SXSW 2017: How to Build a Pop-Up Movement with a Purpose

SXSW panel pop up movement

A pop-up movement sounds like a spontaneous occurrence, but the reality is that they are given a lot more thought on the front-end but not so much that it restricts the users. In fact, the trick is to let it be created by the hands of those using it, said panelist at the session, “How to build a pop-up movement with a purpose.”

One of the founders of the GivingTuesday movement, Asha Curran of the 92nd Street Y, said the annual Giving Tuesday campaign, which takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, started as a way to keep her organization relevant and to be a counter-movement to the season’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail days. “So we came up with a comparable narrative. It was a huge experiment for us.”

The idea to create the campaign led to the team reaching out to partners across the United States to gauge whether they’d get their communities to participate. But a few key tenets are what led to the movement’s growth, said Curran, even if they weren’t intentional.

The first was to not put the campaign on a single platform. Participating nonprofits simply take advantage of the publicity behind the day to reach out to their audiences and direct them to their own donation platform.

The second was to remove the 92nd Street Y presence from the campaign. “It was a completely unbranded movement,” said Curran. “We took away our logo. All of that happened without us deciding that’s going to be a strategy for us.”

Finally, Curran said, it was important that they trust the community to use it however it worked best for them. “The definition of a movement is something that moves by itself,” she said. “It moves because of the community of the people who give to it.”

In 2016, more than 1.5 million donations were made totaling $168 million in 98 countries – even those that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and the Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail days that follow.

“What made it a movement?” Curran explained. “It’s about aligning people around a common purpose. The thing that they believe in commonly is giving, which is an interesting form of civic participation. In fact, giving may be even more common than voting. Yet philanthropy is an equally important measure of social engagement.

“In the giving world, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for forming the basis of civil society,” said Curran. 


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