Social Experiments And Causes: The GROW SOLE Project

Everyone knows about the Butterfly Effect, which shows how small actions can make a big difference. But what about the Boot Effect?

A pair of shoes, boots, or flip-flops sent to a child in an underdeveloped country can have a truly life-changing impact. Shoes keep kids’ feet warm and dry, of course. But by preventing infections and diseases like tetanus and hookworm, shoes can also keep kids in developing countries healthy. And  that leads to emotional benefits as well.

Go to just about any home in the United States and there will be a few pairs of shoes sitting in the closet that aren’t being worn, each with the potential to change the life of someone less fortunate. The question is, how do you get the shoes from the world’s closets to the kids who need them?

Igniting causes through the convergence of real and social worlds



The Coore Foundation’s GROW SOLE project mixes traditional, guerilla, and social media to drive shoe donations locally while addressing a global problem.

Print advertisements, posters, postcards, snipes, floor decals, and shoe donation bins with messages like “Save your sole,” “Have an old sole?” and “Don’t sell your sole. Donate it” were placed in churches, corporations, and universities, asking people to donate their gently used shoes for children in developing countries. These action-oriented communications were combined with iconic photographs of everyday shoes, from flip-flops to wingtips to cowboy boots.

The GROW SOLE campaign began on a grass-roots level. But an additional social media component is helping the movement grow exponentially. Facebook and Flickr pages will encourage visitors to take a photo of the shoes they are donating and to spread the word, and they can learn how to get a GROW SOLE drive going in their own community. A YouTube video featuring dancing footwear shows the satisfaction of giving shoes to people who need them. Twitter feeds broadcast convenient locations for shoe donations. In this way, the virtual world helps drive action in the “real” world and vice versa.

A SOLE-cial experiment

The GROW SOLE project uses guerilla efforts combined with social efforts to give a full multichannel project experience. Messages like “Don’t sell your sole. Donate it” went beyond mere wordplay to connect with their target and take the meaning of “soles” to a more soulful place.

But the real success of the multichannel GROW SOLE campaign is the very real social impact it’s having on the lives of children in Central America, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. The Coore Foundation hopes to donate as many as 50,000 shoes in 2012 as a result of the GROW SOLE campaign.

And while creating an engaging experience is satisfying on creative and strategic terms, putting shoes on deserving feet truly shows the power that can be unleashed when a cause is ignited.

Steve Walsh, ACD/copy at The Cement Bloc, contributed to this article.

4 comments about "Social Experiments And Causes: The GROW SOLE Project".
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  1. Amy Beaver from Proximus Mobility, February 17, 2012 at 11:33 a.m.

    Hi Elizabeth! Who should I contact in regards to donations? Do they also accept new shoes?

  2. Elizabeth Elfenbein from Cherish Health, February 17, 2012 at 11:49 a.m.

    Hi Amy.
    Please contact
    Go to their donate page (which we are updating this as I write.)

    Reach out to Ann-Marie Coore who will help direct your efforts.

    It is a wonderful cause. and the who foundation is in the process of being rebranded.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 17, 2012 at 5:59 p.m.

    Are the shoes given or sold to people in underdeveloped countries ? Driving through Kenya and Tanzania, our group saw tables piled full of clothes and shoes from other parts of the world at the markets for sale. I usually drop things off at Salvation Army or Goodwill or even Dress for Success. And you can add people who are willing to buy new socks and other clothes or disposable shavers, many veterans at the VA Hospitals appreciate them.

  4. Elizabeth Elfenbein from Cherish Health, February 17, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.

    They new and gently used and they are donated.
    The Coore Foundation works in concert with the Red Cross to distribute them around the world.

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