Lazyweb: build me the Augmented Reality social proof to make charitable giving more effective?

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They could put virtual goal items in AR map. Find an item like a flat of canned beans and you can “catch” it by donating through the app. Then it would appear in a virtual pile in the “collection” site. If you set it up in a shopping venue, a store could get items located in their store by committing to giving the charity a discount or by donating outright. Mix in free “catches” and some kind of token prize system.


“So why do we give goods? There’s two sides to this, one noble, the other unsavory.”

There’s actually a 3rd reason: I have no need for these 2 boxes of hamburger helper and giving them away eliminates the guilt that throwing them in the trash creates while simultaneously letting me feel like I’m doing a good thing.


That can be a net negative:

Put yourself in the place of a food bank that has just accepted an anarchic 40 pound box of random food from an office fundraiser. It’s got pie filling, Kraft Dinner, beans, pumpkin and chick peas. All those food items need to be sorted, stored, inventoried and then shoehorned into t> he food bank’s distribution schedule.

It’s bad form to have low-income families eat nothing but creamed corn until the stocks run dry, so some items move faster than others.

Consider the Herculean plight of the food bank warehouse manager, and it’s easy to imagine how a particularly unhelpful box of food could end up doing nothing but wasting a bunch of people’s time before it ends up shunted into a dumpster.


Oh, I totally agree. Personally, I don’t like it, my wife does this sometimes and I tell her that I’m not sure the poor want our trash.

But thank you for linking to that. I didn’t think about how, also, this creates a shit ton of unnecessary work for the food bank folks.


We became friends with an old woman who lives down the street from us. Though she is probably in need of assistance (the most helpful would be legal, she’s getting squeezed out by the displacement/gentrification of the neighborhood…that, yes, i suppose we are a part of…) at some point she started bringing us bags of food that the local church gives her.

It’s always a bizarre assortment of prepackaged crap she doesn’t want…and it stinks of cockroach spray. So it’s not just a logistical burden on the food banks, it also creates burdens for poor old women regifting crap they don’t need as well as the cognitive burdens on the middle-class-ish recipients to understand what exactly is happening…


I volunteered at my local food bank several times this past year sorting and grouping canned and boxed foods. Donated foods really do help, but only with volunteers to sort them. Also, please know that expiration dates are really ‘best by’ dates, so don’t stress about those - the food bank knows the real timing for the food to be safe. If you want to make a difference, the best ways are 1) give cash, 2) give time, and 3) give food. The video isn’t wrong about any of this. If you must give food, the best things to buy are peanut butter and canned chicken, because proteins are the biggest need. But as the video says, they can buy it cheaper than you can, so giving money is better.


What you’re describing is a higher tech version of symbolic giving.

Food Bank for New York City has a Virtual Food Drive tool that uses a shopping cart system that shows you how each donation converts into wholesale pounds of food purchased (i.e. 40lbs of bananas for $21).

There are problems with this form of giving insofar as there’s confusion over whether it creates an obligation to spend the donated funds on whatever was “bought” - i.e. Heifer international now goes to great lengths to make it clear you’re not specifically buying a goat for someone but that your donation will go where it’s “needed the most.”

You’re right that there’s a lot of room to grow here but that said non-profits are among the slowest adopters of new tech, at least partially because much like the impoverished that you’re describing they can’t really afford to take risks. Also the uptake on AR has been so slow that I can hardly see a startup swooping in to try and goose it along in this particular area.

That said social network based mobile gaming is a pretty established sphere. Could you see a Neko Atsume style collection game, but instead of herding cats, you’re putting food on a table/gifts under a tree and showing it off to friends and family? I sure could.


Isn’t it fun how we let the grotesquely wealthy break the social contract in obscene new ways, reduce their taxes and social obligations to trifles, and then rely on the whims of the billionaires this system creates to provide or not provide the most basic human decency to the slaves on whose misery they profit and gorge themselves?


“This isn’t ideology, it’s reality, borne out by careful, peer-reviewed studies.”

Without at least a couple of citations it’s ideology and saying it isn’t doesn’t make it so.

Not saying the claim is false but it does not match my lifetime observations (which are admittedly not scientific but it’s the only data I have) so I’d like to see solid evidence.

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I have another reason to give groceries rather than money. Money can be embezzled but it’s harder and much less lucrative to embezzle groceries. If I give groceries, I can be pretty sure that it gets to the intended recipient. If I give money, then I should spend some time getting to know the local charity and maybe even auditing its books to make sure the money gets to the poor that it is supposed to serve.

Maybe food drives should focus on the top 10 foods needed by separating those foods into 10 piles, so people can see the piles grow and the food gets sorted ahead of donations.

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You would be amazed at how much food walks out with volunteers, both as a “thank you” and in the form of theft. Usually the odd, one-off items that can’t be given out because everyone would want one and the shelf only has that one will go home with a volunteer. For example, a box of chocolate-covered cherries that someone was given by their office Secret Santa is going home with a volunteer since they don’t have 500 more boxes to mete out to everyone.

People who do charity work aren’t always angels. A shelf my mother worked for set up cameras when they suspected one of their “key holders” of stealing money. What they found was footage of her repeatedly removing boxes and boxes of food over the course of many weeks.

It truly is more helpful to the shelf and the community it serves to allow them to make the decision on where to spend the money. If you must donate groceries, call your local food shelf and ask them what they need most.


The grocery (or canned food) collection drive is the charity-industrial complex’s perversion of that most effective model of gifting: a grassroots community-driven mutual aid project.

Think of a real community of poor working folks. There aren’t that many anymore, but just imagine. They don’t have a staffed and funded 501©(3) non-profit corporation, because they’re busy working to survive. But they do care about the hungry among them: the disabled, the elderly, the down-on-their-luck. So everyone contributes some spare food, and friends and neighbors volunteer to distribute them directly to the people who need them.

This is ultra-efficient, because it’s tied into the existing social fabric. Friends and neighbors already have the collective intelligence to know who needs what and how badly, where resources will be helpful and where they’ll be wasted. It’s also efficient for the cash-strapped donors, because they know what useful excess they have and how to put it to good use, rather than only allowing them to contribute liquid assets which are badly needed elsewhere.

So on an aesthetic level, throwing cash at a foundation can feel like a “bourgeois” approach to helping others, while collecting cans and groceries can feel more communal and authentic.

But as Cory observes, the logistics/aesthetics are not what’s really important. Gifting groceries can be pretty useless if done in a bureaucratic, alienated way. Giving cash can be really good, if it’s part of your real community effort. It’s the philosophy behind it that counts: are you practicing mere charity, or true communism?


Largely agree but would make one observation. There are some items which I don’t think do fall into this category of food critique.

Sanitary napkins and tampons are essential purchases, but recurring and expensive items. They don’t go out of date.

Providing hygiene products has the advantage of freeing up other money in a monthly budget for spending elsewhere.


In my local area several organisations have been working with supermarkets to improve these kinds of charity. Basically, they set up a booth just outside of the store and hand out grocery lists to shoppers with the request to please donate one or more of the products on the list.

The stores also help by placing the items on the list together so you don’t have to look for them.

The shopping lists they hand out contain generic product descriptions and what to look for (specifically what not to donate). The products that the store places together for this tend to be the cheapest, most efficient, products to get (and these products are usually also mentioned on the shopping lists as examples).

The people manning the booth not only hand out the shopping lists, they also sort and box up each of the items.

Money may still technically be more efficient, but I got some stuff from the list with my kids and it was an excellent way to explain to them that there are people on this planet who have it much worse than us and that it is important for us to share our stuff with them.


There are exceptions: collections to take to a disaster zone. When there are people in the area who have made lists of what is needed, collecting items to be shipped immediately works. In the UK I know people who have collected goods and money to take to the refugees jungle outside Calais. That had an immediate impact on people who had been deliberately denied help by the local authorities.

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