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Discover Local

(Revised 5.19.11) Discover Local is a credit card that is designed to enhance the local producer's ability to create value for the customer, while increasing customer awareness and loyalty.

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Credit cards offer an amazingly simple yet effective means of connecting local producers and consumers by offering incentives to purchase locally sourced foods. In this respect, it is similar to the Chase Freedom card, which connects consumers to retailers.

From a series of discussions with fellow OpenIDEO'ers, I created a concept map (click on second image above), which pairs Discover Local with several other concepts. Identified by challenge "themes," each set of ideas provides unique value propositions for consumers as well as producers.

Loyalty Program. (1) a point system or (2) cash-back. At this point we're leaning towards a point system, because it offers a strategic way to create further value, for both producers and consumers. It is worth considering the value of having a brand name such as Visa, as it would serve to increase credibility and as a corollary, consumer confidence.

Nate Rosenberg suggested to reward the "most loyal" members. Methinks this is an excellent build. Also,  Arjan Tupan suggested that this program could have various levels (similar to the gold, platinum and black cards), which creates segments based on purchase patterns.

The system is a pull, as opposed to push. People respond powerfully to economic incentives. In fact, isn't this what economics is all about? It is unlikely that any program will see the light of day without an understanding of this idea.

Marketing. The possibilities here are powerful. Data collection is an essential element of Discover Local. Data => Knowledge => Power. For example, tracking and analytics can provide excellent information to retailers and producers, regarding the customer. Customer shopping patterns could identify new communities. The possibilities are limited only by one's imagination.

This concept could combine powerfully with other concepts such as "Celebrating Imperfection" or "50 within 50." (See second diagram)

Purchase Management & Information. The card's online interface could enable participating customers to track and view their food purchases through an online tracking and management system. Here, there is potential to link the concept to the Eatcyclopedia, by Sina Mossayeb.

The "Building Transparency App" by Louise Wilson clearly outlines the heart of several of these concepts, which is information management and access, as well as a data collection and storage through cloud technology. Thus it is quite possible to imagine several of these concepts working simultaneously. In fact, for what it is worth, this is how I prefer to think about Discover Local.

Interface. The concept parallels the recent proliferation in Internet-enabled devices. Thus it can be thought of as a tool that is in close contact with the customer. In bridging the gap between food purchasing and personal finance, between local food and health awareness, Discover Local appeals to a diverse base, with varying needs. It is easily accessible at the point of purchase, in the office, and in the home.

Storytelling. The central idea of the challenge, and this idea, is closing the gap between production and consumption patterns. Creating an enjoyable, visually-based, informative online experience is a crucial component to the program's ultimate impact.

Measuring the program's effectiveness, and presenting it prominently through various communication channels will generate more interest and participation. For example, on my way to work I drive by an American Heart Association billboard that tallies the number of smoking-related deaths on a digital counter. I distill this large number into a more personally meaningful, digestible form by thinking about loved ones who happen to smoke. 

What happens if an individual can clearly see how his or her purchase patterns directly relate to some larger purpose? Is there a benchmark, or goal, that would be a meaningful achievement?

Subscriptions. In Adaptive Distribution concept, I devised a subscription for food purchasing. Specifically, if customers order their repeat purchases (such as milk) in advance, they can save money while producers can better predict demand, thus reducing waste. (I can't seem to let go of this idea!)

Card Background Imaging. James McBennett suggested that customers select the background of the card, from the work of local photographers. Clearly, the theme would relate to local food. Perhaps the "community favorites" from a local photography competition would determine the final backgrounds?

Channels. Discover Local accommodates a variety of sales channels, including retail chains, food trucks, entrepreneurs and direct. (see first diagram, above)

A couple of people mentioned  and I don't think this concept would be complete without mentioning it. It offers several advantages, for both sellers and consumers.

Scalability and Standards. What is local? This is a question that must be answered by local experts. For starters, I'll suggest looking at another concept: "50 Within 50." Labeling is a key aspect of the program's continuing success.

Standards such as "USDA Organic" signal quality to the customers. In this sense, "Discover Local" labels could serve as a branding element that customers use to associate with locally sourced food products. The following point is powerfully subtle, so I'll put it in bold italics: Food producers that are motivated to enroll in the Discover Local program may alter their practices to participate. The program sets the desired standards; the market reacts. So, could this concept be a mechanism through which the desired behavior, or quality, is achieved? Can we combat childhood obesity? What are the most critical issues, where incentives can shape purchase patterns?

Practical Considerations. Huw GriffithsArjan Tupan and  Vincent Cheng offered some excellent suggestions and considerations regarding the design of the card in terms of credit allowances. Despite the benefits of partnering with a companies such as Visa or Mastercard, there are practical drawbacks such as the fees, and acceptance.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tom Hulme

Hi Kirk -

I was sat with a representative of a growers association in Queensland as she worked through your concept - she absolutely loved the potential to help farmers. In a discussion we had afterwards we discussed the idea of enabling the card owner to choose projects that they would like to support with their points / interest. We imagined a Kickstarter type interface which would engage users in making a decision - similar to the Waitrose Community Matters scheme in the UK which you can read about here:

I thought that you might be interested in hearing these builds...

Congrats on a wonderful concept

Photo of DeletedUser


Initially I thought this was just another loyalty card thing. However after unpacking what this card meant for the people who would use it, and receive the benefits I realised that it had huge potential and great appeal for the farmers and the grower groups as well.

Great idea and if the bank didn't sponsor it I'm sure there are a few large investors out there that have a personal connection with the land that would get behind a concept like this that supporting farmers the the future of food.

Photo of An Old Friend

Tom and William, I am embarrassed that I didn't see these thoughtful comments two years ago! (Someone recently posted a comment on the concept, and I noticed that I had not responded). Looking forward, I hope that concepts like this one can inspire future challenges, on the Oi platform and elsewhere. I had fun collaborating on this with fellow OpenIDEOers. Sorry for the delay, and thanks for the comment.

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