The Gem app can be used on both smart and feature phones, rewarding South Africans for playing their part and doing good work in their communities by paying them a virtual currency known as Gems. (Image: Gem)Priya Pitamber“You want to make a difference?” asks the video from Going the Extra Mile – also known as Gem. “You’re ready to help, but don’t know how? What if there was something you could do? What if your good deeds helped you?”Gem is a mobile rewards platform for South African who want to play their part in society. Opening a Gem account is quick, easy and free, and can be done on both smart and feature phone. App users who have helped a cause are immediately eligible to win virtual rewards known as – you guessed it – Gems. The Gems can be used to buy airtime or data, prepaid electricity, or even movie tickets.Brand South Africa, as part of its mandate to build pride, patriotism and a spirit of active citizenship, has partnered with the Gem project for July – Mandela Month. Organisations served by the app need help from fellow citizens with donations of clothing, help with homework, job shadowing, skills development and much more.“The app is a social development drive that aims to mobilise communities within themselves so that they can help each other rise,” David Shields, co-founder and director of the Gem project, said during the launch of the partnership at the Nelson Mandela Foundation this morning.“Volunteers are encouraged to donate their Gems back to needy causes during Mandela Month. In order to ensure continuity and mobilise support even beyond Mandela Month, corporates are also encouraged to donate Gems so that they can be allocated towards causes on an ongoing basis.”Forget rands, I want Gems“Users earn Gems by doing community work, for example separating waste or planting trees,” Shields told tech blog Smile and Mobile last month. “Users download Gem via USSD by dialling *120*GEM1 # or as an app.“Once they’ve signed in, they are able to see which volunteering opportunities are available in their area. When they’ve decided on a day and a place, the app tells them how many Gems they’ll earn as a token of appreciation.”The Gems are donated by corporate and public sector sponsors, and distributed evenly to the social partners that host events.“Gem not only rewards people for volunteering their time at charities but also helps impact on behavioural change, such as rewarding people to go for HIV and pregnancy tests,” says Shields. “Or recycling their waste at schools and varsities.”The big ideaCo-founded by Shields and Camilo Ramada, the idea came about two years ago, but the non-profit organisation was only established in September 2014.“One night Camilo and I were chatting about the South African socioeconomic situation,” says Shields. “More specifically, about how people are immobile to creating opportunities to do good – particularly if communities don’t acknowledge and appreciate such behaviour.”Both Ramada and Shields have worked extensively in the digital industry, and know the power of mobile. “Camilo is a pioneer in mobile payments and has been at the forefront of the industry for over 10 years,” says Shields. “I’ve done media, PR and digital marketing for a variety of brands.”Shields says the app helps create online relationships between civil society, the public sector and business. It allows these different entities to work hand in hand to achieve a greater goal: social development.“By helping others, people have a chance to help themselves and by doing so, are able to network and create tight knit communities that contribute to long-term networking and social cohesion.”Play your part during Mandela MonthBrand South Africa’s partnership with Gems is part of the organisation’s “Play your Part for Madiba” campaign, also launched today.“This partnership is not only an extension of the commemorative month’s activities and actions of goodwill by South Africans,” Brand South Africa’s Acting Chief Marketing Officer Sithembile Ntombela said at the launch. “We also hope that the nation will continue to contribute to positive change because a nation of people who care deeply for one another, and the environment in which they live, is beneficial for everyone.“This is our call to action so that every day can become a Mandela Day!” Volunteers having fun with the kids at Olico Youth Centre, Diepsloot. Everyone is thoroughly enjoying Winter School! pic.twitter.com/EswB3rGWZA — GEM (@GEMproject_) July 2, 2015 Your good vibe words for the day… Go on, make it happen. pic.twitter.com/j2kd8Zb5Jf — GEM (@GEMproject_) June 18, 2015
TORONTO – The last time Conservative party faithful gathered en masse in Toronto it was to hear from former leader and prime minister Stephen Harper.On Friday, they met in the same location, this time to hear from the 13 people vying to replace him.Though voting has been underway for weeks and most ballots had already been cast — the winner will be announced Saturday night — some candidates still used their speeches Friday to make last-minute plays for votes.“The key question for this leadership campaign has been which of us can take the very best of those conservative policies that we all believe in and articulate them in a way that resonates with broader Canadians,” said Andrew Scheer, a Saskatchewan MP who is among the front-runners.“I reject the idea that in order to beat the Liberals we need to be more like them.”Another front runner, Maxime Bernier, said not much at all, letting a video of his supporters do most of the talking as they spoke about why they back his campaign and its central focus on removing government involvement in business.Others fine-tuned their messages; Michael Chong dropped all references to his plan for a price on carbon from his final speech, focusing instead on his economic promises.Lisa Raitt said what she wanted to ask for wasn’t votes, but party unity.“When we focus on providing an effective alternative to the Liberals, we govern,” she said.“When we focus on providing effective alternatives to each other, the Liberals get a free ride.”Attacks on the Liberals were a clear theme to all the speeches, starting with none other than the event’s master of ceremonies, Caroline Mulroney.The daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney was once rumoured to be seeking leadership herself.“Who would want to run for the dad’s old job?” she quipped, a dig at Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose father Pierre was also prime minister.Whomever does win the leadership is expected to sit down with caucus as soon as Monday morning to rally the troops and begin the long road to the 2019 election.The Conservatives saw themselves reduced to 99 seats in 2015 and all but shut out of urban Canada.Among their heaviest losses were in the Toronto-area, and it was there in the waning days of the last campaign the Tories held an event in the same Toronto Congress Centre they gathered in Friday.The hosts? The Ford brothers — Rob, the controversial mayor of the city and his brother Doug, who used their considerable electoral clout to rally the party for the final Ontario campaign spot of 2015.But that the notoriously tough-on-crime Harper would allow his campaign to be linked with the Fords, given Rob’s drug-using past, was seen by many at the time as an ill-conceived and last-ditch attempt to save Toronto seats.Harper would go on to lose the election, and resign as leader, just days later. He was the party’s first chief, elected easily in the 2004 leadership race, but chose not to attend the weekend event, though his son Ben was present.Many candidates have stood by Harper during this leadership race, taking issue not with him but with the party’s style in 2015.Erin O’Toole said what Conservatives need now isn’t a fixer, but a champion.“We need a strong and forward-thinking leader who respects our grassroots and builds a strong team that includes all voices in all parts of the country,” he said.Still, the populist passion the Ford brothers brought to bear that night in 2015 hasn’t dissipated entirely.Candidate Kellie Leitch was one of several contenders for leadership who campaigned using similar populist themes; indeed, for a time her campaign manager was the same person who helped Rob Ford secure his mayoral victory.For Leitch, the fact she could garner so much support for her platform positions on screening newcomers for Canadian values and a stricter immigration policy is proof Canadians want to be having those conversations.“Millions of Canadians say they are proud of their nation and they are proud of their values and they want them protected, she said in her speech.“But time and time again the elites have rejected that message — they have said to speak of values is to be intolerant.”Just over 259,000 people bought party memberships in order to be eligible to vote in the race. Polls will close at 4 p.m. E.T. on Saturday and the first results are expected shortly before six.