Conversations for collaboration
Can Coca Cola save children’s lives?
One in five children in developing countries die before they are five from simple causes like dehydration. My friend Simon Berry believes he has an idea that could help, as we discussed when we met yesterday to talk about the 2gether08 Festival (more below on that)
Twenty years ago Simon Berry was a development worker in North Zambia, conscious that while he could buy a bottle of Coke anywhere, children were dying through inadequate distribution of simple medical treatments. In many cases they simply needed rehydration salts. Wouldn’t it be possible to reach an agreement by which Coca Cola used a small part of its superior distribution capacity to get the medicine to children? As Simon says:
The idea came to me – but I had no mechanism for sharing it with people. At least, I did have mechanisms, but they were one to one mechanisms, and the thing never got any traction. But now, with the whole Web 2.0 thing, one person can have an idea, and gather other people around that idea, very, very easily.
Simon has done just that. Starting with a blog post, and then a Facebook group, Simon has been interviewed on BBC radio, and attracted the support of New Seekers’ Eve Graham. The New Seekers original song ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’ was adopted by Coke.
Eve provided Simon’s campaign with a new one:
I’d like to fix those Burmese homes;
Give poverty the shove
Grow sustainable trees, give aid with ease
And show Africa some love..
Coca Cola, at first unresponsive, have now said they would be happy to talk to Simon. Salvatore Gabola, Global Director Stakeholder Relations, told the BBC:
This is an extraordinarily interesting discussion. And it is one which goes to the heart of the key question of how we can make better use of the successes of business to serve the development needs of the world in general and of Africa in particular. The recent Millennium Development Goal Call for Action by Prime Minister Gordon Brown stems from this simple starting point.
Salvatore Gabola goes on to point out that the challenge in coming with any solution involves more than Coca Cola, because the distribution system is owned by many small independent local distributors.
However, there is a research project and pilot starting in Tanzania that could relate to Simon’s idea. Meanwhile Simon continues to document these developments in detail on his blog – all campaign posts here – urges us to join the Facebook group here, and come up with other ways to gather support.
It is just this type of idea – using social media to address social problems – that we will be discussing and moving forward at the 2gether08 Festival in London on July 2-3 this year, where I’m developing the blog and other online communications. Come and join in.