Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simon Berry, global citizen

Jotman's Creative Global Citizen of the Month award for April goes to an extraordinary blogger: Simon Berry, founder of the Cola Life Campaign.

I sat next to Simon for the bus trip back to the hotel after the G20 Summit. From what I had already heard of Simon's story, this blogger sounded to be the embodiment of the JOTMAN.COM moto -- "creativity and global citizenship." An empty bus seat presented the chance I had been waiting for to talk with Simon about his innovative project.

Simon told me about his "Ah-ha! moment." He said that the initial idea sprung to mind while participating in an online discussion forum:

"What if Coca Cola was to use their distribution channels to distribute rehydration salts?"

For me, Simon's idea clicked right away. I had just returned from Africa where --probably -- a salad I had eaten had led to a situation where for a week -- between trips to the bathroom -- I was throwing pinches of salt into one bottle of Coca-Cola after another. (Jotman's idea of a rehydration drink).

Poor Simon got to hear almost the whole story of Jotman's dysentery.

"But we moved on from this concept," said Simon, continuing, "What we realized was that dehydration salts were but one kind of useful item that could be freely distributed with the Coca Cola."

"Besides rehydration salts, what?" I asked as the driver announced that our bus was about to pass the Tower of London.

"We tailor the contents of the package to the needs of the people in a particular region," Simon replied. "I'll show you."

Simon reached into a bag he had stuffed under the seat, and pulled out a rectangular white box, the shape of a tiny farmyard barn. Simon held the package flat-side up, with the angled "roof" of the small box facing down.

"See you slip the package between the lined-up Coke bottles like this."

It was ingenious. Simon then opened the trojan horse to reveal its potentially life-saving contents. I saw that the box contained an assortment of items: rehydration salts, bandages, some kind of pills, and -- yes -- Trojans.

"These are examples of the kinds of things that could be distributed widely in Africa, dependent on the most urgent needs of people within a particular country."

Simon would take this vision to Facebook, where the Cola Life group now has well over eight thousand members. Simon has also approached executives at Coca-Cola. Cola Life's campaign is finally starting to pay off.

Today, I learned from Simon that he had just received this message from Euan Wilmshurst who is Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Coca-Cola Company:
The response to Simon’s question is easy. Yes, we are planning to run trails of the ColaLife idea before the end of the year. I think I have allowed myself enough wriggle room there.
Congratulations to Simon, members of the Cola Life campaign, and Coca-Cola! Well beyond the aims of Cola Life project, you have demonstrated that by taking a creative approach to global citizenship, every one of us can make a difference.
  • Click here to view reports of past winners of Jotman's "Creative Global Citizen of the Month" awards.
  • More about the Cola Life campaign here. Berry's blog is here; recent interview with the BBC is here.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jotman
    I am humbled by your award . . a member of the Jotman Hall of fame! An honour indeed.
    Today has been an amazing day. I've never had some many comments on the ColaLife blog and twitter went mad too. This is where the BBC picked up the story and they pulled Euan, from Coca-Cola, and I in for an interview to be broadcast later in the week.
    Thanks again


Because all comments on this blog are moderated, there will be some delay before your comment is approved.