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Virtual buddies: inspiration and well-wishes

Our idea is an online platform that addresses the human need for interaction, inspiration & communication by providing a virtual space in which curated content is shared amongst people of different ages, geographies and backgrounds. The reason why this is special is that the content is generated and curated by young students (of journalism, arts, literature, philosophy, etc) who put their skills into practice by 'doing' while servicing the needs of the 50+, less internet savvy community in need of human contact and communication via inspirational texts, imagery and art. Virtual buddies is a highly visual medium, which can be scaled up into a massive interaction platform with spin-offs into self-publishing/printing, local gatherings, etc

Photo of Carola Verschoor
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How would you describe your idea in one sentence?

Virtual buddies: share, connect, cheer up!
We all love receiving messages that make us feel happy and supported. Remember those lovely paper cards in colourful envelopes, those sweet notes of cheerful support? When one's world becomes smaller, as one grows old: how do you give inspiration to others? How do you receive/seek inspiration when you need it? Virtual buddies is a virtual pinboard for sharing. Share the love! All you need is a great attitude :-)

A virtual pinboard to share positive messages and positive vibes across generations. Spontaneous messages of wisdom, cheer, inspiration. Each message put into a virtual envelope.... and a virtual pile of envelopes ready to be read whenever you feel in need of some good, human inspiration! Written and/or drawn by real people for real people.

The content originates from both existing online content )eg Pinterest, Behance, Tumblr, etc) as well as original, student-generated content for the platform.

All content is curated on behalf of AARP with the intention of connecting and inspiring her members, particularly with the intention to proactively support them on the aspect of isolation.

The platform offers several avenues for interaction:
a/ web-based subscriptions which are obtained online with a valid email address. in this way subscribers gain access to a stream of daily inspiration (like on a block calendar) and/or a monthly newsletter with the highlights.
b/ web-browsing on the Virtual Buddies site, gaining access to content in the form of themed e-boards, which can also be e-messaged to love ones, or used as printables via a web-printing service or as content to further build on to create materials such as calendars, booklets, etc
c/ taking part in the community by creating a secure profile and interacting with others by uploading content (which will be curated pre-bulishing) as well as connecting with others (eg virtual pen pals).


Who are the target users of your idea and how does your idea speak directly to their needs, life stages and goals?

The target users are 50+ adults, who feel slightly intimidated by the massiveness of internet yet are looking for ways to stay inspired, stay connected in ways that are no longer as 'analogue' as they used to be. Sending cards, greetings, staying connected have all become more internet based and staying out of that loop means missing out on a lot. The content in Virtual buddies is curated for them to cater to their interests and needs. Because the idea is so scaleable, the initial interaction can be personal, yet maintaining the connection would be via emails and web-based interactions. This is fitting to their needs in terms of real connection yet home-based for those less mobile or energetic.

How might your idea scale and spread to reach as many people as possible?

We envision several possibilities in terms of scalability and roll-out in the real world, such as: - local gatherings via a joint-venture with a national chain of cafes or diners. Monthly meetups could be organized over coffee, for people to inspire, create and share. Members could read poetry, organize exhibitions, create their own crafts inspired by the themes on the site or even just get together to share and chat. -a collaboration could be sought with printing companies to offer discounted rates for printables - golden members could be selected to help curate the content based on their own interests and preferences, as a network of volunteers around the platform - collaborations could be sought with Arts schools and colleges to keep feeding the platform of content developers and curators. Finally, we could ask the members to provide feedback ont he content based on a stoplight/traffic light system: 'love this, more of this please', 'nice but not really original', 'not my kind of inspiration, not that great'. This information would feed back into the website to have trending/favorite entries and feed the selection criteria by the curator theme. It is also a great source of data for AARP in terms of what matters/interests to their community of 50+ adults.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to test any assumptions you might have about your idea?

Web-based platform. A first wire-frame of the interface.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input, skills or know-how of our OpenIDEO community?

How to make it work? How to have people subscribe? How to ensure it gains momentum through interaction?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mike Hatrick

I think this would be an attractive idea if the web was not already cluttered with a multitude of (dominant) social networking options. I'm just not convinced that young people would choose to spend their time on Virtual Buddies rather than Facebook or Pinterest. Some of the proposed functionality such as curated content and 'safe' groups can be done already with either Facebook pages or groups and I wonder if a better proposal might have been to do that rather than create a new platform?

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