Medium is a mockup mobile application and an entry in the Where Do You Give? design competition sponsored by American Jewish World Service. It designed over a span of 3 weekends in Fireworks and was submitted for consideration in the category of interactive/web design.
The contest entry explaining the design motivation is copied below:
Please briefly describe your design:
Medium turns anything, anywhere into a vehicle for tzedakah.
Honoring the ancient Jewish tradition of the tzedakah box, where boxes placed in stores, synagogues and homes collect donations to benefit causes meaningful to the community, Medium enables the creation of virtual tzedakah boxes facilitating real donations placed in communities using geo-location and rich media.
Medium is a mobile application that allows users to take pictures of objects and places in their neighborhood and create tokens which function as tzedakah boxes. A storefront, an old park bench, an apple tree-all become tokens in our real world that a person can imbue with a story and a cause. These personal stories and appeals can be found by anyone in the area using the application, who can then easily donate to the associated cause, much like dropping coins into a sponsored tzedakah box at the local deli.
Using Medium, users can explore tokens nearby, donate to tokens that they find, and create their own to share with their community. Medium will track donation activity so that users can understand the impact of their tzedakah giving and better realize the alignment between their values and the tzedakah that they give.
“Medi”, the latin root of “medium”, lends significant relevance to the concept of tzedakah. From this root comes medicor, “to heal”, meditor, “to reflect upon”, medius, “the middle of”, and most importantly, medium, “the common good”.
How does your design reimagine the future of giving? How will your design spark a national conversation about the obligation to give, where to give, to whom and why?
Medium attempts to evolve the idea of tzedakah and the tzedakah box into an interactive, digital, mobile, location-based and community oriented, social application. It explores the act of tzedakah, through a reimagining of the tzedakah box, the most traditional vehicle for collecting charity within the Jewish community for thousands of years. Technology now exists that allow society to further the successful model of collecting tzedakah this way, specifically how it’s tied to a physical space, designated to a specific cause, meaningful to a person or people in the community in which it exists and elicits small, frequent donations. These criteria make it a perfect platform to emulate on a mobile device which can sense its location, access vast amount of information, communicate in images, and facilitate economic transaction.
Tzedakah is an obligation in Judaism, but obligations in our life can often lead to stress and resentment, even if the obligation is towards a good goal. How much is enough? Who should receive my donation? Am I a bad person if I don’t donate to the causes presented to me? Medium addresses these concerns by allowing individuals using the application to represent their values through the placement of virtual tzedakah boxes or “tokens” within their represented physical communities. By designating specific charities and causes for their tokens, users are creating a conversation about what the priorities of their communities should be when it comes to tzedakah. This allows community members to fulfil their obligation to tzedakah not just through the act of donating, but also through influencing the donations of others, engaging a community to participate in a fair system that rewards everyone.
Traditionally, tzedakah has been a way to support the most needy in our community, but as the world has become smaller through the spread of globalization, media and communication, this community has become larger, where people now recognize kinship with groups that work all over the world to address issues that matter to us. Medium addresses this dichotomy by sustaining the model of placing collection boxes within the community, but allowing individual users to designate their donations to any organization with which they are their values. This effectively creates a bridge between local action and global impact.
Each Medium token is associated with personal images and stories that can make a strong appeal for tzedakah. The stories they tell will ultimately affect the behaviors of others in the community, whether they themselves are looking to give charity, or trying to influence others to donate as well. This underlying conversation couldn’t happen over a traditional tzedakah box. The close connection between physical proximity, engaging imagery and personal stories creates a compelling reason to engage and reengage with Medium in the act of tzedakah.