chipn volunteer app rewards young people for building community in the age of trump

July 25, 2017
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In today’s world, marginalized communities face a range of devastating issues that are only being exacerbated by an administration brought into office on promises to cut taxes on the rich, slash public goods, and eliminate healthcare for millions (in addition to promises to promote racism and sexism). Enter Ellis Haskins and Darryl Perkins, the masterminds behind ChipN, an app seeking to incentivize individuals to re-build these communities amidst the distress they face.

As described by its website, ChipN is an “‘Economy for Good’ that provides individuals with opportunities to create change through technology.” The iOS app rewards users by exchanging “chips” earned while volunteering for incentives by partners.

AFROPUNK is one of those partners, finding ChipN to fit right into the mission of AFROPUNK ARMY to bring focus and awareness to issues of social justice, translating their ideas into positive action.

We spoke to Haskins and Perkins about the work they are doing, what they hope to accomplish, and what’s next:

1) How did you come up with the idea for ChipN, and what is behind the name?

A couple years ago we were working to mobilize volunteers for different partners, some of whom were giving rewards to people for volunteering their time. We wanted to formalize this process and create a social economy based around doing good and getting even more people to volunteer and get active in their communities.

We thought that everyone can help and bring value, and that we should reward people for their time in such a way that you can still get things you need or want even if you don’t have the money to do it. We also wanted to connect different community groups with our volunteer base in such a way that they can meet their volunteer needs as well as track the progress of their projects.  All of this led to the birth of the ChipN app.

Given everything that is going on in the country today, in terms of economic disparities, healthy food access, education gaps and environmental issues, we wanted to bring a sense of community back and swing the pendulum more towards helping each other and being actively engaged in your local community.

We got the name because everybody can “ChipN” (Chip In) towards this common objective, and when we do we’re stronger together.

Another spin on the name is that volunteers also get “Chips” for their time which they can spend in the in-app marketplace for various incentives. We want people to continue to get their Chips up so we can offer them cool incentives and reward them for giving back! lol

2) Describe how the app works

We wanted to make the app easy and accessible for people and we think we have achieved that. In order to volunteer you basically follow 5 primary steps:

  1. Look up volunteer opportunities in their area
  2. Sign up for volunteer opportunities that you are interested in
  3. When you show up to the event, you are geo-located and able to check into the event and start earning Chips
  4. When the event is over you check out, and the Chips are deposited into your account
  5. Once you earn enough Chips, you can spend them on items that you want within the online marketplace.

3) What types of rewards can you get from the marketplace, and who provides them?

We have all types of items in the Marketplace including: AfroPunk Festival tickets, Adidas gift cards, concert tickets, Beats by Dre Headphones, Starbucks gift cards, subscriptions to Tidal Music Streaming Service, pizza gift cards, Whole Foods and Target gift cards, and more.

We switch up items in the marketplace regularly and are starting to highlight local small businesses so they are able to get exposure and increase visibility for their products to a broader customer base.

Many marketplace items are donated to us and others we elected to purchase ourselves. We do all of this in the spirit of increasing volunteerism throughout many different communities across the country.

3) You’ve coined the term, “Economy for Good”. What does this mean?

We see ChipN as a parallel economy where people can use their time to do projects that help strengthen their communities and, in turn, these same people get rewarded for their time and effort.

Everyone’s time matters and can contribute to this cause. We want to create a tipping point where people are spending that time volunteering and being active in community projects and earning Chips at the same time.

Also, so many are people struggling to make ends meet and don’t have the extra income to go to a concert or festival, get Beats by Dre headphones, or even groceries, but by using ChipN they can still earn access to these things.

4) Your product is particularly focused on millennials and teens. Why do you think a volunteer app is important for these age groups?

We are in a technology age and people are on their phones all day long so we have to meet people where they are. We wanted to use technology to get people active not just by re-posting a picture of what people seem to be caring about on social media any given day, but get them active IN REAL LIFE.

We have to be using technology to do real things and creating change on the ground, and ChipN is another way to do that.

4) What’s next?

So much lol… We are currently creating an Android-based version of the app so everyone, not just iPhone users, can interact with it. We are looking forward to having that finished in the next couple of months.

We will be expanding to new markets beyond DC and NYC.

We are always looking to engage with new partners and organizations that need volunteers and encourage them to reach out to us.

Beyond that we are looking to make ChipN the way that Millennials volunteer.

5) Who are some of your other notable partners, and briefly describe the work you are doing with them.

We really enjoy working with companies that get what we’re doing and truly care about strengthening the community. Working with AFROPUNK has been great. Your commitment to social justice and getting people active has been tremendous. By the time AFROPUNK Brooklyn comes we will have done over 100 volunteer events in the NYC area.

We work with a couple community organizations in DC called The Green Scheme and Dreaming Out Loud who have been doing weekly garden builds and cooking classes at their urban farms in communities with little access to fresh foods called food deserts. We’ve been doing a lot of work to combat food deserts and these weekly events have been impactful.