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Pinky Promises & Living Agreements

“This is love, here and here; look for it now and when I have passed.”

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

For loved ones, the living and the dying, and for me. My grandfather died when my mother was five.

I sense my grandfather’s life as a part of mine not in memories, but in the everyday -- in the signage on bakery trucks (“Follow the Rainbo”) held at a light; the unexpected street display of floating umbrellas; and the many hummingbirds that I've nearly bumped into. “Was that you?” I’ve wanted to say.

Imagine if loved ones could ask and answer questions such as this as part of the end-of-life passage. They could create and share in a living agreement, a series of pinky promises, to say absolutely “This is love, here and here; look for it now and when I have passed.” It’s a dialogue not about memory, but rather the discoveries of the everyday and now.

“If we love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live well not in spite of death but because of it,” as BJ Miller remarked.

Blockchain technology, functioning as both an open database and community network, would serve as the backbone for this app. The pinky promises could be automated using simple if/then statements: If you discover [this], then know [this]. Image or text files could be uploaded for the “if” side of the promise before and after a loved one has passed. This app, given as a gift, could help to strengthen ties, and create long-lived meaning and impact.

Consider how those affected by tragedy, and grieving a death, often transform their pain into a call to action. This app for living agreements could provide that opportunity. This would be especially poignant in urban communities, where too many die young, and their loved ones feel as though the deaths are invisible.

Moreover, death reveals our values as no focus group ever could. Those in the social, private and public sectors may find value in this sensory-rich data for use in the design of goods, services and spaces. They may offer incentives for people to use the app. Blockchain allows for information that lives on the front-end and back-end of the app to be open to all for the public good, operating outside of the box of social media.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I'd ask members of a grief community to wear a durable band of carbon paper for one week, to etch in shorthand with their fingernail each found sense of love (sight, smell and sound) from their living agreement. A smartphone could be used in tandem with the wristband. The band markings would be shared and categorized as a group activity.

The wristband would be a stand-in for any smart device, ideally one that has consumer adoption and could instantaneously capture images and sounds.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I’d love to hear any and all responses to the following questions:

Have members of the grief community tried a similar approach of living agreements to the end-of-life passage? If so, what worked well? What didn’t?

Would this kind of global, open data set impact decision-making across sectors and especially among policy-makers?

What issues have I overlooked?

Tell us about your work experience:

I was a 2016 finalist for the IDEO Futures Bits + Blocks coLAB for blockchain prototyping. For the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership with UCSF, I developed the strategy for a data viz prototype; advised on neighborhood focus groups; analyzed findings; and co-led design and development.

This idea emerged from

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