Be the change: Inspire your marketing, transform your organization, and change the world

A facility for Alzheimer's patients recalls architecture from their youth to help awaken memories

Innovation is not only the creation of new technologies; it is the creative use of any medium to inspire change.

The following examples leverage both new and old tools to grab people’s attention, tackle big problems, and resonate emotionally with an audience.


Every development officer struggles at some point to show the impact of a donor’s contribution, particularly for smaller gifts. The SocialSwipe is an easy, immediate, and high-capacity way to create an enormously satisfying giving experience.

Swipe to feed the hungry

Misereor, a German Catholic organization dedicated to fighting poverty, was seeking new ways to encourage high-volume micro-donations in public spaces. Online payment provider,, created an interactive billboard called the SocialSwipe that makes donations easy and rewarding. By swiping a credit card through the middle of a video screen, donors “cut” a slice of bread, visualizing how their €2 contribution will provide a daily meal for an impoverished family in Peru.

Interactive billboard, SocialSwipe, by a German Catholic organization to encourage micro donations

Other uses for the swipe

A similar concept could be applied to advancing your own marketing efforts. For example, a hospital fundraiser could create a digital poster where a credit card swipe cuts the umbilical cord of a preemie. The subsequent video would depict how the outstanding care in your neonatal intensive care unit saves her life. We could then watch a time-lapse video montage of the happy and healthy baby grow and thrive over the course of weeks, months, and years.

Alzheimer’s patients go back to the future

To ensure protection and security, assisted living facilities must often restrict Alzheimer’s disease patients to controlled indoor environments. The unnatural surrounding and schedule of care can be disorienting and stressful for patients, leading to clinicians prescribing anti-anxiety or even anti-psychotic medications. This cycle of confusion, agitation, and drugs may lead to progressive deterioration and a disastrous outcome for the patient.

The Lantern, based in Ohio, decided to transform their environment and advance a cognitive therapy program that effectively stimulates and strengthens the minds of their patients. Working with TMA Architects, they created a picturesque outdoor neighborhood inside of their facility. The facade of a small patio and front door appears before each patient’s room—perhaps even resembling a dementia patient’s childhood home from the 1930s or 1940s.

Hallway of a facility for Alzheimer's patients that uses natural lighting and classic architecture

Indoor lights that look like a blue cloud sky grow dimmer as the day progresses to keep patients’ circadian rhythms in sync with the natural world. Simulated stars and the moon emerge at night. Sounds of nature play in the background, while aromatherapy using lavender, peppermint, or citrus gently freshen the air.

Jean Makesh, CEO of Lantern, focused his multi-sensory program on awakening the “memories of yesterday to function today” through therapeutic activities and exercises that help dementia patients maintain and build meaningful relationships with their friends and family members. He wrote, “People are not with us to quietly fade from society … (they) come to us to live a dignified life. We know that the human spirit glows until we take our last breath.” Makesh’s innovations affirm his organization’s mission and serve as a remarkable example on how to effectively apply empathy, creativity, and design within even the most challenging enterprise.

A 3-D selfie to get you healthy

Nearly half of all American adults suffers from chronic disease, conditions that people have a strong degree of ability to ameliorate through their own actions. According to the CDC, chronic conditions account for 70% of deaths and more than 75% of the now $3.8 trillion cost of healthcare every year in the United States. Obesity is a major factor in chronic conditions like diabetes, yet Americans are getting heavier every year.

Weight management requires a mental framework for making healthier decisions every single day in terms of nutrition, fitness, sleep, and stress management. It is the culmination of those choices over weeks, months, and years that determine your health. So, what if you could immediately see possible progressive states of your future to make better decisions today?

My company, Medical Avatar, has made this experience a virtual reality by using simulations that incorporate evidence-based predictive analytics. An app helps people see future versions of themselves as they shape their own health behaviors micro-decision by micro-decision. Interactive, personalized health coaching can have a powerful impact on outcomes. Our partner incentaHEALTH has pioneered an innovative community wellness program for Kaiser Permanente with 79,000 participants, resulting in long-term weight loss and prevention of Type II diabetes.

With the Boston-based company Perfetch, Medical Avatar launched the 3-D Healthy Selfie Cube which uses infrared sensors to generate a realistic 3-D avatar of people along with exact body measurements and other health metrics. A personalized suite of nutrition, fitness, and diabetes management apps utilize the 3-D Healthy Selfie, including as an animated Action Avatar where you can literally see yourself doing accurately executed exercises and athletic movements.

3-D avatar of a man over a period of 8 months and how his body is transformed by a healthy lifestyle

Brazilian students learn English from US retirees

Mastering a foreign language requires rigorous immersion and constant conversation with native speakers. Students at the CNA school in Liberdade, Brazil were enthusiastic about learning English but did not have abundant opportunities to practice their language skills. Ad agency FCB Brazil created the Speaking Exchange Project to connect these students to elderly and sometimes solitary Americans living at the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago.

A female Brazilian student is learning English from an elderly US woman via a video call

What can you do?

Innovation is about new ideas to solve old problems. Connecting students looking to learn a language with lonely seniors was novel and innovative, even as video chatting became increasingly commonplace. The Hippocratic Oath commits physicians to focus on prevention as “preferable to cure,” but the American healthcare system has clearly been built around critical stage interventions at the cost of preventive measures. The Healthy Selfie was designed to give people a new way to preemptively assess and transform their own health.

Is your organization operating identically as any of your peers, or can you become more like Misereor, who transformed the credit card swipe—something prosaic—into something poetic on behalf of the people they serve?

Is your organization like most assisted living facilities, or can you become more like Lantern with its remarkable vision for creating extraordinarily ordinary and beautiful environments for their residents?

What can you do in your own industry, within your own limited time and resources, to create a better model for your organization’s vision and mission in the world?

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