Time Flies When You're Making Change!
By: Julie Vennewitz-Pierce
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since we launched our Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works competition with Ashoka Changemakers! At this time last year, we had just launched our worldwide search for innovative job creation solutions, and were hurtling forward to our mid-June deadline for submissions. In addition, amidst all our outreach to innovators and evaluation of the record-breaking number of entries to a single Ashoka Changemakers competition, we were also working on another project. A team of eBay engineers was working to develop an application to enable voting and competition engagement through the Facebook platform. One year later, that application has not only had a powerful impact on our competition, but also on all subsequent Ashoka Changemakers competitions and on the eBay engineers themselves.
First, some background on the app itself. When we started the competition, we knew The Opportunity Project had many valuable assets to share with our non-profit partners, not least of which the skills and expertise of eBay’s employees. So when we began to engage with the Ashoka Changemakers team, we quickly realized we could put a team of engineers to work developing technological solutions to boost voting for competitions and, in turn, involvement in social innovation more broadly. To do this, our engineers created a new Facebook application that allows individuals anywhere around the globe to learn about, vote on, like and share their favorite entries from within Facebook. The application is a patented technology that eBay has licensed to Ashoka royalty-free, and was specifically designed to be used beyond the course of our own competition.
Today, we are pleased to share that this is exactly what has happened. One year after launch, the Ashoka Changemakers Facebook app has become an important engagement tool for every subsequent competition and has logged nearly 10,000 users from around the world. Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, the app is being used most in the US, India, Brazil, Canada, Argentina and the UK (with São Paulo, Brazil boasting the largest number of users for a single city).
And beyond just the numbers, the app has had other important effects. For Ashoka Changemakers, the app has jump-started increased integration with Facebook and enabled deeper engagement with their competition partners. Since launching the app, the Changemakers team has explored several opportunities to embed social media into the competition experience, and they have subsequently developed functionality that allows Changemakers.com users to quickly and easily push their activity to Facebook. The app has also enabled new opportunities for other competitions. For example, competition partners can now simply share a link to the app with their employees as an easy way to get involved. Or competition partners can embed the app on their own Facebook pages to engage their communities of friends and followers (like Ben & Jerry’s is doing for the competition they are currently running). And, more generally, they can consider eBay’s app development process as an example of how they might use their own competition as an opportunity for skills-based employee engagement.
If our eBay engineers are any example, this skills-based volunteerism is a valuable experience that, like the app itself, has a lasting impact. Our engineers (Om Prakash Kannusami, Bala Shanka, Deval Dudhia and Nausher Ahmed Cholavaram) first and foremost were able to use the experience to develop new skills. At eBay, the team normally uses Java programming language, but in building the new app, they were able to learn and practice using PHP scripting (as well as the Facebook platform more generally). And their new skills haven’t gone unused—the team has subsequently used their knowledge of PHP to help triage and address some issues with the checkout system on eBay, and they have even entered ideas into internal eBay developers’ competitions that build upon their experience working with Facebook. In addition, the app development process brought them closer together as a team, and got them more interested and engaged in eBay’s non-profit/giving efforts. As evangelists for skills-based employee engagement within the company, our engineers are actively sharing how other eBay-ers can get involved and are working with us to scale up the program.
We are extremely pleased with the successes we have seen from the app and the app development process so far. And while a year seems like a long time ago, we know the impact is only just starting to be demonstrated. There is still a lot more yet to come and we’ll be sure to keep you updated!