Excess Food + Community > Hunger
The Robin Hood Army is a volunteer driven organization, which collects excess food from restaurants and gives it to the less fortunate of the community across 53 cities. The team has expanded through a decentralized, hyper-local model, which serves the local neighborhood.
The volunteers are young professionals and students who contribute in their free time. The Robin Hood Army launched in Delhi, India in 2014 with a food drive serving 150 people; with a stringent no-funds policy the organization has currently served food to 4.2 million people through a network of 12,500 volunteers. The operations of each chapter are self-managed: each local unit has an Uber-esque core team which oversees basic operations, restaurant on-boarding, social media presence, and volunteer management.
The Robin Hood Army has scaled through various zero-cost modes of digitalization – reaching out to a wider audience through social media and YouTube TED talks, rigorously tracking growth metrics on Google Docs, and coordination of food drives and knowledge sharing on WhatsApp groups!
Is this the final solution?
While embracing social media and grassroot digitalization has been the binding force behind the Robin Hood Army – the impact is still barely scratching the surface of the global hunger problem. There are 794 million malnourished people in the world; conversely a third of the food produced get wasted and thrown away. The problem has never been a lack of food – but access to food.
Digitalization is the Robin Hood Army’s engine to grow its impact, but the speed of adoption can potentially come in the way of the organization making a real difference to global hunger. The Robin Hood Army has reached a phase, where it needs to transit from a project fueled by passion and energy, to a data-driven, tech-enabled platform, which can expand seamlessly.
How does the Robin Hood Army plan to grow its impact exponentially?
Over the last few months the team has launched into hyper expansion mode focusing on defined levers:
- Coordinated Social Media Strategy:.
Through a targeted strategy, which focuses on visual experiences, the social media team aims to share stories, moments, and updates across platforms to reach out to a wider audience. 92% of volunteer and press coverage requests are generated through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Aggressive DIY Expansion into more countries:
The team has developed Do-it-Yourself kits, which guide people across the developing world to set up local Robin Hood Army chapters within their communities. There is a dedicated expansion team, which remotely helps new cities launch operations through Skype sessions. In the last 6 months, through the efforts of a focused team – the Robin Hood Army has grown it’s presence from 32 to 53 cities.
Global Hunger Spread:
- Embracing Technology:
There are three broad components to this model – the restaurants, the volunteers and the under-served. The team is at an early stage in developing technology that can connect all three players in a seamless manner to create a real-time food management solution. In the medium to long term, this is probably the most important lever to execute to actually make a significant difference to global hunger.
- Mega Partnerships:
The non-funded model is a strong goodwill creator and this has enable the Robin Hood Army to carve out partnerships with global brands such as Viacom, Uber, Disney and TED.
While the team focuses on the global hunger problem, there are a couple of questions, which routinely crop up:
- With organized community platforms mobilized to help across different parts of the world, should the Robin Hood Army focus beyond food and hunger?
The team has used its resources within the community to address short-term projects on education and disaster management. With an increasingly divisive world, is this the way forward for the Robin Hood Army?
- Should the team re-consider its stance on zero fund involvement?
While this policy is the basis for rapid expansion through social media without any ethical risk; this is the primary reason thousands of volunteers are attracted to the cause. However with the first principle of real impact – will the Robin Hood Army need to change this approach to develop sustainable technology to beat global hunger?
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LiveMint, October 5, 2017, “The Robin Hood Army: Hunger warriors”, [http://www.livemint.com/Industry/arm2GH1zHmcZHu4BavG1dJ/The-Robin-Hood-Army-Hunger-warriors.html], accessed November 2017.
NDTV, September 17, 2017, “Robin Hood Army: Indians And Pakistanis Unite Against A Common Enemy”, [https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/a-band-of-indians-and-pakistanis-are-fighting-a-common-enemy-hunger-1751431], accessed November 2017.
Huffington Post, August 14, 2017, “The Robin Hood Army Is On A Mission To Free 1 Million People From Hunger This Independence Day”, [http://www.huffingtonpost.in/robin-hood-army/photoblog-the-robin-hood-army-is-on-a-mission-to-free-1-million_a_23076429/], accessed November 2017.
The Free Press Journal, January 1, 2017, “Robin Hood Army: Making the best from waste”, [http://www.freepressjournal.in/featured-blog/robin-hood-army-making-the-best-from-waste/995594], accessed November 2017.
Free Malaysia Today, December 16, 2016, “The Robin Hood’s who feed KL’s poor”, [http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2016/12/16/the-robin-hoods-who-feed-kls-poor/%5D, accessed November 2017.
The Guardian, June 2, 2015, “The Robin Hood Army: fighting food waste in India and Pakistan”, [https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/jun/02/the-robin-hood-army-fighting-food-waste-in-india-and-pakistan], accessed November 2017.
Robin Hood Army Website, DIY Kit, [http://robinhoodarmy.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2015/07/RHA-Deck-2.pdf], accessed 2017.
TEDx, “Eat. Feed. Love.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A1UrHirtXg&t=741s], , accessed 2017.