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Etsy(+): Philanthropic Shopping

My "Etsy(+)" concept leverages Etsy's global e-commerce website to sell authentic handmade arts & crafts work made by people of specific impoverished regions, giving customers the (+) pricing option to donate additional support to a specific cause/need. Using TOMS Shoes' 'One for One' principle, the goal is to have Etsy customers get something they really love (e.g. authentic earrings made by an artist in Caldas, Columbia) and feel good about giving more in return to people in need (e.g. paying an additional $20 to decrease infant mortality in Caldas, Columbia).

Photo of Jonathan Allan
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The (+) in 'Etsy Plus' represents an additional e-commerce site that showcases high-quality handcrafted goods from specific impoverished regions with the goal of having Etsy customers add a donation (+) to the price of their purchase to support a cause/need. Individual artists in these regions have little to no access to internet, they are unable to share and sell their art/craft with people around the world. Using Etsy (+), we can coordinate art/crafts a pool of artists through one 'regional seller' that can:

1) Collect and authenticate the quality of the arts/crafts
2) Post, share and ship items on the regional Etsy (+) site
3) Appropriately distribute earnings to artists and donations to the community in need

How do you envision this idea making money?

Etsy(+) goes beyond the typical Etsy shopping experience by letting online customers support not only individual artists in an impoverished region, but also support the health of their community at large. Along with the purchase of an item shared on Etsy (+), customers will be encouraged to pay an additional suggested donation (e.g. $20, $50, other) to a specific need for the community. Several price theories could be tested in this model to see what yields the greatest return. For example, an option could be to allow customers to make up their own price, paying what they think the item is worth. Based on Richard Thaler's 1985 "Beer on the Beach" study (and later with selling bagels in "Freakonomics", people are willing to pay different prices for the same goods depending on who is providing the goods and what their perceptions of the vendors are. By sharing compelling stories about the artists and regions in need, there is reason to believe Etsy (+) can earn significant returns for the artist as well as reinvestment to their community from individuals around the world.

How does this idea create social impact, particularly around improving health?

A fundamental piece of Etsy (+) is to showcase direct ways to improve impoverished communities through financial donation. An example is how TOMS Shoes makes a clear value proposition of "you buy a pair of our shoes, a child in a poor nation without shoes gets a pair too." While the needs and solutions for each impoverished region are unique, Etsy(+) will give a universal platform to showcase these needs and allow customers the opportunity to contribute to a solution. In the case of Caldas, Columbia, the government and the HSBM have an opportunity to support the economic and social growth of their community by utilizing an Etsy(+) platform for Caldas. It's an opportunity for artistic members of the community to provide for their own community, and a great way to show the rest of the world why they should donate to help support solutions to the urgent needs of the region (e.g. malnutrition, infant mortality, etc.).

How does this idea add social value at every step of the process?

Artists from impoverished regions: Support community through selling art/crafts people want around the world; generates donations to solve critical social issues. Centralized distributors for region: Provides a central hub for showcasing and selling art/crafts online; showcases problems and needed solutions for region to global audience; Manages and distributes profits to artists and donations to appropriate channels. Etsy(+) Customers: Supports local artists by purchasing their art; increases awareness of social issues by 'owning a story' (i.e. the purchased item becomes something they talk about with friends, etc); Contributions to solve significant problems in a specific region. Etsy the company: Major marketing tool; gets a new base of artists/suppliers; matches and bolsters their mission; could increase their customer base;

What are the short term steps we could take to implement this idea tomorrow?

1. Pilot test concept by creating a minimal viable product-- see what art is made in the Caldas community; post products on a generic Etsy account. Measure costumer interest. 2. Propose concept to Etsy. See if they can develop "Impoverished Region" pages and add 'donation' feature in partnership with your efforts. 3. Identify projects that solve a social need in the region and need funding to get it started. Estimate donation goal (Could implement a 'tipping point' for donations as well). 4. Reach out to Tom's Shoes to take an advisory role on Etsy (+) projects.


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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Terrific idea Jonathan! I love the idea that it creates an exchange - of goods, culture and stories - between the people of Caldas and others around the world.

One similar model to think about is eBay's World of Good Have you seen it before? How might we distinguish and carve out a niche for Etsy(+) from something like World of Good? I'll do some thinking about it :)

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