Around the world, December is a month of holidays. Almost all of these involve people coming together to share food. In fact, on the day of writing this, it’s (American) Thanksgiving, a celebration I was lucky enough to be invited into by a friend and her family when I lived in Massachusetts. There wasn’t a moment there where I wasn’t cared for and wholly invited in, and it’s one of my favourite memories of America.
This year, at Hi9, we’re expanding on this. We’re inviting people to set a #extraplace, not just for friends, but for anyone who can’t celebrate the holidays through financial barriers, rather than geographic ones.
So, what is Extra Place? It’s a marketing campaign aimed at raising awareness of foodbanks, both for people who intend to visit them and those who would like to donate. Extra Place is inspired by and based around our fantastic AI receptionist, Debbie. She can already be found at debbie.chat, ready to direct you to your closest foodbank.
Extra Place will begin via the distribution of QR codes, both on coasters, and on foods themselves, which will minimise plastic waste as well as keeping the advertising closely tied to its very purpose. These QR codes will be distributed wherever there are people: from Christmas markets to job centres and community boards. We have identified areas with high percentages of people with low incomes and plan to canvas these extensively.
The QR codes will serve two purposes. First, people will be encouraged to share them on social media with the hashtag #extraplace. This should facilitate the discussion of the ideas around it. What does it mean to set an extra place for someone? When has someone done that for you?
Not only will this increase awareness, it’ll also show the invisible connection between people who donate to foodbanks and people who visit them, as well as linking people to the foodbanks themselves, allowing them to find out where and what they can collect and donate. In future, Debbie will complete training so that, in addition to telling people how to find their nearest foodbank, they can also donate through talking to her – either the set price of a single meal or their own chosen amount.
The other purpose of the QR codes is Chapter I of an online narrative experience. In this, the player will be invited into Debbie’s world, to learn more about her and the things she loves, as well as solving a mystery. People will complete this by talking directly to Debbie and piecing together puzzles with her. This is not only some fun, but will encourage familiarity and ease with the platform. (And if anyone gets stuck, Debbie will happily give some hints on social media!)
So, with everything dark and dreary going on, what are you waiting for? Grab your phone, talk to Debbie, and ask about Extra Place!