In the United States, every class of citizen, from prisoners to soldiers, is legally protected from corporal punishment--except for children. "This pipline of hostility needs to stop," Marc Ecko tells Fast Company, referring to the internalized agression that paddeling instills. So the billionaire fashion designer is launching Unlimited Justice, a national campaign to end the practice of corporal punishment in schools, complete with a novel, hyper-local social media campaign.
Foursquare will alert users when they check into schools with a history of the practice (see below).
Additionally, a separate app emails and faxes elected officials with pre-written or custom messages.
The unique approach, if successful, could serve as a model for future social good campaigns.
Beyond the Foursquare integration, there's a larger game element at play. "Think of Unlimited Justice as a game, where you're the hero. But, instead of saving some far away, imaginary land, you're doing good, right here, in America," Ecko says in his promotional YouTube video. Users of the service not only find out about school that practice spanking, they rack up points on a leader board as they watch videos, connect over social networks, and voice their discontent over the practice to leaders. "Go viral, spread the word, and build your credibility as the ultimate activist."
The Foursquare-smartphone integration is a novel way to bring home the otherwise abstracted feeling of a national problem. The practice, and especially the severity of the damage--bruises on one's backside, for example--are too often concealed. "Some people are shocked and appalled that it is happening" in their own communities, Ecko says. Local alerts bring the problem closer to home, within the sphere of activists' own influence.
The final step of the campaign encourages an army of young citizen journalists to curate striking images, compelling stories, and local reports of corporal punishment in the 20 states where it is still legal.
SXSW attendees will also be able in interact with various points around Austin, including the Unlimited Justice booth, with an augmented reality app, Goldrun, which displays objects like paddles and facts relevant to the national campaign. Also, readers can follow the action on Twitter.
For Ecko, leaving a definitive mark on education is crucial. "For the better part of this decade" he's poured resources into education reform and feels that the excruciating bureaucracy of the establishment has limited him to "incremental" impacts. The hyper-local, social media strategy, however, has tremendous potential to focus Ecko's might and drive young citizens into broader involvement with the educational reform movement. But he's not there yet.
"To give myself a false sense of achievement and pat myself on the back" would seem disingenuous without one clear-cut sweeping reform, he says.
[Top Image: Getty Images]