Unilever Leverages The Social Graph To Provide Clean Water For Millions

Unilever Leverages The Social Graph To Provide Clean Water For Millions

The mega brand partners with Facebook to address a critical issue that affects 800 million people worldwide.

Allie Walker
  • 22 june 2012

Over 1/2 billion people are daily Facebook users, collectively creating over 3.2 billion ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ every single day. What if these small, everyday actions could make a positive impact on the life of millions of people? Unilever, in partnership with PSI and Facebook, hopes to harness the social graph to address one of the world’s most critical challenges: access to clean water.

Nearly 800 million people around the world don’t have access to clean water, 1/2 of all hospital beds around the world are filled with people suffering from water-born diseases, and a child dies every 20 seconds from lack of access to clean water. But with the new Facebook app, Waterworks, Unilever hopes to be able to give at least 500 million of these people access to safe drinking water by 2020.

How? By leveraging existing social connections and turning them into a community connected around water. The Waterworks app, the world’s first open graph app for charitable giving, connects Facebook users to PSI trained waterworkers around the world. The waterworkers are trained women who help teach communities about the importance of fresh drinking water, and small, daily donations (10 cents) through the Waterworks app helps provide PSI workers with the tools they need to give clean water to those in need- water purifiers and sachets.

When users sign up to partner with Waterworks, they partner with an individual waterworker, making the connection personal. The waterworker in the field is equipped with a smartphone, able to send updates back to partners through photos and videos. The updates post to the partner’s Facebook page, so all of their connections also see the impact the donation is making- how many liters of water the donation has provided and the number of people whose lives have been changed by the clean water.

Giving a small, daily donation to a community in need is not a new or particularly innovative idea- TV commercials, direct mailers, and radio announcements are rife with calls to action to help provide support for a global challenge. But Waterworks sets itself apart with its social aspect- by partnering with Facebook, the Waterworks partner AND all of their connections see the impact of their donation- all of their connections also see updates and pictures from the the actual communities helped by the donation. The likelihood that one or more of these connections will also donate to Waterworks is greatly increased by the innate nature of community and sharing that Facebook fosters.

The power of the initiative is in its public, social, and simple nature- if even a small portion of the 3.2 billion comments and likes recorded every day were replaced by one charitable update and one small donation, the chain-reaction- both in terms of people involved and monetary impact- could be huge.

An average Facebook status update reaches 12% of a user’s connections, and the average Facebook user has nearly 200 connections- every activity then, however seemingly inconsequential, reaches an average of 23 people. If a Waterworks update was shared again by even one of these 23 people, the potential impact quickly spirals into something great- and has the potential to easily catch on as the app simply leverages pre-existing activity behaviors.

In terms of monetary commitment, a donation of 10 cents a day equates to less than $40 a year- a sum that’s less than the majority of users probably spend on water bottles a month, but could have monumental impact on communities in need of fresh water.

Watch a video of how the Waterworks app works below:



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