To inspire a group of people you need to be able to define a compelling new reality and communicate it in ways that capture peoples emotions and imaginations.
With Ark°, I didn’t make kindness the ultimate end but the means to end the pervasive problem of disconnect in society. It’s a sad reality that we have all personally identify with and I wanted to capture just how untenable it was and just what we could do about it.
The first example is a Manifesto I wrote for the Ark° community outlining our vision for society, our brand, and movement.
The second is an opinion piece I wrote for The Irish Times on how our movement was the way forward from Ireland’s Celtic Tiger days of materialism.
Both pieces are outlined in full underneath. Some context on what Ark° is can be found here.
The Ark° Manifesto
For the past year we’ve strived to take a simple idea and create a movement that could change the game. The game isn’t changed yet, but we’ve made an impact. People are standing up and taking notice of a little movement that is growing slow but strong. For this, we only have you to thank. The idea that there are people out there wearing our brand and making people’s day gets us out of bed every morning and decide to push it a little further. We are proud of how far we’ve come but this is just the beginning. During this beginning, we’ve been simply telling anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t) about our idea by describing how it works: Perform one act of random kindness every time the clothing is worn. But describing how an idea works does not bring it to life. It doesn’t convince anyone why it matters, or what its purpose is, and what could be achieved if enough people engage in it. This manifesto, written on the first day of a new decade, is here to show why Ark° matters, what its purpose is, and what can be achieved if enough people engage in it.
A lot of people in modern society quite frankly don’t give a shit
All great ideas come against the backdrop of a problem. Ark° emerged from the problem that a lot of people in modern society quite frankly don’t give a shit. They are largely out for themselves, are massively cynical, and live their daily lives going from A to B without a thought or concern for anyone else. We think it’s madness that that we don’t know our neighbours, that it’s weird to salute strangers, and that community is a thing of the past. People talk about poverty in the third world but we have an all pervasive poverty on our doorstep. It’s a poverty of values and priorities.
Kindness is the bridge to our common humanity.
When all pretences have been stripped away, happiness in our sine qua non. We weren’t born with a manual about how life should be lived, but one thing we’ve personally learnt on our short stay is that happiness is to be found in others. We may be individuals of self-interest, but we are interdependent in all we do. Kindness, and in particular acts of random kindness, are the bridge to our common humanity. They are a reminder that amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life, a gesture can be made that genuinely lifts a person, that moments can exists between strangers and friends, that despite all the challenges we face, the ability exists to take someone’s breath away and make their experience of life that little bit sweeter. That faith can be restored in humanity, that people’s attitudes can be changed, and that ripple effects with no known end can be created. There is also the world’s best kept secret: That they are as good for the giver as they are for the receiver. Make their day make your day.
This is our business: to create a brand so that you can aspire to inspire others.
Many people (our mothers included) are often confused about what it is we do – Are you a movement? A clothing company? A Charity? We are a message – about what life is about. Like any message, it can get tiring to hear and fall on deaf ears. That’s why we have done something special: Linked it with clothing, becoming the world’s first brand to pioneer social action through fashion. But an Ark° t-shirt isn’t just a t-shirt, it’s an everyday motivator to get out there and become the change you want to see in the world. It is a statement by the person who wears it about what they believe life to be. It’s that thing in your wardrobe for the days your feeling inspired, and for the days you need to be. A couple of people have said ‘I don’t need an Ark° shirt to be kind’ (usually at 3am outside a kebab shop). Of course that’s true but the reality is that we all forget despite our best intentions. While our vision is that Ark° becomes a simple lifestyle for people that don’t even need reminders, the shirts are the key to getting there.
We have designed these shirts so you can carry a message and generate a conversation with society.
But it’s not just about you, it’s about what you can do. We have designed these shirts so you can carry a message and generate a conversation with society. For many of you, I’m sure you’ve noticed friends and strangers alike staring at your shoulder so as to read the ‘So I have this idea’ story that started it all. It may be simple but to know that a message written by a teenager half way up a mountain can make it onto the back of your shoulder packs a powerful punch. They may not even pass comment but be sure that in their quiet moments, they are reflecting on your choice and the kind of person they could become. This is our business: To create a brand so that you can aspire to inspire others.
It’s not just my words, it’s the words of a thousand people from twenty five countries around the world.
We’ve also had the odd person comment that all this can be achieved without the clothing. We beg to differ. Ark° without the shirt is like Movember without the moustache. The Aussie guys would never have had any luck generating global awareness about men’s health issues by simply going around talking about it and asking others to do the same. They would have run out of steam within a year. The Mo is a collective symbol for the message of men’s health. The Ark° shirt is a collective symbol for the message of kindness. It binds everything together around something that’s tangible, something you can always come back to by wearing and arking. Sure you can promote Ark’s work by talking about it, but if everyone chooses to simply talk it misses that traction. To truly partake is to wear it with pride. What you wear is who you are, and when you wear Ark° you are saying this isn’t just a whim you happened to have on a day you’re feeling good about life, it’s a conscious choice and a collective to which you proudly belong. It’s a brand you have chosen to identify with, and a group of people you have chosen to support through your purchase. It’s not just my words, it’s the words of a thousand people from twenty five countries around the world. Since the beginning of our time we have aspired to make the world a better place. Now we’ve got your backs – literally.
Making the world a better place has now come down to a consumer choice – we want to bring this to life for you.
We not only want to support you in changing your world, we want you to support us in changing the world. This year will see numerous high-impact campaigns that will achieve our mission of taking back society to its rightful place – from ‘I’ to ‘We’. We will be picking areas that are a symptom of the problem, setting an aspirational bench mark, and working with you through the money we make to bring about a solution. Making the world a better place has now come down to a consumer choice – we want to bring this to life for you. We wish we could reveal more but it’s all going on behind the scenes. Just be ready
Today is the first day of a new decade. It is our goal to become a global brand by its end.
Today is the first day of a new decade. It is our goal to become a global brand by its end, showing people that a new type of business driven by a new kind of people can succeed. It’s an insanely high ambition but nothing else will allow us to achieve our vision. It’s going to be tough, we’re still finding ourselves, not to mention our business feet. But you can help us take the first step. You can be the early innovator, the opinion leader, the person who wore an idea on their back when everyone else was skeptical. Entire villages, towns, schools, universities, counties, countries, and even continents are waiting for this movement to knock on their door. We are asking you to knock first so that others may follow and change the game.
You are our heroes.
For the thousands of you who proudly wear the symbol of a new conversation, keep arking, inspiring, and spreading this most important message. You are our heroes. You are the beginning, middle, and end of our marketing strategy. For those of you who are yet to buy, perhaps unsure of who we are and what we stand for, this is us.
It’s New Years day and a time for resolutions.
This is ours. Join us
RICHES THAT ALL THE MONEY IN THE BOOM COULDN’T BUY
I was also commisioned by The Irish Times to write a full page opinion article on what future direction Ireland should take in the wake of the financial crisis.
Note: As head of communications for the brand, this is entirely my own work but all outward-facing communication was credited in the founder’s name as he is the face of the brand.
OPINION: LAST WEEK, my friends were in an off-licence getting a couple of cans for a quiet night in. No job, so no money for big nights out on the town anymore, writes CAMERON STEWART
They came to the top of the queue at 10pm and were 20 cent short. The shopkeeper, after a long and trying day, was having none of it.
That was until something amazing happened. A homeless man, who was begging outside after an equally long and trying day, heard the commotion, walked up to the guys and placed 20 cent in their hand.
This for me is hope.
The knowledge that despite all that is wrong with society, despite “these recessionary times”, despite those personal moments when it seems the universe itself is conspiring against you, that all is not lost, and that there is everything to be found.
All is not lost – even if every headline from here to next year sends a chill down the public’s spine. When your material world comes crashing down, all it takes is a call from a friend, a breath of fresh air or a gesture from a complete stranger to remind you of the wealth that permeates your life.
This wealth doesn’t have a figure attached, and maybe that’s what makes it priceless. It can be as simple as the health you take for granted, a family who are always there for you, or the community to which you belong. It is these elements that make up the fabric of our daily life, requiring neither recession nor boom for illumination.
Last year, aged 18, I decided to take a chance on an idea that could illuminate what life is about. I started a clothing brand that could encourage people to make the world a better place. My idea: Every time you wear the T-shirt you perform one Act of Random Kindness, an Ark°. Buy a stranger a coffee, give up your seat on the bus, help a drunk home. Just make someone’s day.
I initially thought about how it presented an opportunity to gain financial freedom, even become a millionaire. Then I realised that Ark° points to the world’s best kept secret: That you make a living by what you get, but a life by what you give.
With that, I emptied the Acts of Random Kindness Ltd business bank account, and what represented my life savings, and used it to buy gifts for the homeless in Belfast. At the time, I was written off as a naive idealist, with everyone saying that I was better off going to university and getting a proper job.
One year on, perhaps to this very day, Ark° has taken off, with people in 23 countries proudly wearing the brand and performing Acts of Random Kindness. We’ve also organised Ark° projects all over the world, from helping a family bring home their turf in Connemara, to repainting an orphanage in Zambia. In fact last week an Ark° volunteer in Nigeria called a meeting in his village with one simple question, how can we simply help each other more?
He is 16 years old.
When something like this can emerge from one person’s simple idea, I’ve reason to believe that far from being lost, everything is to be found.
I feel that while this recession has stripped people of hope, it has also brought forward a national self-awareness – an awareness of what works and what doesn’t.
The conversations I have in taxis and queues and lifts all evoke the same sentiment: “those times were good, but they weren’t filled with goodness”.
There is an awareness that living for yourself may get you places, but those places aren’t all that they claimed to be. In some cases, they don’t even exist.
There is a new-found value in the parts of life that taxation cannot touch, authentic wealth that is found in loving families, lasting friendships and meaningful pursuits.
If that is truly the case then the only thing in real recession is the attitude and mindset that defined the boom. I think that that way of thinking is best left in the past.
I read a story of a young man who left Ireland for Australia because there was no hope on these shores. Apart from some extra sun and job prospects, what conditions that contribute to sustainable human happiness are there but not here?
It’s my fear that if he places it in the same criteria that prompted his departure, he may find himself in a different place, but have arrived nowhere new.
We are more a movement than a company so we don’t believe in vacuous mottos that define our brand. However, I can’t help but come back to three words that define what we’re trying to get people to do: Change your world.
The recession may dominate our headlines, but it does not have to dominate our daily lives. Unless we are high-flying builders or Department of Finance officials, Nama does not hold a special place in every waking hour.
Our daily lives are a choice and we can either be a victim or victor of circumstances. We can choose to hang our heads and engage in roundabout conversations as to the state of things, or we can choose to fill our day with moments that all the money in the boom couldn’t buy.
Our jobs may not be safe, but their existence never defined our sense of self in the first place. What does is what you can do. Try buying a chocolate bar for a complete stranger. Try surprising your family with their favourite meal. Try living to give and experiencing the true meaning of wealth.
It’s all about Changing your World. For me that starts with an Ark.