Fast Company

How Designer Marc Ecko Is Using Foursquare to Spank School Spankers [Exclusive]

With social media and a unique civic iPhone app, Ecko is making a national issue feel locally relevant.

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]

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  • Anton Lunerian Lindstrand

    Wow, I had no idea corporal punishment was still legal anywhere in the west. In my country it was illegalized in 1966.

  • seth

    Wow people misjudge  what corprale punishment actualy is.  corpral punishment stops and assult begins when ACTUAL injury is caused.   NOT "oh my but hurts". yes some people take it to far and that is what should be stoped, but we should not take away a teachers greatest tool to behavior in class because a select few take it to far.    And for all you out there that say non physical punishment works   look at the kids today....  ever since corpral punishment in schools has started to stop  the kids are gettin worse and worse, so you cant argue with facts

  • Paula M. Kramer

    When parents are violent towards children (spanking is violence), they teach those children they can be violent to people who are weaker than they are. When those children become adults, the adults who beat them (parents, teachers, etc.) will be weaker than they are. Elder abuse is partly if not mostly the result of parents and teachers giving children permission to be violent when they are the strong ones. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, because when they get the chance, many of those others will do unto you as you have done unto them.

  • Michael Brown

    "This pipline of hostility", as Mr. Ecko describes it, is exactly what kids are lacking in very short supply these days. Especially from their spineless, yellow-bellied parents who have been brainwashed into thinking time-outs solve all bad behaviors and use the word "please" with their children more than they do with their workplace superiors.

    There's a reason in-school violence and crime has sky-rocketed in this present day versus what it was 40 years ago - when corporal punishment was still the norm. You didn't dare talk back to a teacher - or anyone in authority - when the threat of a swift ruler to the palm of the hand or (dare I say) a 3/4" thick wooden paddle with releif holes drilled out of it applied to the butt.

    Idiots with idiotic ideas like this are leading the charge at building a society of universal disregard for authority among young people.

    Spare the rod, spoil the child.