What do CarrotMobs and sugar cubes have in common? Other than finding their way into your Easter basket, they are the businesses and tools developed by Virgance to create change through consumer organizing.
Thus far, businesses dedicated to “doing good” have been the purview and passion of big names and big businesses. Bono launched DATA and (RED). Bill Gates started the Gates Foundation and Home Depot has become synonymous with Habitat for Humanity. However this past Tuesday Virgance, a San Francisco start-up, threw a little party to celebrate the next stage of their Activism 2.0 model, the acquisition of Green Options Media Network.
Virgance was founded in San Francisco by two business partners interested in elevating activist efforts by connecting them with social networking tools and access to funding. Not convinced that “for good” had to mean not-for-profit, President and serial entrepreneur, Steve Newcomb began “looking at activism as a potential start-up industry” because he wanted to do more than just start another technology company.
Virgance’s businesses utilize campaign-style support strategies that build on networking and community activism tools already out there. Taking a page out of what is now known as “the Obama strategy”, Virgance campaigns leverage individual efforts to make a collaborative statement. Both 1BOG and CarrotMob encourage communities to use their collective buying power to create impact based on their consumption preferences. 1BOG (One Block Off the Grid) works to bring one neighborhood block at a time onto the solar power grid and CarrotMob organizes consumer events (ok, flash-mobs) to help bring more business to retailers who are selling responsible products (read earth-friendly).
The Green Options acquisition takes their online strategy even further. Currently campaigns leverage YouTube and FaceBook tools to generate awareness and rally participants. With the acquisition of Green Options’ fifteen blogs (including this one), Virgance has now acquired a stable of over 100 staff and citizen writers who write on individual topics uniquely related to environmental impact or social responsibility. In the past these stories have migrated their way to the front page of Yahoo, Digg, and into other syndicated content deals via tools that readers can use to vote their favorite stories into more mainstream media. In this manner, Virgance hopes to build a green media empire that can increase awareness and influence conversations which will ultimately corroborate and support their campaign efforts.
With whimsy, technology and social networking on their side, the Virgance approach to consumer-based activism just might be the new Bay area success story