Most probably for the Romanians reading this, who obviously are here also because they are everywhere else online, the image above is already very well known. It has not been so until two weeks ago...
It is about a campaign to help raise money for Daniel Raduta, who has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in October 2009 and needs to have a hematopoietic stem cells transplant, as soon as possible. The procedure costs around 120000-150000 EUR.
Unfortunately, not the first such story, and not the last... Yet, I have never seen a similar campaign spreading around with such force and energy - as far as I know, orchestrated completely online, in the blogosphere, without the help of the traditional media. In less than two weeks, almost 70.000EUR have been raised. And it is obvious that Daniel has every reason in the world to be happy.
But it is not exactly the humanitarian dimension of the story I want to tackle in this post - I think that the words of Daniel and of his pregnant wife that you can find here do much more than any other attempt to find the words that would move people (plus, i hope that thanks to Lorena and Monica we will be able to get back on this with something more concrete).
I want to talk about what this amazing phenomenon has been teaching me as a researcher, as an observer of people, and trends and social mechanics.
First of all, it taught me a lesson about Generation G - generation Generosity. The concept named as such I found in Trendwatching's February 2009 briefing (an excellent and extremely inspirational source, BTW), but the word about a cultural value shift towards kindness, social responsibility, sharing and engaging has been floating around for some time. I heard it also in John Gerzema's presentation at the 2009 Esomar Qualitative Conference., and from there I got stuck with the example of TOMS Shoes who donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold online!
Yet, I felt very skeptical about this trend in Romania. I mean, we are not talking here about a culture of 50 years of heavy consumerism that could backfire into consumer disgust and non-consumption. We are only 20 years away from the empty fridges and grocery counters which still push our buttons and make us act like badgers before winter time: accumulate, accumulate, accumulate! And we are too dangerously close to our profound rural societal roots...
But 70000EUR in two weeks must mean something, must mean that (my) generation might be a bit of generation G, that the culture of online, a culture of exposing and sharing, can actually alter our historical and antropological genes, and it will not take another 2000 years.
Another observation about the succes of this campaign is that it allowed people to put not (only) their money out there, but their skills.
People got engaged by offering their skills in exchange for donations: they offered to write articles, cook dinners, make photographs, design web pages etc. It is an amazingly large number of such examples...
In a (online) world where showing your skills and sharing your passions are the new status symbols, where skills can make you famous or rich (writing articles or posting tutorials), it is only fair that the same skills or passions should be able to save someone's life too. And I figure it is extremely rewarding.
It will be for me too, if anyone reads this post about trends and generation G, but in the process ends up hooked on Daniel's story and motivated to do a gesture... In a way, I have offered my skills here. And I promise it will not be the only gesture.