The Art of Giving a Crap

The Art of Giving a Crap, by Nancy Colasurdo, FOXBusiness

When Todd Lieman says he wants to cut through the crap, it’s almost poignant. Or at least as poignant as talking about excrement can be.

I put aside my own squeamishness and made an effort not to scrunch up my face as I plunged into researching this campaign addressing the need for better sanitation conditions in much of the world. It’s called “Twitter for Sh-tters” and it is not designed so much to shock as to grab your attention.

“We wanted to bring the sanitation discussion out of euphemisms,” Lieman said.

The grassroots campaign was conceived by Skadaddle Media – Lieman is its founder and co-president with Jon Wank — for Wherever the Need, a United States-based non-profit that takes a holistic approach to the provision and use of eco-sanitation toilets and water. According to its Web site, the organization’s core aim is “the building of eco-sanitation toilets, which we believe to be vital to the good health of both people and the planet. We combine this with the provision and conservation of clean drinking water for people and, where possible, livestock, crops and trees.”

While causes whose mission is to clean up water are rightfully gaining steam, the idea of the Twitter for Sh-tters movement is to go a step deeper.

“You get clean water by cleaning up sanitation,” Lieman said. “As long as people keep relieving themselves outside, water will keep getting polluted.”

For anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, this is not a huge revelation. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie involved … well, let’s just say the mere memory is turning my stomach.

“If the source is people having to crap outside, then we’re at the source,” Lieman said.

But there’s more than his word that this cause needs attention. According to author Rose George’s book titled The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters, 2.6 billion people (that’s over a third of the world’s population) live without toilets or proper sanitation and every dollar invested in sanitation brings an average $7 return in health costs averted and productivity gained.

So this is how Twitter for Sh-tters is helping to alleviate the problem. The Web site accepts donations and even has a counter with updates on how much has already been raised (every $400 buys another eco-san toilet). Or an interested party can become a Daily Dumper, which means as a Twitter user — whether they have five followers or 5,000 — they spend the day tweeting to try and get their followers to donate (@tw_tter4sh_tter and #T4S). As the Web site puts it, “The point is to take this long-avoided topic and, pardon the expression, step right in it.”

Not only does this campaign distinguish itself in its innovative use of social media, unlike so many causes it also isn’t going out of its way to tug at heartstrings.

“We’re not trying to guilt anybody into anything,” Lieman said. “If you have a bidet and a heated toilet seat, good for you. Read a novel in there. The way we see it, there’s a zillion important causes. Maybe this one is yours.”

The response has been mostly positive, but the crude “tell it like it is” approach has its share of naysayers. What Lieman knows is that he has a happy client, one that came because of Skadaddle Media’s creative ‘aha moments’ campaign for Mutual of Omaha.

“The client loves it,” Lieman said. “They’ve been trying to do this for a long time. The [old] conversation has not been effective. We said, ‘Let’s try this out in social media.’”

As for naysayers in general, Lieman recently had some thoughts about schadenfreude while competing in a few marathons.

“Even in a small race, there were people out there applauding the runners,” Lieman said. “Then there are volunteers setting up tables of water and people handing you the water. Total strangers were offering me a high five. Communities were coming together. I thought, ‘Every day should be like this.’ We get caught up in applauding the demise of other people. Let’s remember what we’re doing out here.”

In some cases, giving people the most basic of things.

Source – July 29, 2009: http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/personal-finance/art-giving-crap/#

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