In late Spring 2018 Giki Social Enterprise will be launching our app and working to build an open community of people who are committed to sustainable consumption but who also need a little help in working out what that actually means in their day to day lives.
The idea for Giki first came in 2016 when Jo and James (founders of Giki and husband and wife) were thinking about why so many people were concerned about the environment but struggling to work out what to do about it. This seemed to be happening at the same time as people were taking a much greater interest in what went into their food and cosmetics and an increasing concern that the products they were buying were not necessarily really helping the people that were making them. In short were they really buying in line with their beliefs?
The answer was clear – not really, and they wanted to do something about it. The problem was that the amount of information that people needed to wade through to answer these questions was simply too great and, in the end, that meant that whilst many people want to do something they did not feel empowered to do so.
Jo’s background working as an investigative journalist and then at a climate change charity seemed to be a natural starting point in working out how to make all this information accessible to people in a simple, informative, non judgemental manner.
James’s 20 years in finance seemed to be a much less obvious starting point. However, his focus had always been on data and decision making and, in particular, how to help people avoid behavioural mistakes by showing data in an evidence based, consistent way. Pretty dry. But also useful for what they were about to embark upon.
The idea was simple: come up with an accessible, quick, information driven and clear way for people to pick up a product and know whether buying it was in line with their values and beliefs. James resigned from his job with just this idea and what began was a year of research trying to find out if it was in any way possible.
The answer was yes, but it was going to be very hard to do.
The research process involved finding data, talking to anyone interested (and some who were not) about what they wanted to know about the products they were buying and, for James, even learning to code. He still does it but in the same way that 5 year olds paint – it’s fun but unlikely to impress anyone but his parents.
However, by the summer of 2017 it was clear that it was possible and so with the help of their technology partners, Simpleweb (who code like grownups), they built a prototype. It was not pretty, required James or Jo to sit with someone to explain how it worked but it did work, and even got deleted by a few friends because it only made their problems worse by showing them how far away from their values some of the products they were buying were.
Nonetheless Giki Social Enterprise was started with an aim to launch in 2018 and with a mission to encourage sustainable consumption by inspiring people to make small, regular changes in their shopping basket that were good for them, better for the environment and fairer to others. To do this it was also clear from the outset that Giki needed to be positive, show alternatives and find a way to give people some intrinsic rewards for doing the right thing. A personal, aspirational experience also seemed to be far more inline with what really helps people change as opposed making us all feel bad about what we are buying.
The last part of 2017 was therefore focused on building a real beta that Giki could test on 100 users. The results of the test were encouraging: people really wanted the app, wanted it to do lots more cool stuff but, importantly, also found that it changed their shopping decisions. We therefore started to think about when we could release to the public.
What came next was hard work finding people who shared Giki mission’s and who were willing to invest their own money to help it come to life, building our network of incredible volunteers who have done everything from advertising campaigns to growth hacking and looking for people who were willing to leave their jobs to join a start-up with no revenue but a clear plan. We could not have been more lucky in all the people who we’ve met, who have supported us and who, as a result, have kept us going.
So now we look to a public release in late Spring 2018. We know that the most likely outcome remains that we launch and simply cannot find a way to get heard in the cacophony of apps, social media and intensity of day to day life. However, we’re committed to try and, who knows, one day maybe the majority of people really will think about sustainability, health and fairness alongside price and brand when they shop. We hope so because that way we can all make the difference that we want to.