There are some really cool social impact projects out there! Up on my radar is one called the GEM Project (Going the Extra Mile). GEM changes the way that you think of social volunteering projects because you actually get rewarded for your efforts. The project was started by David Shields and Camilo Ramada. I got to speak to Camilo to learn more about GEM and what we should be doing to help out the project.GEM ProjectWhy does GEM does exist?

We were talking about how come that in poor area’s there are so many people “doing nothing”. We call that “unemployment”, but isn’t it actually very weird that in poor communities where you need a lot of cleaning, fixing, taking care of people, doing simple chores, etc. to improve the lives of people, at the same time you have people who aren’t doing anything? How come all the unemployed people in a poor township are not fixing and taking care of all the problems, now that they have the time? Isn’t that a weird contradiction?

The answer is, according to us, a lack of incentive. So we thought: there are so many incentive schemes. Your bank gives you points, your supermarket gives you points, your insurance gives you points, bosses incentivise people so they work harder, parents incentivise kids so they do the dishes and go to bed on time, so why shouldn’t we incentivise the most important thing in life: To Do Good Deeds!

There’s nothing wrong with rewarding a good deed! Actually there is a lot of good in rewarding a good deed. So that’s where the idea for GEM was born in less than 2 hours.GEM-Project-3Could you describe how GEM works?

Today, GEM supports almost 2 dozen social organisations that do approximately 30 social activations per month. People go to those activations and help to clean up a neighbourhood, or do small chores in a children’s home, or groom pets, or work in a community garden, or help kids with maths, or one of many other options.
In doing so, they improve the lives of others, feel good about themselves, have FUN, and, at the end, they earn 30 GEMs, as a “token of appreciation”.

You receive your GEMs on your phone, whether you have a smart phone (download the GEM Project App from your app store) or a simple phone (dial *120*4361# and take it from there). You can spend your GEMs straight from your phone on airtime, pre-paid electricity, data, movie tickets, groceries, and soon to come even petrol.

So, we have double impact: first of all, the people do good deeds which help other people and communities. And secondly, people now can access important goods and services, which improve their own quality of life.GEM-Project-4Where the project is going?

GEM is growing fast. First of all, we get more and more social activations. At this moment we have a waiting list. But we are also spreading out over the country: Cape Town, PE, Durban, NW Province, are all in different stages of integration.

We are offering more and more products for sale through the platform. And we are starting to offer financial services such as payments, savings, credit, remittances and insurance, through the platform.

Our newest launch is that we offer games that people can play (Quizzes or Snake) and win GEMs while also learning about social issues and engaging in brand awareness.

And, how would you like young people to move the project. What should we be doing to help GEM succeed?

Young people are the flower of the nation. Here is all the motivation, the energy and the new ideas for making South Africa great. Everyone is welcome to engage in GEMs activities, which you can find on the app or on social media.

We are also looking for young people who want to be ambassadors for their immediate communities, promoting GEM activations in their environment, and making an income while they’re at it.

I think it’s great! They launched on Nelson Mandela day, July 18th 2015, and have a volunteer base with 2600 members already. I think it’s time for you to get involved. You can find more information about the GEM Project by checking out their website: or by following them on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.
You can easily download GEM by accessing your app store:
If you don’t have a smartphone, simply dial *120*4361# or *120*GEM1# to get started.

Photos by The GEM Project and Yetunde Dada