INTERVIEW: Mika and Emi Onishi, Co-Founders of UPTOGOOD

Simon Mainwaring / Purpose / 1 year ago

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As our world continues to see the forces of digital media and purposeful brands converge, we are continually inspired by companies seeking to harness and share the power of storytelling for good in novel ways.

We recently caught up with Mika and Emi Onishi, co-founders of UPTOGOOD (www.UPTOGOOD.org) – “a content and social network for doing good together.” The two sisters, who boast impressive backgrounds in digital publishing and product management, bring a fresh mindset to the purposeful storytelling space through a smart, socially-minded approach.

During our discussion, Mika and Emi share insights on what prompted them to start UPTOGOOD as well as their vision for enabling and empowering impact storytellers.

We First: What prompted you to start UPTOGOOD?
Mika Onishi: The documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix, which prompted me to go from carnivore to vegan overnight and kick-started a nightly binge of watching social change documentaries. As my watchlist grew – juxtaposed against the work I was doing in digital publishing during the day – the contrast between where most of our attention lies in mainstream media against what imminently deserves more of our attention began to gnaw at me, and I saw the potential for a user-generated, video-based crowdfunding and action platform. I wanted to celebrate the art of storytelling, and its potential power to change the world for the better.
Emi Onishi: On my side, I’d been harboring the desire to bring social change to the world. In particular, I’ve been a passionate fan of documentary films based on social change throughout the years, and have always been inspired by the work of amazing storytellers and their ability to move people. This left me wanting to build a product for social impact and to simplify the process of giving, providing an easy way for good-hearted people to put their post-viewing inspiration to action.

We put our two heads together and UPTOGOOD was born as a content and social network for doing good together. On UPTOGOOD, anyone can create an impact campaign around an inspiring video of any length to crowdfund the impact storyteller and/or a social impact project, start a petition, rally people around a pledge, or spread the word with a choice of four actions: FUNDit, SIGNit, PROMISEit, SHAREit. The campaign can be built around a full length social change documentary film, a simple selfie video about something you care about, or anything in between so long as it has potential for good, social impact and inspiration.

WF: What are you most excited about?
We’re excited that macro trends are aligning to make this an opportune time to be able to leverage technology to bring more good into the world. This comes at a pivotal time in human history in which action must be taken now on many pressing issues.

Nowadays, everyone is a publisher and a potential storyteller – increasingly with a focus on online video. Content creation tools have rapidly become affordable and accessible to everyone. Producing and uploading videos, taking high quality photos and sharing them are all within our reach via our camera phones, laptops, digital cameras and editing tools.

At UPTOGOOD, we are excited to tap into these trends specifically for doing good together. We built UPTOGOOD as a tool to harness good hearts and inspirations via technology and storytelling, and to place more power in the hands of those who are motivated to make our world a better place. With UPTOGOOD, we’ve created a place where you can “Watch. Get Inspired. Act.”

WF: What role does storytelling play in creating positive social change?  
Storytelling is UPTOGOOD’s lifeblood! We have tremendous respect for the art of storytelling as a catalyst for social impact.

Stories build empathy and compassion. A story well-told can make issues real and personal. They plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into an audience. Telling the story of a real person can humanize an abstract issue, or a far-distant conflict and convert it into something relatable. Science proves the brain synchronizes with the subject of a well-told story. Stories move people in a way that facts and figures sometimes cannot and inspire action. Video works to enhance this power of storytelling by touching our hearts over our rational minds.

WF: What is the long-term vision for UPTOGOOD?
To become the go-to platform and meeting place for social action and doing good together by harnessing the power of storytelling as a source of inspiration.

We also look forward to having UPTOGOOD be a sort of IMDB for social good where you can get to know celebrities, influencers and your friends by the causes they care about and the social “goodprint” they’re making.

We believe that change happens in numbers. It’s not always just one person doing a lot of work. It can actually be as simple as lots of people doing a little bit of work. That is momentum, that is how things move, that is how we arrive at a world that is UPTOGOOD. We’d love UPTOGOOD to become a mainstream activity for everyone to be a part of, and the positive change they want to see in the world. We’d love for “being UPTOGOOD” to feel aspirational, accessible, and dare we say cool to everyone. We never want to become sanctimonious. Rather, we want to be a place for anyone with a good heart.

We also want to be a place in which impact storytellers can monetize and sustain their ability to tell inspirational stories that can be a catalyst for positive change and education. As a brand that truly has tremendous respect for the art of storytelling, we believe fostering an unencumbered, neutral place for distribution and monetization for impact storytellers is key. We see ourselves as both a crowdfunding and action platform for impact storytellers, causes and social impact projects, as well as an arts patronage vehicle for these important storytellers for whom we hope we can supplement existing forms of monetization and distribution.

WF: What advice would you offer to potential contributors, or those seeking to launch their own social enterprise?
A good story told well inspires change. Understanding the role storytelling has on impact and developing this skillset within yourself as an activist, within your organizations, or even just as a good-hearted person who wants to be part of this movement for GOOD is an important step. We are excited that the enabling technologies exist to move towards positive change.

Creating a sustainable social enterprise starts with the why – which is, in other words, why you started and your story as an organization and/or brand. Why you are building this enterprise, the authentic story you tell, outside of pure monetary gain, is ultimately what will help you build your team, gain partners, and the support you need to launch your company. Be very clear about your “why” and ensure any decisions you make, small and large, are in alignment with your story.
For more information, you can read about UPTOGOOD on Forbes: http://www.bit.ly/UPTOGOODForbes

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