Big Hearts, Big Minds Come Together to Discuss Hunger Solutions



Participants in the WeCanEndThis Cause Lab

By Ed Nicholson
On Monday, I had the privilege of sitting in on the first WeCanEndThis Cause Lab, a day-long think tank at the annual South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, focused on arriving at new solutions to the problem of hunger in the U.S.   Big vision guy, Scott Henderson conceived the event, and assembled it with with CauseShift partners Anne Bertelsen and Brian Reich, along with an all-star cast of non-profit and corporate partners (full-disclosure: Tyson Foods was a partner).

Altogether, the event drew a couple hundred participants throughout the day: a diverse bunch that included not only professional hunger fighters, but social good advocates from outside the cause, and socially-minded techsters.  A full overview of who, what and how can be found at so I won’t go into detail here.  Go check it out; it was a very interesting day.

Here’s why I think the event was a worthwhile investment of all of the participants’ time and resources:

  • If hunger is to be "solved,"  (and I think all of us in the game hold great hope that’s something that can occur), it won’t happen because one organization makes it happen.  And it won’t happen if all of us keep a singleminded focus on our own  organizational objectives (as worthy as they might be).   It’s going to take a collaborative effort among every single person and group now out there working on the cause.  It’s going to take competitors working together.  That happened here,  with Share Our Strength and Feeding America coming to the table, as well as Tyson and ConAgra, and others in the  consulting, tech and social services sectors who might otherwise compete for resources or share of mind. I think a lot of smart people have come to that realization, and you’re beginning to see more collaboration than ever before.
  • The solution (or more likely, solutions) to hunger won’t come solely from those currently leading the fight. It’s going to take more people; intelligent, innovative people; people totally unencumbered by a "been there, done that, won’t work" mindset.  It’s going to take more and more people who, in studying the problem, arrive at the gut check that hunger is in every community, and in some way, affects every single one of us.  In this one place, on this one day, I hope there were some new converts, who will stay involved as WeCanEndThis embarks upon the rest of a year-long noble experiment.


Would you pledge to end hunger?


For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be involved in a collaboration with a number of great partners, including our longtime friends Share Our Strength.  Designed to increase engagement in hunger relief, the Pledge to End Hunger will be highlighted in an online effort peaking at Austin’s South by Soutwest festival, by social media superstars Beth Kanter and Chris Brogan

You can find out more about the Pledge to End Hunger here.  For every person who signs the pledge, Tyson will donate 35 pounds of food to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.  If we get 1000, signatures (a truckload of food), we’ll continue donating, up to two truckloads of food to the states with the most signatures.

At Tyson Foods, we’ve always donated food to hunger relief.  But only in the past nine years, have we taken a strategic approach to doing it.

Some critical things we have learned:  We can leverage what we’re doing in making donations beyond the value of the food delivered.  We can use donation events to shine a spotlight on the need in our country.  We can engage new stakeholders.  We can create new awareness of the groups and people on the front lines of the fight against hunger.  And if by doing so, we bring a return on investment to our shareholders, we can keep the efforts sustainable, even when our company is not making a profit.

Social media have already proven to be natural and effective tools in expanding a critically-needed conversation in our country about hunger. 

We’re excited about the Pledge to End Hunger.  It brings new partners into the issue of hunger, and allows us to support Share Our Strength, who came alongside Tyson as a phenomenal partner when we made a formal commitment to hunger relief in 2000.  It’s built around the energy and enthusiasm of South by Southwest and offers the prospect of bringing thousands of new minds and fresh ideas to bear around a social problem that’s inexcusable in a country with the finest food production system in the world.

We can’t wait to see what happens. Please join us.