21-Day Challenge Portal

December 11, 2014

Dear ServiceSpacers, :)

This morning, we got an email that read:

Subject: Thank you
"My husband has been truly inspired by KindSpring and recently hosted a 21 day kindness challenge. From 10 people within our immediate circle to now over 1000+ people (mostly complete strangers) joined this journey. Today is the 10th day of the challenge and this is my Thank You note to your kind team. This challenge has inspired and energized my husband immensely! It is so contagious that this feeling of compassion and being human has spread and is growing stronger by the day in our community."

Since the launch of KindSpring's 21-day Challenge portal in September, we have seen some remarkable traction on the project. Even with our "beta" release, more than 300 challenges have already been initiated on the platform. Classrooms around the world are taking on the challenge; one of the world's largest Swiss banks has got its employee groups doing various challenges; Greater Good Science Center hosted mindfulness and gratitude challenges with their online happiness course of 100 thousand students; Awake movie issued a press release to invite all moviegoers to engage in their challenge; next summer, at a 5 thousand person event in Atlanta (where we're invited to keynote alongside Jimmy Carter and Narendra Modi), the organizers are mobilizing a "inspiration to action bridge" via a collective 21-day challenge. The applications seem to be limitless.

The platform is turning out to be incredibly useful, and usable. Alongside technology tools, ideas, graphics, best practices, and guides, each group get their own feed -- a private FaceBook of sorts -- which is all catalyzing loads of new stories, connections and actions. Challenge themes started with Kindness, Mindfulness, Gratefulness, and Eco-Footprint but as people create their own challenges, it's branching out in all directions -- from "writing a letter to an elder" for 21 days to "give a dollar everyday" challenge to "21 acts of forgiveness". Lot of content is already being translated in Spanish, French and Hindi, with many offline variants. And the party has barely begun. :) We kick it off officially, with our Simple Living Challenge on Jan 9th.

It all started unexpectedly one summer. Two 14 year old summer interns were assigned "homework" of doing a small act of kindness every day for the upcoming month. Only catch was that you couldn't repeat the same act twice. That seemingly simple "Kindness Challenge" proved to be quite transformative. We repeated it many subsequent summers, with similar results.

Then, last year, we thought of inviting other volunteers to join such a 21-day challenge -- at the least, we figured, couple hundred of us would take it. Turned out to energize a global population, as schools, churches, institutions all signed on. That month saw an all-time record for the number of stories and comments posted on KindSpring. One of those challenge participants casually wrote to us, "As I was being kind to others, I realized how much kindness I had been a recipient of. Maybe there should be a gratitude challenge next." It echoed what many others were feeling, so that came next. Gratitude Challenge coincided with Thanksgiving and attracted 11 thousand people from 119 countries. Along the way, as Nimo read these remarkable stories, two songs emerged – which not only went viral, but rippled into an album and a “pilgrimage” tour (with 100 offline events in the last five months). Collectively, all this added up to globs and globs of people around the world who were talking, practicing and being the change.

As keepers of that space, we pondered our next steps. A 50 thousand person challenge? Given our design principles and values, though, our brainstorming led to a different direction. What if we created a way for everyone to host their own challenges? It would be more intimate, and thus drive deeper connection within their circles.

Birju, in particular, was very enthusiastic about this research backed approach to inner transformation. He started informally piloting the challenge with small groups with companies he was associated with. After holding 21-day challenges in six settings, he got remarkable feedback -- every single person wanted to do another challenge together. Alongside such explorations, we bootstrapped a working team (with genies like Audrey, Guri and Meghna) and went to work, building a platform that thoughtfully offered up all the resources we had. After many long weeks of hard work, we launched in September! There's nothing like it on the web. Back in the dot-com days, such elegant and robust technologies would quickly garner hefty monetary valuations, but from our lens, it is quite clear that these designs are in a different "priceless" category altogether. :)

Right as people sign-up for each challenge, there’s a small textbox asking for their reason to signup. “I’m depressed, I need to give love.” “Dedicated to the passing of the kindest person I knew -- my grandpa.” “Saw someone being mean, and I want to learn how to respond with kindness.” Each one is a small ray of hope, and scrolling through the seemingly endless pages of these intentions, you’d be hard-pressed not to feel blessed -- for the opportunity to hold such a space.

With gratitude,


Projects I'm Involved With

"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."