The Challenge


How might we identify and celebrate businesses that innovate for world benefit – and inspire other companies to do the same? read the brief


Yelp for World Benefit

What might it look like to ask the 'global crowd' to rate and review the businesses they interact with according to the lens of innovating for world benefit?

I loved Charlotte's inspiration around Yelp – so much so that I wanted to build on it!

As a Yelp user myself, I know how valuable the Yelp community's feedback is in helping me make my own decisions about where to eat, get my car serviced, where to shop etc. And, as someone who knows a few small business owners, I know how much Yelp ratings matter to a company too!

One important element of this challenge is to surface great stories of business innovations that benefit the world – and what better way to do that than through a global crowd of people who could report on their experiences and stories, on the go?

Like Yelp, I'm envisioning both a website and a mobile app where anyone can submit a review of what they see in their own community.


UPDATES (11.13.12):

Great suggestion by Kirk Soderstrom: the desktop version of Yelp for World Benefit should include a link to the top community reviewers, with scores and details for how and what they review (very similar to Amazon's top reviewers). This will help ensure transparency and hopefully quality in the reviews submitted by the community, without needing an army of staffers to review and vet the posts one-by-one.

Another great one from Jonathan Levine: In addition to businesses having a page where people can share reviews, let's make some of this page editable by companies so that they can share the latest details on their world benefit efforts. Maybe this could even be like Quora, where community members could ask questions directly of the company, and the company could respond? This would be a great way to make this online platform more of a conversation than a reporting tool.

How does your concept celebrate, identify or inspire for-profit businesses that act as agents of world benefit?
For instance, say I go to my local Starbucks and notice that a barista has taken some sort of innovative action to make the local community better – maybe he's found a local farmer to take away coffee grinds to use on their farm? I start talking to the barista about this action, and I'm impressed: not only is he responsibly disposing of a waste product that can be used to cultivate a farmer's field, but it turns out so much of this excess coffee waste is being diverted to farms that Starbucks' own waste collection costs go down. Thus, through this partnership he's saving money for Starbucks and doing something good for the environment. As we're talking, I realize that this barista really deserves kudos for his creative action. I pull out my phone, open up the Yelp for World Benefit app, and add this story to the review database. Not only can I add the story (aka: my review), but I can rate how valuable I think this innovative partnership really is. Similarly, just like Yelp, if I had an experience with a business that was particularly bad – or not 'aligned' with innovating for world benefit – I could also go on to the website or app and review the business too. Now here's where I could use the community's help: 1. What would inspire users like me and you to upload these stories and rate the businesses we interact with regularly? 2. How might we recognize or celebrate the businesses with the highest ratings? 3. What might we 'give' to users who do the most reviewing? (I'm thinking of the Yelp Elite system of rewards, special event invites etc - see more here 4. What might motivate businesses to care about their Yelp for World Benefit ratings?
What will it take to scale your concept so that its reach is global and widespread?
The beauty (and success) of Yelp is that it relies on network effects ( to drive engagement. This site and app I'm envisioning would need to harness this same kind of energy and global scale in order to really work. Right now Yelp is location- and language-specific, so this site would need to do the same. In this way, the site is both local and global.


Jonathan's profile photo

Jonathan Levine

A note from Ashley about Jonathan's participation in this Team:
Nice thinking around making the company pages more interactive and conversational by enabling businesses to write their own updates on the platform.
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Kirk Soderstrom

A note from Ashley about Kirk's participation in this Team:
Nice build with the Amazon reviewer system!


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Chris Wittine

November 13, 2012, 23:13PM
As a current employe of Yelp! I believe that the company does hold merit in connecting local business to community involvement. Also, the premise of Yelp! is oriented in raising awareness through social networking on a local scale, making it a perfect agent for the execution of our project.
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Ashley Jablow

November 13, 2012, 23:44PM
Hi Chris, welcome to our conversation! It's great to see someone from Yelp chime in. In fact, I'm such a fan of the platform that I was inspired to build on it for this challenge! I'm curious if you have any thoughts, after reading my concept and knowing what you do at Yelp, that might improve or refine my idea further? I'd love to hear from you.

Cansu Akarsu

November 13, 2012, 22:30PM
Ashley, I really think you can also target the expats as an initial audience to use the tool, just like the expats as agents concept.
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Ashley Jablow

November 13, 2012, 22:40PM
Great idea Cansu! I absolutely think expats could be part of the overall target audience for this platform. Thanks for chiming in! :)
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Kirk Soderstrom

November 13, 2012, 07:07AM
Amazon Top Customer Reviewers ( may be a good model to borrow from for classifying and recognizing quality world benefit reviewers. I think it is important to have some safeguards in place to ensure review transparency and minimize trolls. Once I was getting a haircut, and the stylist asked me to write a good review to offset negative reviews from fake accounts (competitors?). I got a really good haircut, by the way. :)
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Ashley Jablow

November 13, 2012, 21:11PM
Ha! Great story :) And I think you're on to something: ensuring quality (and fairness) in the reviews will be very important. I know at least anecdotally with the 'real' Yelp that new users often have their reviews actually reviewed (and sometimes withheld) by Yelp staffers to verify that they're not spam etc. But you can imagine it takes an army of employees to do this, which is why I like your approach with Amazon. I'll add your suggestion to the concept!

Hicham Fayad

November 12, 2012, 19:06PM
Why don't you, instead of using yelp there's linked in a social network for business, the companies shall be rated by the employees, other companies, etc... this way also companies shall be pre-qualified to handle some jobs based on their rating as the ENR rating for engineering companies based on their yearly profit.
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Ashley Jablow

November 13, 2012, 21:17PM
I like the idea of leveraging LinkedIn, since that's where business professionals go. Thanks for your input!
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Jonathan Levine

November 11, 2012, 02:44AM
In an effort to get the companies more directly involved could we have them make their own page on the website? This would enable them to highlight the positive actions they have taken and bring awareness to their customers. Reviewers can then directly comment on how effectively (or ineffectively) the companies are carrying out the task.

Taking the social network aspect a step further, adding a feature that allows companies to communicate with each other could foster an efficient exchange of ideas and help bring the for-profit/world benefit concept to more companies more quickly.
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Ashley Jablow

November 13, 2012, 21:19PM
Hi Jonathan, nice build! I had definitely envisioned each business having its own page, but I like the idea that there might be a section where businesses could write their own text and updates, in addition to community reviews. I'll add it to the concept now :)


November 09, 2012, 16:38PM
Hi Ashley,

love your idea. In fact, we loved this idea for a while, and started Would be great if you can check it out (and maybe to start contributing something..). It is only in alpha though, so don't be surprised if its buggy or user experience is not too sexy yet...


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Ashley Jablow

November 13, 2012, 22:10PM
Wow! Very cool Phillipp! How are you finding the site going so far? Any learnings or takeaways that you'd like to share here? Maybe the community has some ideas to help grow your site as well!


November 14, 2012, 13:11PM
Hi Ashley, it is a bit early to have real takeaways, since we don't even market yet our alpha site, as it needs a bite more work.

One thing I can say is that going from a vision to having a real site requires a lot of persistence. Building up a team of co-conspirators is the most helpful to bring you through it. Then just working on getting something real sooner than later is most important - set up a non-profit entity (not as difficult as you may think, and you don't need a lawyer for that), write a concise description of your project, find partners for implementation and dissemination etc.

To your project: I like the idea of rewarding innovations and personal responsibility on a local scale. Instead of building a whole new site, maybe you can convince Yelp to integrate your features? They already have comment functions, maybe just adding a badge or some icon to that comment that highlights its relevance for the Yelp for World Benefit program, thus making it searchable, you can filter just for those etc.

If you want to go into actually reviewing companies holistically and fairly, I invite you to check out Wikirate more thoroughly. It is a great time to join the site since your feedback now will shape how Wikirate will ultimately look like.

All the best to your endeavor!
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Ashley Jablow

November 14, 2012, 18:03PM
Thanks so much for your thoughtful reflections Phillipp – I think you've hit the nail on the head about building up a team of advocates and being persistant. And I love the idea of partnering with Yelp! Thanks again for chiming in with your input.


November 08, 2012, 22:49PM
Ashley, congrats on making the Business Impact Challenge Top 20 shortlist! We were excited about your take on a popular platform and reworking it for new purposes.

In Refinement, we hope you'll think about the role that businesses can play on this platform – is there a way for them to participate and share their own stories? Or is it purely based on consumer reviews? And how might we ensure that people who have bad reviews don't just use this platform to share their frustrations? For more tips on how to iterate and prototype your idea during the Refinement phase, read here and check this Lowdown:

Annie Lin

October 17, 2012, 02:24AM
I really like this idea. I'm a daily Yelp user myself and if such a website/phone app existed for socially conscious businesses, I would definitely factor that into consideration when choosing which businesses to give my money to. This puts "consumer choice" front and center, and gives the power back to customers (average citizens) to hold companies accountable to their social footprint. (I'd like to think my idea about CORPeration is also along the same lines, although I think your idea of an explicit online review/rating system like Yelp's is really great, and maybe our ideas could work together really well).

Not to be too literal or too visual, but I actually think the image you used — the "People love us on Yelp" sticker — would be a really good thing to have, too. I know a lot of people live on the internet nowadays, but a physical indication of community support (or lack thereof) like a sticker can go really, really far. Ultimately people still interact daily with their physical environment, many businesses still have an office, and a lot of people don't actually live on the intrawebs or remember to check on a website/phone app before choosing a business. This is particularly relevant for restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses where their clients interact with them not just online.

It would be even more powerful if we managed to get the government to require businesses to display a sign outside their office that indicates their "social-footprint grade," if you will. This is similar to those signs ("A," "B," "C," etc) that restaurants in some parts of the U.S. (like Los Angeles) are required to display in a prominent location to indicate their health/sanitation rating. It is legally required for them to put their record on display, and I can't think of many stronger mechanisms for making businesses comply to certain standards.
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Ashley Jablow

October 17, 2012, 17:31PM
Annie, thanks for your thoughts on this! I love your suggestion of considering what in-person/offline artifacts or evidence this site could provide companies to signal their intentions and actions around world benefit. Nice build!

Meena Kadri

October 17, 2012, 00:08AM
Digging your highlight on Yelp's location and language specific approach! A great nudge around the global nature of our challenge.

Beau Daane

October 24, 2012, 20:14PM
I think this is a great idea that could be connected to Vincent's exploration of “Wiki for Business World Benefit.” I love the crowd-sourcing of the "golden innovations" that are businesses acting as agents of world benefit.
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