In America today there are more than 250 million mobile devices in service. Yet, within a country that’s viewed as the global leader in technology, there are over 45 million people living in poverty, and millions left unable to afford a quality mobile device or service.
While many consider a smartphone a luxury, to those at or below the poverty line it can be the difference between spending the night on a street or Googling the nearest night shelter, between using the emergency room for their doctor and finding medical services and help online, or allowing those estranged from family to reconnect with relatives and help get their lives back on track.
Within this environment of impact potential, married with strong consumer demand for companies doing the right thing, SparrowMobile.com was born, the brainchild of Jim Kenefick, Amy Tucker, and Matt Bauer. Sparrow is a national U.S. wireless carrier bringing the successful buy-one-give-one business model to the $250 billion U.S. mobile services industry. For every customer that signs up for service, a smart phone device or a month’s service is donated to someone in need via one of Sparrow’s impact area programs serving the homeless, foster youth and refugee families. The company provides a mainstream way for consumers in the U.S. to do well and do good through their mobile voice, data and text services, while enjoying the same levels of quality and pricing they currently get from the major providers.
Kenefick, Tucker and Bauer adopted a balanced hybrid business model, with the for-profit Sparrow Mobile focused on profitable product and service delivery; while its nonprofit, Mobile for All, focusing on social impact through a network of partnerships. It’s a business plan that has already attracted grants and donations from a wide variety of supporters including Google, Citi, Tipping Point Communities and Twitter.
“Everything we do has a purpose and aligns with our vision, mission and values,” notes co-founder and Chief Impact Officer, Amy Tucker. “From our radically inclusive business model, to our strategic partnerships, and even down to the name, Sparrow, which means hope in Latin, is also one of the most common and beautiful species in the world. We connect people in meaningful ways through impactful partnerships and inviting consumers to join in helping to support their fellow citizens,” adds Tucker.
Quick to spot new opportunities for mobile to make a difference, Sparrow Mobile has helped form a new partnership, RefugeeMobile, focused on the historic and growing global refugee crisis. Launching in April 2016, RefugeeMobile will bring the benefits of smartphones, Internet connectivity, mobile services and tailored apps to refugees through a 15-month trial. RefugeeMobile will enable refugees to access tools that are most sought after by displaced people on the move to foreign lands: translation, navigation, transportation, and job seeking. It won’t just be the refugees that benefit either, social workers, case managers and aid workers will be freed to focus on the deeper challenges of integration.
“The world is at a critical moment that tests our commitment to displaced people around the world,” says Bauer. “Over 60 million people are displaced, and more people have been forced to flee their home countries than at any point since World War II,” notes co-founder and CEO Bauer.
“Companies such as Google and Goldman Sachs have stepped up by contributing millions to help the refugee crisis. But donations alone, while welcome, are not enough,” says Bauer. “Think about your business and put yourself in the shoes of someone desperate for housing, communication, food or education. Think about how your business can move beyond charity towards becoming a profitable business that solves social problems too.”