In 1988, Simon Berry, Chief Executive of ruralnet|uk was working as a development worker in remote north east of Zambia, conscious that while he could buy a bottle of Coke anywhere, 1 in every 5 children under the age of five die in these areas through simple causes such as dehydration through diarrhea. Twenty years later, through the power of social media technology, Berry has launched a simple campaign asking Coca Cola to use a small part of its incredible distribution capacity to get medicines, such as rehydration salts, to dying children.
Coincidently, in June 2008 Annie Lennox also made the Coca-Cola/child mortality link; “We can distribute Coca Cola all around the World but we can’t seem to get medication to save a child from something as simple as diarrhea and I think that that is wrong.”
Since the launch of the campaign and due to the power of the Facebook group, Simon was invited by Salvatore Gabola, Coca-Cola’s Global Head of Stakeholder Relations, to a meeting to discuss the idea further at Coca-Cola’s European HQ in Brussels. The campaign’s Facebook group has reached over 3,400 members since its inception on 18 May 2008. It was nominated for the NewStatesman’s New Media Award in June and showcased at London’s 2gether08 festival on 3 July.
Most recently, the campaign was featured on BBC Radio 4′s iPM programme in May and July, and on the BBC World Service on 13 July. Simon explains; “Before the Facebook group I was getting nowhere at all. The group has changed everything and is the reason we’ve made such rapid progress …Continuing support for the idea is vital if we are to turn this idea into a reality and actually save some lives.”
Research and development of the campaign continues to evolve. The next objective is to get an international NGO to engage with the campaign. Meanwhile research is underway in East African into Coca-Cola’s distribution system and the feasibility of the idea is being investigated and reported in Simon’s blog.
To find out more information and to follow the story, visit www.SimonBerry.net. To support the campaign, please join the Facebook group! To get more involved and discuss ideas, you can sign up to the campaign’s Google Group “ColaLife”.
Top photo courtesy of Nick Gripton