CauseLab: Creating Solutions to End Hunger

March 31, 2010

10:58 am

While many people were running from one panel or party to the next at SXSW, there was an interesting workshop taking place with a lofty goal: to generate ideas to shift how we think about and solve the issue of hunger in America. With 49 million Americans not knowing where their next meal will come from, that’s no small task. And their goal is not to merely create more awareness – it’s to create solutions via a yearlong effort called We Can End This.

The CauseLab is the “action-tank” where people can participate in developing powerful and impactful ideas around the We Can End This challenge, and is just one component of a year long initiative to spark innovation and broaden engagement in the movement to end hunger in America. So on March 15th, Anne Mai Bertelsen, Scott Henderson and Brian Reich organized a CauseLab workshop, pulling together a number of smart and collaborative thought leaders at SXSW to focus on three challenges:

  • Building a Hunger Free Community of the Future
  • Humanizing the data
  • Advancing local advocacy

Brainstorming at the CauseLab SXSW Workshop

In it’s inaugural year, CauseLab had a very interactive day with 120+ people brainstorming solutions to end hunger. The feedback was quite positive with requests to SXSW organizers to have more similar interactive sessions.

Some of the ideas spawned included:
  • Data Consortium – A consortium whose mission would be to provide comprehensive data on hunger, and hunger-related issues, so that individual organizations and networks would not have to duplicate research. The group would be supported by a variety of organizations and charged with producing high quality data on hunger to serve the research needs of social scientists, teachers, students, policy makers, journalists and member organizations who want to better understand the theoretical and empirical foundations of hunger and shape strategies & solutions to address the need.
  • Buddy System – As a method of addressing food insecurity/hunger in the United States, we would establish a pilot ‘buddy system’ where food insecure families would be paired with a group and collectively they would work through the issues that prevent them from having regular access to food. The goal is not to just provide food, but to help, educate, offer advice and support, help navigate access issues, etc.
  • Mobile Matching System – Leverage SMS to connect those who need food to places where they can receive food — that is, to meet people where they are, and reduce the obstacles to obtaining food. Ideas included the ability to get a bus pass to a food pantry via text message, location based Q&A services and more.

The charity partners (Feeding America, Share Our Strength, and Capital Area Food Bank) and corporate sponsors (Pepsi, Tyson and ConAgra Foods Foundation) will be tasked with evaluating the ideas generated for implementation. And all of the ideas from CauseLab will be incorporated into HungerShift, an e-book series of hunger solution essays submitted by various innovators, cause leaders and entrepreneurs.

If you, as part of an engaged Tech Cocktail community, would like to contribute to this effort (and possibly win $1000 cash) check out the CauseLab and contribute your ideas before the end of April. You can also donate money as their goal is to raise $25,000 to receive matching grant funds from the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

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Jen Consalvo is the Cofounder and COO of Tech.Co. She previously worked in product development for almost 13 years at AOL for audiences of millions. Follow her on Twitter at: @noreaster.

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