About a decade ago, George Blobe went out to dinner with his family at their favorite restaurant in Coopersburg, PA. Inspired by the movie, Pay It Forward, he decided to anonymously foot the bill for another family eating at the restaurant that evening. George told the owner his plan and asked him to let the staff pick which family would receive the free meal. He would go back to pay the following week.
When Blobe returned to pay the bill, he was surprised at the owner’s account of what happened next. “Our family left the restaurant feeling good that night. The family that became the beneficiary was happy. But what we didn’t bank on was that because the staff became part of the process—the entire staff felt just as good. The whole restaurant got excited; everyone was happier.”
That’s when it hit Blobe. “I need to figure out how to motivate people to do it more often.”
Like many ideas, it went by the wayside. Then Blobe read the late CMU professor, Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, which renewed his motivation. “I went from somebody’s got to do this to I have to do this.”
He contacted Pausch’s colleague, Don Marinelli, at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and pitched Marinelli the idea for an app. “I see all these people playing games like FarmVille with no other end except this fantasy life. What if I got them involved in playing a game with real benefits?”
Marinelli tasked a group of students to come up with a concept of how the app could work. And they did. Then Marinelli introduced Blobe to Andrew Gottlieb to help realize the product. Gottlieb founded No Typical Moments (NTM), a consulting firm with a social enterprise model: for every paying client, NTM provides services pro bono to a nonprofit. Founded in Pittsburgh, Gottlieb has worked with the ETC and a number of Pittsburgh nonprofits.
Kindworks launched its first version three weeks ago on iOS and the app has already logged over 125 acts of kindness in seven countries. It is a simple app that lets users anonymously share stories of acts of kindness and geotag them—creating a global map of stories that inspire. Acts range from buying someone a cup of coffee for someone to a woman who gave her home to family whose house was razed by a fire.
“We always think of kind acts we want to do but somehow we talk ourselves out of them,” says Blobe. “This app will help you overcome the objection and give people the motive to do it—and to share the feeling of joy and give others inspiration.”
The current version of Kindworks is completely anonymous—entries have no other identity than the location and the act itself.
“The next iteration of Kindworks will have a challenge function integrated,” says Gottlieb. “We want people to see how their acts can keep on rippling out.”
At its simplest, Blobe hopes that in reading through all the acts of kindness, people can find a place to counteract all the negative things they read all day and maybe see what Anne Frank saw—that “despite everything … people are really good at heart.”