Almost a decade ago, around the time that Al Gore's movie was making greenhouse waves across the world, a strange memo landed on a politician's desk on the west coast of Canada. The memo was written by a proud government employee named Regan Hansen, whose mind was bursting with a completely revolutionary idea. She had started to imagine harnessing the endless power of the marketing industry to save the world. Her paper specifically referenced the incredible influence of loyalty points on the daily decisions of millions (really, billions) of consumers everywhere -- and her idea was to just find a way to use that same power of those same loyalty points as a lever to shift the behaviour of the masses in favour of the environment.
Her logic was so simple and straightforward and, as it turns out, her idea was so profound and had such world-changing potential: if rewards work so well in influencing our behaviour and our choices when we shop everyday, why wouldn't they also work well in influencing our lifestyle behaviours and choices in general? Why couldn't we simply entice people to live greener lives, instead of just relying on a whole lot of talk and guilt?
At almost exactly the same time, a group of passionate professionals from the rewards industry were sitting around a table at the other end of Canada, chasing a new kind of entrepreneurial dream. They had noticed the same big shift in social priorities and the same sense of urgency around climate change and greenhouse gases. And, ahead of just about anyone else in the world, they had decided to build a new kind of business, a type of social rewards program that could do exactly what Regan Hansen was hoping to do -- put the enormous power of the marketing world to work, to fix our world (and make them money along the way)!
It took several years for those two remarkable dream dots, from the two opposite corners of Canada, to be connected. Regan's journey of advocacy, persuasion and meticulous concept design inside her government world was long and tenuous. Along the way she found her job being shifted to a new public policy assignment with an equally urgent social mission: the promotion of healthy lifestyles and the fight against obesity.
Meanwhile the rewards professionals out east shaped and chased their idea, built the world's first "green points" program, fused it onto the biggest giant in their space and started to partner with government agencies all over the country, building eco-rewards programs for Canadians!
And then, all of a sudden, those two incredibly different but remarkably compatible paths crossed. In the summer of 2011, when Regan's bosses actually decided to give her brilliant idea a try, she called up those social entrepreneurs from the other side of Canada and, together, they built something that had never been imagined anywhere else in the world before: That summer, people all over British Columbia actually earned rewards just for walking into the grocery store and buying healthy fresh produce -- and those rewards were actually funded by their very own government!
Today, just four years after that bold experiment in BC and less than a decade after that daring government memo was first penned, Canada announced that it's launching the world's first national wellness rewards platform. A platform that brings together government, business and health charities in an incredibly effective and innovative way. A health-centric ecosystem that will touch, influence, inspire and reward millions of us and will likely have an awesome impact in the health and the lifestyle habits of our nation.
Dreams can sometimes change the world. It takes perseverance, passion, method, some more perseverance and maybe a bit of luck. But we all need to remember that it's usually the dreamers who end up becoming the game-changers for our world.
Regan is a very proud woman today. Her shy little dream, from her little corner of government, just became national policy. And we all know that our world needs many more Regan Hansens...