Thursday, April 28, 2016

Commons Campaign: Husker Helping Hands - Good Life Meals

Group: Sam Pensick, Marissa Smith, and Jonathan Petersen
Our group decided on quite an ambitious project. We drew inspiration from some restaurants in bigger cities where customers can buy a slice of pizza, coffee, sandwich, or other food item and have the option to pay for a person in need’s food. Most of the locations that we have seen use a sticky note system where the customer pays and then leaves a sticky note on some sort of wall or board that may say something along the lines of “A slice of pizza from: John Smith. Enjoy!”. A struggling person with little or no money can then come to the restaurant and grab the sticky note off the designated board and use it to get a meal. This would be an amazing thing to implement in businesses on and near campus, or really anywhere in Lincoln.
Exigence: Lincoln is not the largest city, but if you go downtown right off campus you will see quite a few homeless people. Our city has over twenty homeless shelters, and a homeless population that is growing very quickly. While homeless shelters provide warmth and a place to clean up and possibly sleep, other problems remain. Many homeless people frequent the downtown area in the hopes of receiving spare change from passersby. They sit all day in extreme weather, far from the shelters where they can find food and shelter. Our project would give them places to have a hot coffee or a bite to eat during the day. This would also give anyone who would like to lend a helping hand the perfect means to make sure that anything they donate goes straight to a hungry person in need. Many people are reluctant to give cash to the homeless as they fear this may be used to purchase drugs or alcohol. The program could also be used for those who are not homeless. There are many college kids who don’t have meal plans who would be thrilled to have a free cup of coffee while they study. It would provide a real sense of community and spread positivity all around the campus and downtown area.
Rhetorical Audience: Specific demographics such as college students are statistically more likely to give to the homeless, but in general, anyone who buys from our target businesses is a part of the audience. This also includes the business owners in the downtown area. These are the people who have the ability to make a change.
Constraints: Many people are reluctant to help out with homelessness because they have the mindset that these people are lazy or addicted and need to take care of themselves. These people are a major hindrance to any effort in this direction. We also may be faced with the response that there are already many programs in place to help the homeless. Some may want to know why our project will make a difference. We believe that our project addresses a need that is not currently being met, even though it is only one project out of many. One of the major issues anyone faces when addressing homelessness is the tendency of people to keep the problem at arm’s length or out of sight. Our project engages the community in a way that homeless shelters do not, which is what makes it a unique approach. It gives a face to the homeless people we pass each day on our way to class or work, and gives us a viable and immediate way to help. People like to see the results of their “good deeds”, so it will make them happy to see a homeless person drinking a cup of coffee that they may have paid for.
We also need to make sure that people who are struggling are the ones actually benefitting from this program. There are not a lot of internal controls that can be used to make sure no one grabs a sticky note that doesn’t need it. It is simply an honor system in the community, and you have to hope that people who don't need it are not selfish. There will be some people who do take advantage of this system, but we believe that is an inevitable side effect. Another challenge is making sure people know about this program. They need to be aware so that they can contribute. An effective way to spread the word is through a social media campaign to go alongside the launch of the program. The final but probably most challenging constraint is getting Lincoln business owners to let us try this program in their establishment.
Goals: The overall goal of the project was to implement this program at as many establishments as possible. We would like to see this program function and thrive for a long time, and we hope to feed as many hungry people as we can.
Rhetorical Canons
Invention: While similar projects have popped up around the country, Lincoln does not currently have a program of this kind. We’ve put our own “Nebraska Nice” spin on the name, which we think is helpful in drawing in Nebraskans. Husker Helping Hands is the overall name, while Good Life Meals would be specifically this program. This leaves room for expansion. If Good Life Meals succeed, Husker Helping Hands as an organization could open itself up to other ideas to help the community. The addition of a social media campaign to coincide with launch is also a unique addition. As stated in the introduction, we believe that Good Life Meals fulfill a need that is not currently being met through other homelessness outreach programs.
Arrangement: Our name, logo, and personal approach are our initial attention grabbers. The flyer we present to the businesses clearly describes exactly what the program entails and what the intention is. It is also persuasive, describing the benefits a business might see, and points out that there is zero risk involved.
Style: One of the stylistic elements we decided to use is hypophora. While our campaign does not directly ask a question of the audience, we have chosen the name “Good Life Meals” for the project as an indirect question. Our hope is that by using “Good Life”, a phrase that holds deep meaning for many Nebraskans, we will spark a question in our audience as to what the “Good Life” of Nebraska truly means, and deeper yet, who deserves the “Good Life”? This also attaches to the element of metaphor. We are aware that a free meal or cup of coffee is not life changing and will not alter anyone’s overall situation. Buying someone a cup of coffee will not guarantee that person a fantastic life from that point on, but the symbol is meaningful.
Memorability: If implemented, this program could change peoples’ outlook on the homeless here in Lincoln. It could definitely have a long-lasting positive impact in the community. It brings people together and gives them an easy way to help one another. One of the reasons people hesitate when it comes to volunteering is the time commitment involved. This program removes that obstacle. People go out to eat, they go out to buy coffee, and now they can help out while doing things they already do.
Medium: Good Life Meals are a very hands on solution because the problem of hunger and poverty is a very physical one. They cannot be addressed with words alone. While words are a part of it (the name, the flyers, the social media presence, etc.) the real work is done when someone in need is able to have food in their stomachs thanks to our program.
Step 1: Name the project, make a list of possible businesses, set up necessary email and social media accounts, design logo and flyers.
Step 2: Narrow down list of businesses to top choices, contact businesses, set up meetings, recruit with businesses.
Step 3: Provide businesses with materials, coordinate launch with businesses, advertise launch via social media.
Step 4:  Attend launch date, check in with businesses, make sure launch is smooth.
Step 5:  Document the launch and the program.
Unfortunately, our final result consists mostly of constraints and some of the content that we created for Husker Helping Hands. We did not achieve our goal but at least this that may be useful information to future student who may want to tackle this project.
I.  Content produced:
Our first task was brainstorming our name and design strategy. While our initial focus was coffee shops, we wanted to have the option to branch out into food as well. This led to our name and logo design shown here:
Next, we condensed our plan of action into a handout. We prepared this to take with us to the businesses in the event that a manager was unavailable. It clearly lays out the program and what is expected of the business along with some persuasion tactics.
We set up email accounts and a twitter account in order to easily organize interactions and launch our social media campaign.

When businesses were unreceptive to the idea and were not responding, we wrote a letter. This letter was not to try to convince the businesses who had refused us to change their minds, it is simply to ask some questions. We wanted to get as much information as possible about why these businesses did not want to participate so that we could learn from our mistakes and do better in the future. This letter was either hand delivered or emailed to all of the businesses we had interacted with.
II. Businesses and Interactions:
Scooters (Haymarket)
We originally went into Scooter’s in person during the afternoon in hope to find an opportunity to speak to the manager. The manager in the actual store is apparently not the one that can directly make decisions regarding participating in charity. We exchanged information and got their contact information and business emails. There was a follow up phone call the next day but the staff member that picked up the phone was completely unaware of the conversation that was held with the staff members from yesterday. We were told to email our information to them and got no response. There was a follow up letter sent to them to see why they chose not to participate and we did not receive an answer. Scooter’s was disappointing but not that surprising because we figured most chains would most likely not give you the time of day as opposed to local places.
The Mill
The Mill was visited the same afternoon as Scooter’s. We were very optimistic when leaving because the employee that we spoke to made it seem as if there was a very good chance to participate but after we exchanged information the communication on their part was lacking to say the least. There was one more walk-in attempt but yet again they told us to finish talking about this through the exchanged contacts. They would not email back after insisting to email about our cause, nor did the mill respond to the letter. The mill I was actually surprised about just because it seemed so promising initially.
Starbucks was very busy every time we went in there which was a bad sign from the very start. We went in twice and both times the manager that is in charge in the decision making for charity participation was not available. It really felt as if we never had a chance at Starbucks pretty sure that our flyer along with our letter is most likely in the trash can behind the counter.
Coffee House
We had high hopes for this business, and believe that they would be more responsive in the future if we did try again. We visited initially in person and learned that the manager was not in at the time, and was on vacation. We left a flyer and requested that the manager call when he was in again. After about a week, we called to check on our request. The employee we spoke to seemed confused, so we explained our request again, and learned that the manager was still on vacation. After more time had gone by and there was still no response, we dropped off a letter to which we also received no reply.
We initially reached out to Destinations via telephone call. At the time of the call, a manager was not available. We tried our best to explain a condensed version of the flyer over the phone before requesting that a manager contact us when they were in. After receiving no response from management, we called back and explained again to a different employee, again requesting that a manager contact us. We later dropped off a letter to an employee who seemed to not have heard anything about the project, and we assume that letter was disposed of, as we received no response.
Meadowlark Coffee
Meadowlark Coffee was our last and final push to get husker helping hands up and running. We went and talked to the woman behind the counter named Bonita about  what we were trying to do, she told us interestingly enough that they already had a system in place there and that she already has two free coffees pre purchased by customers to pass out that day. We recommended that we would not change anything but to at least let us supply a donation board and sticky notes, it would help them keep track of their orders and let us simply observe the board's activity/participation from customers. Bonita sounded like that was highly possible and very easy to get done and we one hundred percent thought we were finally going to have a shop a work out for us. She was skeptical about the size of the board because of the already crowded register space but we ensured her we would get a small one to put in place. We called in the next day as we had told her we would, she did not relay the message to her superiors because the person that picked up the phone had no idea what we were talking about. We called in until we caught Bonita again and then she said that she would talk directly to the coffee shop owner and get back to us. The line of communication slowed and this opportunity fell apart like the rest of the shops.

Success Locations and Stories
How it all began-
The Idea all began in Europe taking the name of “suspended coffee.” This was a tradition forgotten and from over 100 year back in the Italian city of Naples, and has been brought back into action. This tradition came about due to tough economic times and growing poverty in much of Europe. Countries that have taken up the notion of “suspended coffee” range from the U.K., Ireland, and Hungary, to Australia and Canada. As it spread to different locations, the tag name took up different variations including “waiting coffee,” and “pending coffees.” December 10th was actually formally declared “Suspended Coffee Day!” This was all so exciting and a big hit in Europe that a neapolitan writer, used the tradition as the title of one of his books as he believes that it was an elegant way to show generosity in a time when there were more people who were poor than there were people who were well-off.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza -
This pizza parlor is in the Center City Philadelphia. A slice of pizza cost $1. They adopted this idea of allowing a customer to purchase a slice of pizza and yet not keep it for themselves but allow it to be given to a member of the homeless community. The cashier would take a sticky note and the customer would write a little note on it and sign it for their receiver. At this location they call it Pay-It-Forward Pizza. Within just nine months, customers have purchased 8,400 slices for the homeless. The wall of the restaurant was covered in post-it notes!

The well known coffee shop Starbucks has adopted a similar program. What starbucks did was, in the drive-thru, they allowed customers to pre purchase coffee for the customer who came after them. This became more popular around the Christmas season and was still in light of the idea of generosity and giving, even though it wasn’t strictly for those who couldn’t afford one. This shows that the idea can become popular in any restaurant, even if it changed around. As long as people are considering others, the joy remains.

“Rosa’s Fresh Pizza”

III. Things to Change in the Future:
        1.)We would not follow up our walk-in meetings with phone calls or emails ever. Sometimes we just called back for follow up when we may have been less easy to deny if we were to walk into the physical coffee shop for every follow up.
        2.) Conflicting schedules often times made it hard for all three of us to be available to make our pitch to the coffee shops, only one or two of us would go into the coffee shop instead of all three of us. It might have seemed more professional and legitimate with all group members. We had a couple times where people flew solo and went into the coffee shops. It would maybe have experienced more success if we came as a team and we would have been less easy to deny or just to put off to the side and ignore.
        3.)Location selection- We maybe should not have been so focused on the downtown campus area and give ourselves more of a chance for someone to participate by asking shops in south Lincoln even just because more coffee shops means a higher chance of getting participation.
        4.)This kind of goes with #1, but we would not mail or email any letters. We hand delivered some of the letters asking why they chose not to participate and didn't get a response from them still. Some coffee shops I just emailed since we had already exchanged information. We tried all means of communication, email, actual mailing the letter, and hand delivering and got no response. I think if we would have hand delivered all of them at least one shop would have replied.
        5.) One thought is we should have came in with the board so they could have seen it and not been as intimidated potentially asked to leave it there right then and there but we thought it might be unprofessional without asking first, but trying something more aggressive was probably needed.
        6.) We thought it was unethical to not tell some of the businesses that we are just students doing a project, but we think that it made it easier for them to say no. We tried mixing it up calling it a student organized group, Husker Helping Hands team, etc.
        7.) We may have aimed too small. We brainstormed a large list of businesses, then we narrowed it down to those in the downtown area we thought we had a solid chance with. If we had it to do over, it may in fact be best to go all out, ask every business you can think of, and narrow down from there. We left a lot of perfectly good businesses off of our list, and maybe they would have been the ones to say yes.
It seems that we may have bitten off a little more than we could chew. I am pretty disappointed about the results just because when this project was first brought up I was pretty excited and thought what if this takes off and continues even after the project was over but this is typical of me since I am an optimistic person to the least. It was frustrating feeling like you were always annoying the employee’s at the coffee shops who really did not care to much about your project. We had a lot of great plans with advertising and using social media, which never came to happen since we never got anyone to actually say yes. We should have been completely focused on phase one which is just getting the coffee shop to say yes, but I think if we would have gotten the yes phase two would have helped this thing really take off. Our group really did put in time and effort and we don't have a lot to show for it but I hope this portfolio will at least help the future students that would try and tackle this project.
I really would have loved to see this program succeed. In fact, I may try to get it off the ground again over the summer or over the next couple of semesters. Perhaps because I’m stubborn and hate to fail, but mostly because I really believe that this program could do a lot of good in a community like Lincoln. If I do, I will definitely start by just suiting up and hitting the bricks. People listen to a man in a suit, and I think putting on a suit and tie and walking confidently into every establishment that serves food or drink would be the best possible way to begin. If I could change one thing about the way we did the project, it would be the number of businesses we decided to approach. I think the program could really work and could really do great things for the community. I do think that it’s a pretty big commitment to take on, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

It was disappointing to discover that our idea didn’t spark as much interest in the restaurants we reached out to as it did to us. Especially when the Meadowlark manager told us that it was a great idea and would love to help us, but we were never told to come in and set up our project, it was rather deflating. I do believe that this was a good project idea nonetheless as we have heard of other locations in which it was a success. Perhaps the restaurants would have considered our project more seriously if it wasn’t a school project proposal. If I could change one thing, I would have maybe sent out letters to the owners about the project before going to the managers because the managers didn’t seem to get in contact with their bosses well or fast enough and thus, we wouldn’t have the approval we needed. Overall, I think that simply going to these places and sharing our idea did, however, help in a small way as we brought the issue of the hungry homeless back into light. Maybe these restaurants will consider this idea in the future. Or if the other places in which it has been successful spread their tactics to other locations, this concept might grow and eventually become a more likeable idea and matter.

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