Redesign Giving, Part 1: Our Experiment
For a long time at Butterflies & Hurricanes, we have felt that consumerism has replaced true generosity and robbed giving of its true meaning, joy and purpose. It has also been a part of creating the take-make-waste economy which has played a part in creating the waste and climate emergency that is threatening the Earth and all our children’s futures.
We decided to do an experiment. We wanted to see how well people would responded to company newsletters filled gifts and positive messages, rather than the normal subjects of a newsletter, like our activities and successes.
As a company of action, we wanted to try, as individuals and as a business, to find again what generosity is truly about. What developed was a year of Zero-Waste* giving through our B&H newsletter. How it unfolded and its effect on our studio were very interesting:
In the beginning it was a drag, because it felt like one more thing we had brainstorm, design and produce.
But it quickly turned into something fun and motivating. We started to look forward to the meetings where we talked deeply about what generosity means and what kinds of gifts would serve people's needs and require more effort and time than they provide.
We discovered that for us generosity means sharing our time and ourselves, fulfilling needs, and serving a purpose other than profit, while creating little or no waste.
The newsletters and gifts began to get positive responses, and create feelings of gratitude in us and those receiving them. (Our more traditional newsletters rarely generated responses.)
It helped to raise awareness of the waste and climate emergencies, and gave us further ideas of how to address it through design.
And, though it was not our prime purpose to promote our studio, it began to increase our public visibility, and catch the eye of potential clients. Not only did it raise our sense of personal value, inadvertently it raised the social capital of our design studio, which adds into our Triple Bottom Line.
*Granted there are resources used with digital files, and if they are downloaded and printed there is some waste involved, but it is greatly reduced when compared to mass printings, most of which usually are not even used.
Here is a brief overview of the new newsletters and gifts:
January 2018: We started simply by including two digital gifts in the January newsletter that contained positive messages and reminders.
The first was a calendar that could be used as a screen saver, or be printed and stuck on a refrigerator door. It had a fun design that reminded people of simple, every-day things they could do to reduce waste, as well as marking special days relevant to reducing waste and helping the environment.
The second gift was a hand-drawn colouring page, that could be printed and used for creative relaxation or to keep children occupied while you take out the recycling. It contained a drawing of Vaclav Havel and other positive elements (click it to download a copy).
February 2018: For February we developed the format that would carry us through the year. It was simple and contained minimal text.
One of the gifts this month was a two month calendar for your computer desktop.
There was also a nice homey sign to help remind your family to Reduce and Reuse before Recycling, and a page of printable stickers (click above to download).
March 2018: The theme for March was spring cleaning, upcycling, and the circular economy.
One of the gifts in this newsletter was a PDF summarising the Circular Economy (CE) in Czech, and demonstrating how the CE could make spring cleaning an active part of a healthy economy.
(Click above to download the CE PDF.)
April 2018: The theme this month was things to do in spring, and ways to travel in a more enjoyable and eco-friendly way.
One of the gifts was this printable kit for making creative herb garden markers, for when you grow your own package-free herbs.
(Click above to download the herb garden markers)
May 2018: The theme was Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The first gift was this calendar.
Another gift was a PDF of a personalised CSR awareness game that helps you see how you have grown over a year. (Click it to download.)
June 2019: The theme was sustainable day-trips and holidays.
One gift was this colourful list of ways to enjoy more eco-friendly traveling (click it to download).
We also shared Michaela Thomas’ inspirational video from our Bohatněte Dobrem event that month.
July 2019: In a summer where it rained only twice, and trees and crops were dying, the theme for July was water conservation.
Along with a June calendar, there was a link to a video of Soňa Jonášová at our Bohatněte Dobrem event, and her informative and inspirational talk.
Also this month there was a water conservation pexeso game, that could be downloaded and printed (click it to download).
August 2018: The theme this month was sustainable fashion; both upcyling textiles from used clothes and a turn from “fast fashion” to “slow fashion.”
The gifts this month were these simple and visually stylized lists of which companies offer sustainable fashion or upcycled clothing, and where to buy them, as well as a list of popular companies whose offers are not sustainable (click it to download the PDF).
There was also this list of upcycling courses in the Czech Republic (click to download).
September 2018: This month’s newsletter was all about the women in the Czech Republic who are changing business for the better.
One of the gifts was interviews with eight women who are changing business for the better, and saving the world in the process (click it to download a PDF of the interviews).
The interviews were exciting and inspirational and showed how women are leading the change to a sustainable economy, some of the challenges they have faced, and overcome, and much more. It was a very popular issue of the newsletter.
There was also a page of printable stickers to show your pride in being a woman and a leader (click it to download).
October 2018: The theme of our newsletter and gifts this month was trees, and all the wonderful things they do for us, and how they need us to protect them, so that they can protect us.
One of the gifts were these printable pages, with instructions on how to fold them into origami trees (click them to download).
November 2018: The newsletter that got the biggest response. Our theme this month was women and children in the Czech Republic, and how they are often treated poorly or unfairly is a culturally condoned part of life. It turned out to be our most popular theme so far and got the greatest positive response.
One of the gifts was this page with links to organisations to help women and children.
December 2018: The theme was redefining Christmas, in terms of true generosity.
And that wraps up the year.
We realise that these are very small things, but the response was wonderful, and it was so much more fun and motivating for us than a typical newsletter about all our accomplishments. It was an example how companies can give back to the people they serve, and was a morale booster for our team that brought us closer together and further solidified us behind our higher purpose. It goes to show how small gestures and small changes can lead to great things.
We would like to continue on this journey and invite you to join us! We would love to see examples of ways your company is giving back, please share them with us.
And if you would like to receive our gift-filled newsletters in 2019, sign up in the side bar to the right.
Michaela Thomas is the owner and Design Director of Butterflies & Hurricanes design studio, Prague, Czech Republic.