a link to an article, wearing a special rubber bracelet, or changing one’s Facebook profile picture to demonstrate support for a recent tragedy—but nothing beyond those superficial gestures. Think of people who participated in 2014’s popular “ice bucket challenge” for the spectacle, but did not also donate money to the cause.
There are virtues to raising “awareness” for causes via social media, but it becomes a problem when this action completely replaces traditional methods of activism the individual might otherwise engage in, such as donating, volunteering hours, or contacting a congressperson. While it may satisfy the individual’s immediate sense of good will, its lasting ramifications fall short.
On a recent episode of “Dollars and Change,” our hosts spoke with Mike Marian, COO and co-founder of Spotfund.
The new app, launched this June, provides a user-friendly platform to become more actively engaged in causes towards which they feel most passionate.
Marian, a self-identified former slacktivist, saw the market opportunity for a platform like Spotfund while he and his friends were watching their favorite news stations one Sunday night. This ritual, as he said, would consistently result in the group feeling helpless about the world and grieving about it to their followers on their social media accounts. It was at that point, he realized, there must be a way to mobilize this increasingly large demographic of socially aware but dormant activists.
The resulting app provides a quick and simple way to collect funds to send to investors, with micro-donations of $1-3. There are two types of users: users who promote and sponsor specific causes, and users who donate more casually. Users of the app are encouraged to share their donation on social media. Through creating a channel that is as accessible as sending a tweet, Spotfund has created a space with the simple and social benefits of slacktivism as well as the meaningful benefits of standard activism.
During the co-founder’s segment on “Dollars and Change” we discussed the concept of using social media for social impact. As society becomes increasingly dependent upon technology, we have new opportunities to interlace social networks with higher purposes. That being said, responsibility can not be placed entirely on the connecting platform; people must think more critically about how they can reinvest their time and efforts in a way that benefits to the broader community. In that vein, apps like Spotfund provide a great launching off point for more directly impactful action.
While spreading awareness about an issue certainly has a positive place in generating support for a cause and channeling prospective activists, alternate platforms like Spotfund can help turn prospective activists into current activists.
Episodes of “Dollars and Change” are available on demand at SiriusXM.com.
Emily Ulrich is a rising senior in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a concentration in Strategic Management and a minor in Fine Arts. She brings a business background to the team and an eye for design and content creation. Emily’s professional background rests predominantly in luxury retail, where she has interned at Joseph Abboud in the marketing department (summer 2014), Deux Hommes Magazine in the marketing and social media departments (spring 2015), and Barneys New York in the buying department (summer 2015). During the academic year, Emily works as a Marketing Research Intern at Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retailing Center, where she produces cross-industry research reports for the Wharton SiriusXM radio program Marketing Matters, in addition to professional papers published by the Center’s Research Director (fall 2015-present). Post-grad, Emily aims to pursue a CSR career in luxury retail with a focus on supply chain sustainability and labor rights, interweaving her passions for business and travel with corporate good.
Lucy Porter is a rising Junior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Political Science. She is passionate about gender dynamics and sees the opportunity as a fellow as a way to pursue her interest in social justice. In her spare time Lucy enjoys spending time with friends, being outdoors, and travelling.
Sophie Debode is a rising Junior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Political Science. She used to play track/cross-country for the school, before redirecting her attention to her academics. Sophie is always willing to do the work that others might not want to, and encourages her peers to work their hardest and stay focused. Her work is practical and her research background brings a level of depth and understanding to the team. Following the internship, Sophie will spend the semester in South Africa.
Madison Briggs is a rising senior at the University of Edinburgh, studying Classics. She is eloquently spoken and gravitates towards those who display kindness and respect towards others. She excels in communications and critical thinking and has a pragmatic approach to complex issues. She has a wide range of interests, from film to environmental concerns, and as a result, offers a fresh viewpoint. Following the internship, Madison will be traveling to California before returning to the UK.