Sweden was the first country to introduce bank notes in 1661, gave us ABBA (could we talk about Sweden and not mention ABBA?) and their hit Money Money Money in 1976, and now it could become one of the first nations to adopt a cashless society.
Sweden is further along with this idea with only 3% or its economy done with cash. The Euro-zone is at 9% and the U.S. is at 7%. This move has largely been done without legislation.
What are the costs to society? Who will be left out in the process?
Thinking back towards this past weekend I can’t think of a single time I actually paid for something with cash. I rode the metro using my Smart Card, paid for lunch with a debit card, purchased groceries online, and donated to a kick-starter campaign - all without cash. And now there’s a new bill paying system made by Square, called Card Case, started by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
Card Case allows you walk into a store and decide what you want and tell the cashier your name and presto chango, no taking your phone out, no opening the ap, no signing in, no swipe, no wait, your done - you’ve paid. Your phone knows where you are and the merchant sees your face on their screen. But what about my mom she doesn’t have an iphone or even know what an ap is.
I called her to see what she thought of this idea. “Sounds kind of weird” she said but offered that if I bought her an iphone she’d give it a try. I asked her if she’d used any cash in the past week on her many errands and she thought for a bit and said that she’d tipped the lady who does her hair with cash and put money in the basket at church. I told her that some churches had moved to add debit machines in their lobbies to which she replied ”that hasn’t hit St. Francis in Pasadena, Maryland yet.” Indeed.
Bjorn Ulvaeus, a former member of ABBA (no I am not obsessed), is one of the lead instigators for a cashless society in Sweden. He says its because his sons have been robbed many times and he believes that will change if people aren’t carrying cash. Not sure I buy the argument … why not just steal my phone and my identity? A better case might be that it costs so much to process cash.
Think about the penny. Canada recently “axed the irksome cent” partially due to the expense of producing them and the US has been thinking about it for years. For retailers those pennies add up to big loses. Apparently the time to count out that change in line has a cost to retailers - a recent study found that Walgreen’s loses 1.3 million dollars a year in time lost due to cashiers having to count out change for patrons. Add up all the retailers and that’s a lot of pennies.
With every big change to society there are winners and losers. Winner for this one will be big retailers and those who hate having their pockets bulging with coins and loose dollar bills. The losers will be the poor, homeless, and disenfranchised. While a move to a cashless society is probably a long way off the challenge will be to come up with solutions that will bring us all along for the ride.
For more in depth reading take a look at Slate and their series on the end of cash.
A penny for your thoughts?
“We elevate the wrong hero in school reform every day: we dramatically overvalue the importance of academic learning, and assume that merely focusing on better curricula and clearer standards will carry the day. Yet the research suggests otherwise, affirming what sociologist Pedro Noguera and others have said repeatedly: “unmet social needs become unmet academic needs.”
Sam Chatlain, a DC based writer and education activist, on integrating new research about how we learn into the US education system, putting social needs alongside the academic needs.
Over the last year or so, I have become increasingly interested in the issue of online privacy. The reason, at least for now, is two-fold. First, I am convinced that without privacy there can be no freedom. Second, we seem to be finding ourselves in a truly historical moment: Never before have we shared so much information, willingly or unknowingly. In a society like the U.S., it’s hard to really understand what that means. But I think that developments in the advertising industry can help us understand why privacy is so important.
I think it’s safe to say that the online behavioral advertising industry is reaping most of the benefits from the new commodity that is personal information. They are targeting consumers with ads that are most ‘appropriate’ for them. To better understand how they learn about our preferences I recommend reading this Wall Street Journal article.
The FTC last week published a report on consumer privacy urging online companies to adopt Do Not Track policies. This is essentially a warning to the industry that unless they ramp-up their own corporate policies the government may have to intervene with Federal policies.
This approach seems to have worked in the past and several companies have begun developing self-regulating mechanisms to avoid tougher laws. The Network Advertising Initiative and the Digital Advertising Alliance are two such examples. They have developed mechanisms to educators consumers about how their industries use personal information and how they might opt-out.
This is shifting the conversation from whether behavioral advertising is good or bad, to whether we should be able to choose what information we want to share.
If you are concerned about your own privacy and want to opt-out of targeted online advertising, the NAI has developed a simple tool for you to do that. Now, opting-out is probably not as good as opting-in, but it’s a start!
If you know entrepreneurs who are developing new solutions to enhance online privacy, we definitely want to know about them. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Whew. What a week! With just four days notice, teams at Ashoka and Youth Venture managed to pull together a youth campaign just in time for today’s launch of “Bully” — a documentary film that follows the lives of five families affected by bullying and their determination to make a difference.
In partnership with The Bully Project, the campaign will be a platform that encourages youth to “Stop Bullying and Start Empathy” by submitting ideas for projects in their schools and communities. The YV team will then provide advice and support for youth teams to start their own movements.
It’s a terrific opportunity to channel the energy and publicity around a national problem into awareness about empathy and its importance.
And, the campaign is a nice preview for the upcoming launch of Start Empathy on the web in just over a month. (We’ve already got the Facebook page up and running, so be sure to stop by and “like” us!)
Again, on Monday morning, we had nothing. And by Friday morning, we have this. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re working with such a wonderful and dedicated team!
The questions arose from the outburst: “Can’t believe it’s Thursday all ready!”, which prompted the dead pan response “because it was Wednesday yesterday”. But how did it end up that way?
According to the good people producing Wikipedia:
The English word week continues an Old English wice, ultimately from a Common Germanic *wikōn-, from a root *wik- “turn, move, change”. (…)
Evidence of continuous use of a seven-day week appears with the Jews during the Babylonian Captivity of the 6th century BC. Both Judaism (based on the Creation narrative in the Bible) and ancient Babylonian religions used a seven-day week. Other cultures adopted the seven-day week at different times. Between the 1st and 3rd centuries the Roman Empire gradually replaced the eight-day Roman nundinal cycle with the seven-day week. Hindus may have adopted a seven day week earlier than 11th century BC. See Rig Veda. There is evidence of some Chinese groups using a seven day week as early as 4th century.
Somehow it must have made sense to us, to look at our time through a set of days i.e. weeks, as a way of keeping track of movement; of change.
(Image credits: From Mike Rohde’s Flickr account - he has some great links, post and photos of notes, sketches and DYI projects on his account)
Instead of mapping our tummy aches, let’s apply the algorithm to social challenges.
Imagine it: a real-time map using cues from social networking sites (a la Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Media) to capture the most pressing challenges our communities are facing. Building awareness of what our neighbors struggle with creates a demand for solutions. For social innovation. For the importation of proven solutions from our network of 3,000 (and growing). Might just work.
Speaking of Kiribati. The leaders of Kiribati are now considering an unusual insurance plan for the nation’s inhabitants in case of destruction caused by climate change: moving to a new island. Kiribati leaders have been looking at the possibility of moving the 100,000 or so citizens to a tract of land on Fiji if necessary.
Interested in climate change and its effects on Pacific islands?
In pursuit of creativity and innovation, each Thursday, a group of Ashoka staff meets to discuss things we’ve come across that are interesting or thought-provoking in some way. The only rule we have is that it should have no apparent connection to our work.
Last week, I brought up a recent news article about Kiribati’s president looking to purchase land for his people in the face of rising sea levels. I was stunned by how little attention this news piece received. There was no viral video such as with Kony 2012. There have been no prayer vigils or online petitions as with Trayvon Martin. Why?
Here we are talking about an entire nation relocating its entire population due to global climate change (of course, this is not the first country to do so). Why do people seem to care more about a Ugandan war lord (whose power appears to be much diminished) than an island nation? Why do we care more about Trayvon Martin than about the African American kids who die daily in inner city America? Is the difference among these stories a matter of marketing? In a world that is increasingly interconnected, how do we tap into our common humanity to care about the people of Kiribati?
Strengthening our abilities to care and see the world from other perspectives is a topic big on Ashoka’s mind these days. I hope we make fast progress as the people of Kiribati don’t have much time.
In her blog in the New York Times, Jane Brody writes about her experience losing her husband Richard and how the following years has taught her about the profound need for social connection.
She sites numerous articles, books and studies that demonstrate the positive health outcomes of strong social ties. It is amazing to think that just enjoying time with other people can be as powerfully protective as eating well and exercising.
I live and work in Minnesota - a state with a reputation for being reserved. Transplants have often told me how hard it is to get to know people here. Happily we also have one of the most robust civic sectors with communities such as InCommons willing to address the issue of isolation.
In mid-April InCommons is launching a collaborative competition with Blue Cross Foundation on how to strenghen social connections. It will be cool to see what sort of solutions emerge.
It also occurred to me that if social connections impact health, they might also impact other aspects of personal and community well-being. When we are deeply connected to a diverse group of other people, it seems more likely that we would develop empathy and take action to address issues in our community. So perhaps one foundation of a true changemaker community is as simple as social connectedness.
While wading through the media deluge on the new iPad, Marisol came across an older article highlighting the design philosophy of Steve Jobs. Included in Jobs insistence on impeccable craftsmanship was empathy - anticipating and understanding customer needs.
Is the massive following behind Apple products a result of empathetic design?