Point Blank: Load, Take Aim, Impact

Knight News Challenge: Marley Kalt, Karishma Ahuja, Grace Kuan, Justine Smith

Project Title:

Point Blank: Load, Take Aim, Impact

Requested Amount


Expected Amount of Time to Complete Project

8 months

Describe your Project:

Point Blank is a company designed to combat slacktivism. Through a website and mobile application, we will help our users be in the know about environment and public health issues, and provide opportunities to be a part of the solution.

“Slacktivism” refers to types of activism that require minimal effort on the part of the activist. Slacktivism comes in many forms, from buying a bracelet to support a charity, or wearing a certain color to promote a cause. With the rise of social media, “slacktivism” has also been on the rise – sharing videos, liking pages, and using specific hashtags are all forms of social media “slacktivism” (also called “hashtag activism”). Such types of advocacy have been heavily criticized for not providing background information on the issue at hand, and for telling “slacktivists” that their simple actions will greatly further a cause, while in reality having only minimal impact.

We at Point Blank agree that hashtags and social media advocacy can be an effective way for the concerned public to show their support for an issue, but that support does not always translate to action. We aim to gather different campaigns from distinct organizations, to show our users every possible way to help a cause they are passionate about. We also hope to educate the public about current issues. It’s easy for social media users to share or like something without fully understanding what they are supporting. By combining education with activism, we hope to ensure all activists can call themselves informed about the causes they promote.

Upon visiting Point Blank’s webpage and mobile app, users will find an interactive, easily navigable interface. The homepage will be sorted by current issues, with users able to filter  by current trending hashtags, or by issue, such as “trending,” “new,” “location,” or “staff picked” causes. Clicking on an issue of interest will bring users to that issue’s page. On each issue’s page, users will find tabs to “Load,” “Take Aim,” and “Impact.” The Load page is about education. This is where users will find background information on the cause, with a summary written by our staff and links to relevant news articles and organizations. The Take Aim page is where users go to show their support. It would compile all the current campaigns related to the same issue, and allow users to participate in one (or more!) that fits their ability to help. The Impact page brings it all together. This is where users can see how many people have completed each activity on the Take Aim page, and the impact this support has had on the cause.

Point Blank doesn’t stop there. We do not want to encourage slacktivism, where users may send a tweet or donate money, then leave the site for good. Instead, we plan to engage users by providing incentives for continued visits to our website and app. Users will be able to create an account and earn points for the action they have taken. Simpler actions such as posting on social media will be fewer points, while larger actions such as attending an outreach event will yield a greater amount of points. Members will then be able to redeem their points for a variety of gifts, such as tote bags, reusable water bottles, or t-shirts.

What unmet need does your product meet?

Our product combines education with activism in one easy-to-access platform. We aim to educate visitors about prominent issues and provide several different avenues for aid, helping our users’ voices be heard in whichever way works best for them. Many single-organization campaigns for environmental and health issues publicize only one way for the public to help. Point Blank will link visitors to all possible ways they can show their support, allowing users to choose whatever fits within their budget, time, and location constraints.

Furthermore, with the rise of social media as a method to raise awareness about current issues, and the criticism of such uses as “slacktivism,” there needs to be a way for the public to understand the impact their hashtag can have. We plan to show how seemingly small actions, such as sharing a video on social media or attending a local outreach event, have an effect on the issue at hand.

Finally, the incentives we offer will encourage lasting support and involvement with an issue. Many people share something on social media and quickly forget about the problem. Point Blank will reward visitors for continuing to use the site, filling the void by keeping “hashtag activists” engaged with the issues they care about.

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need. What did you learn?

We asked four potential users if they had heard the terms “slacktivism” or “hashtag activism” and how they felt about them, to see if Point Blank would benefit our target market. All of our interviewees expressed interest in solving global issues, but difficulty finding ways to help their fellow citizens that do not fall under the the concept of “slacktivism.”

Gabi Fantich, 19, UM student – College of Engineering, West Bloomfield, MI

Gabi prefers to “go out and do things” and “physically making an impact” on the issues she is passionate about.

Matt Samfield, 20, UM student – Business and Political Science, Ann Arbor, MI

He keeps up with current events through newspapers and online news articles, but explains that it’s hard to find ways to get involved that aren’t “slacktivism.”

Dustin Eley, 19, Press Operator at Underground Printing, Jackson, MI

Dustin believes hashtag activism “is not the only answer, but is in no way hurting anyone.” However, he is not a participant in any hashtag movements.

Kari Sant, 30, PhD candidate – UM School of Public Health, Whitelake, MI

As a PhD candidate in the field of environmental health sciences, she commonly reads the science section of NPR as well as follows their Twitter feed. She thinks hashtags on Twitter feeds are helpful for finding more information.

How big is the potential market for your idea?

Our potential market could be large as millions of people. Because our idea consists of key aspects of many other popular trends, companies, and other existing ideas, their customers are very likely to be included in that market. For example, this could include things like the ALS ice bucket challenge, #bringbackourgirls, TakePart Daily, or ewg.org. The ALS ice bucket challenge, a campaign to spread awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and to raise money for research pertaining to that disease, had 2.4 million videos posted on Facebook and over 28 million people who have interacted with the topic in some way on Facebook. #bringbackourgirls, a social media campaign that tried to rescue abducted girls in Nigeria, had over 1 million related Tweets. Dosomething.org has about 3 million users. TakePart Daily and ewg.org did not release their number of users online. If that many people are interested in environmental, public health, and/or hashtagged social justice movements, there is a potentially big market for our idea.

How is your idea new or different from something already existing?

Our idea is innovative because it takes the best qualities of other organizations and movements and combines it all into one place. With the combination of these best qualities, the drawbacks of each on its own are also mitigated. For example, one thing people do not like about the hashtag trends was that even though they helped to draw curiosity to the issue at hand which may have led many to educate themselves and others about the issue, curiosity and awareness of the issue does not solve the issue without action. Just because someone knows about ALS or about the kidnapped Nigerian girls does not mean they will be moved enough to do something about it. That’s where our biggest competitors, dosomething.org, takepart.com, and ewg.org, come into play. They have activities and concrete steps one can take to solve an issue. For example, ewg.org emails its users petitions every now and then to push for stronger policies, and takepart.com also has educates its users while allowing them to address an issue through donating, petitioning, or supporting in another way. Dosomething.org also gives doable concrete ways to fight for issues, such as posting stick notes on bathroom mirrors with self-esteem boosting messages. However, Point Blank allows users to quickly scroll through issues of relevance to them via the hashtag and tab system. When they find a topic or movement they’re interested in, they can click on the hashtag link or tab to find more information to gain more awareness about the issue as well as given small to large ways to address the issue (such as petitioning to going to attending/organizing a protest event). The problem with hashtag events, such as #ALSicebucketchallenge and #bringbackourgirls is that users may not take the time to educate themselves about the issue and may only participate due to social reasons. On Point Blank’s Load page for each cause, users are able to educate themselves on the issue before deciding if a certain campaign is important to them. The problem our competitors, such as takepart.com or ewg.org, is that there can be large blocks of texts and users can become easily disinterested or discouraged by the amount of reading one has to do. We will make the learning process interactive, engaging users in an entertaining way that allows them to understand the information at the same time.

How will your idea be financially sustainable?

Our idea will be financially stable by bringing in a profit. We intend on doing this by selling advertising spaces on our website. We will also create a mobile application for phones, which we may charge for. If we do not charge users, we would be able to add more advertisements. We will also look for investors while we are a start-up, and provide them advertising as well as a logo on the site for their investment. We will get sponsors to provide gifts for users who reach their philanthropy goals, encouraging more traffic to our website. In return, we will put their logo on these gifts, as well as our own. As the website grows more popular, we will be able to charge more for advertising space, and more companies will want to partner with us.

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?

We have grown up as part of the culture that created hashtag activism, and are not only passionate but are also willing to try to bridge the gap between what has become known as “slacktivism,” to activism that ends with solid results of change. We are aware of the different platforms people use, and what makes them so easy to use, and plan to use this knowledge in the development of this project as we have participated in similar social media movements. The four of us have a wide range of backgrounds, from communication, to design, to public health, which provides different expertise and knowledge to contribute to this project.


About Marley Kalt

University of Michigan, 2015

5 Responses to “Point Blank: Load, Take Aim, Impact”

  1. This is actually a really great idea! It’s true that nowadays people say “like this” or “retweet that” to “combat cancer,” or anything like that. Point Blank would actually bring up the important notion of how those sorts of actions on the web are essentially meaningless in fighting back.

    The incentive program is definitely a good touch to keep people coming back and contributing more. I see a lot of potential for this, and the use of social media is nice as it can be spread easily.

    Something that I want to bring up is when people are spreading awareness of issues, it would be important to avoid that “advertisement” sort of feeling. Some may not pay attention at all to certain posters or fliers taped on the wall. It really depends on the words you use in your posters, but just a heads up.

  2. This is an awesome idea! I’m definitely guilty of slacktivism and it feels like it’s exploded recently and it’s almost unavoidable what with the exponential growth nature of nominations. I really appreciate your passion to educate people on what they’re actually supporting/raising awareness to.

    One thing you didn’t address that I’m wondering about is how you would decide which charities, organizations, etc. you would promote on the site/app. Would people be able to submit ideas for a cause? I think this could be very cool, but could also get out of hand in a sense. Would there be guidelines to what organizations are promoted on your app?

    Also, would you be giving information just on the cause or also the specific charities that funds would be going to in a cause? For example, there are multiple organizations that support ALS and when the #icebucketchallenge was popular, people were raising issues with certain organizations due to their methods of research on ALS. It may also be helpful to include bios of the organizations the funds would be going to, not just the cause itself.

    Great job, though! I really would be excited if an app like this ever did come out. I’d probably even pay a small AppStore fee to get it.

  3. I have never heard the term “slacktvism” before but I have definitely seem it in action. My reaction to it is usually annoyance mixed with guilt, I think your app is a good way to combat it while promoting more valid forms of activism. This is a very unique idea an I commend you on thinking critically and creatively about what activism looks like today. I like how you emphasized the importance of continued knowledge and updates about one specific issue or another. Many young people like the idea of activism, but are not willing to donate money to causes because they might question the legitimacy in a world where anyone can make up a sob story and post it online. I think the success of this app rests on validating the causes and organizations with strict guidelines. I like the idea of this app doing the research for people looking to support good causes in a specific area of interest. The incentives are an interesting idea, but I’m not quite sure if i like the idea of getting a tote bag or water bottle as a reward for donating to many causes, meaning i see it more as an added bonus rather than a motivator.

    All in all great job on crafting this idea, I think it says a lot that you would choose this to as you topic.

  4. I am really interested in slactivism and how it has led to a decline in activism in the United States specifically but also globally. There are a couple great articles I thought of when I read your proposa fron the New Yorker 1). http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/bullets-ballots and 2). http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-3?currentPage=all . Both of these articles detail many of the problems surrounding slactivism and the differences between revolutions now and in the 60s.

    One thing I was curious about when I read your article was how you would decide which organizations and causes to support on your site. I think a few students touched on it but to take I want to take that a step further. One example I thought of when reading your proposal was Ferguson Missouri. This was certainly a huge issue this summer and sparked a lot of social media support. But it did so from two very different and contentious sides. One side was all about showing your support for the citizens of Ferguson and for the family of Michael Brown. The ‘Hands Up Dont Shoot’ campaign and discourse were largely supported by african americans who saw this issue as a racial one chalked full of human rights violations. On the other hand, many people ran to support Officer Darren Wlison (the officer who shot Michael Brown) and saw his campaign, and the opportunity to support the Missouri Police force, as a necessary social platform. Heres a great article on how donations for Officer Wilson actually surpassed those being made to Michael Brown: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/23/support-darren-wilson-rally/14495459/ . I was just wondering how your site would handle these sorts of politically charged activism campaigns? Often times activism means speaking out against a group (usually a powerful oppressor) and revolves around a pedagogy of empowerment. I think your site has great potential but supporting certain causes would put you in a political position. would you push support for both sides? would you choose one over the other?

  5. Hi, Team Point Blank. Good thoughts here. The biggest question I have for you is: will the difference between your service and the competitors be enough to lure people away from the competitors and onto your app/site? How many users are those sites attracting anyway? Can you attract users who aren’t now engaging with any of the competitors? How are those competitors financed? It might be worth exploring those ideas. Also, I’m not crazy about the questions you asked the people you interviewed. Slacktivism and hashtag activism are pretty negative-sounding terms, even if you’ve never heard of them before. It would have been better to interview people in a less leading manner about their experiences with the competitors or with finding organizations they want to support. Overall, though, I like the way you’re thinking here. By the way, I think all the comments are valuable but I especially appreciate Katie Shaw’s. I like the way she offers you links giving more context for your idea, and also raises some interesting questions that demonstrate how she’s paying attention to the news. Keep polishing this! You’re off to a good start.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s