How KarmaKorn is Changing the Face of Philanthropy

By September 21, 2010

By Anne Feher

If I could make one small change, make one quick but meaningful impact each day, what would I do? As an almost 26 year old, I’ve had my fair share of guilt encountered at the severe amount of inaction that makes up the majority of my daily life. I have a lot to say about the education system, about our politicians, about capitalism and the environment, but how often have I done anything to change what I think needs changing?

That’s where KarmaKorn comes in. KarmaKorn is a nearly new Facebook app that founder Bill Scheurer of northern Lake County calls “Farmville for the real world.” The app features a community of members that create, claim and complete social actions, which range from simple, everyday tasks to more time- and energy-intensive assignments. KarmaKorn has an addictive quality similar to Farmville because it’s right there on Facebook, where you already spend a lot of your free time on a daily basis. You can open the app and close it at your discretion. Choose to have the application email you when someone claims your action, and you’ll find yourself jumping from the email to KarmaKorn to check out the profile of said claimant. It feels the way it does when you see your coin level in the bottom right corner increasing (except your karma is measured in “kernels,” a currency for social good). It feels like winning, the kind of winning where you don’t have to do very much at all. Well, sort of.

Where KarmaKorn splits off from the pack of its fake-farming type of friends is in the good you have to do in order to get that winning feeling. Though Scheurer explains that KarmaKorn is “…effective even if you don’t want to go out in the world,” say for getting petitions signed and spreading awareness of particular non-profit initiatives, the majority of the actions force you to GET OFF OF FACEBOOK AND CHANGE THE WORLD… even if changing the world comes just a kernel at a time.

Here’s another way KarmaKorn is addicting: Actions stick with you. Once you claim an action, it becomes lodged in you the way a popcorn kernel sticks between your molars, except you won’t try to extract it. After I claimed an action that challenged me to pick up one piece of litter from the sidewalk and properly dispose of it, I kept noticing trash along my walk through Chicago’s Roscoe Village neighborhood. So I picked up more trash and into recycling bins and garbage cans it all went. The actions have a way of growing within you, speaking to the KarmaKorn tagline–“Grow good.” From one simple task, my awareness of just how dirty the streets of Roscoe Village are rose from non-existence to a hyper-awareness. Somehow it didn’t overwhelm me with frustration. I felt empowered. And maybe the mom and daughter pair that strolled ten feet behind me saw me picking up the yellowed newspaper page, the dryer sheet, the plastic cigarette box casing from within the neatly manicured gardens of their neighbors, and maybe, just maybe, they were inspired to do the same.

Bill Scheurer points to my experience as a clear example of what the KarmaKorn application is all about–freeing social good from the reigns of time and money to inspire real action. “If you don’t have the time or the money, this is a new way to give,” he says. Similar to educational institutions mastering the art of online courses and communities to suit the lifestyles of a wider range of students, philanthropy is now allowing the natural course of technology to shape its avenues of accessibility. The route to doing good and promoting change is beginning to split off and open up, reaching out to those folks that have for so long wished they had more time, more money to commit to a cause and right the wrongs we see in our communities. Finally, there’s a way for all of us to get involved.

By the way, if you want to help out KarmaKorn, they are looking for a few people to help internally, including a third partner that’s a present-day coder and developer as well as a professional in online social marketing/media. Interested parties can visit the re-designed KarmaKorn website to contact the organization.