GEM project

A young South African entrepreneur had an idea to create social change on a digital platform, three years later and his concept has grown into one of the most innovative ways to give back in Africa.


On 14th September 2014, a small non-profit organisation was formally registered. At the time, this baby organisation had nothing to give but HOPE and an action plan.

GEM or “Going the Extra Mile” was launched on Mandela Day 2015 by Co-founders Camilo Ramada and David Shields. They had discussed how difficult it was for people to change their socio-economic status. Together they used their skills to create GEM.

GEM’s was a dream that one-day people would be able to log on their phones, find an organisation in need (where they’d feel welcome) and go about doing-good deeds in their community.

“We thought to ourselves, imagine a place where people with nothing to give (but their time) could feel appreciated by positively impacting others? In our hearts, that dream grew and so the mammoth task began…”

The goal? Create a mobile platform that would take the logics of reward systems and apply them to rewarding good-deeds; thus making better use of someone’s time, willingness to help and disposable income. The team worked day and night to make this a reality.

Their dream was for all South Africans to be able to network and to look across the tracks from one another, somehow making tangible this foreign concept of a Rainbow Nation we so desperately crave.

It’s been 3 years since that vision was created. What many people thought would remain a pipedream has blossomed; it has excelled under the harshest conditions.

“We’ve experienced an overpowering pushback of naysaying, deliberation, closed doors and laughter by individuals who’ve all but lost hope in a begrudgingly sad and forgotten society. But they forgot that we also play host to the most beautiful, kind and caring citizens the world has ever seen; that along this treacherous path, we too would encounter many unsung heroes – champions of the community.”

With the support and the motivation of those South Africans they wholly and truly have been able to achieve the impossible. The stats speak for themselves…

In just 3 years, GEM has grown into a fully-fledged mobile rewards platform, which operates as both a smartphone app and (free) *120*GEM1# channel. In 36 months, they’ve fostered relationships with 40 NGO organisations in 3 cities establishing a strong, powerful grassroots network in often forgotten parts of the country.

They have rewarded 1000’s of volunteers on a monthly basis with a small token of appreciation to help them get by. If users are simply happy to help, they donate their GEMs back to the organisation in need.

Collectively, they’ve hosted over 500 community activations and they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

GEM has become a mobile currency in its own right. 1 GEM is equal to 1 rand and on the platform, users are able to redeem their GEMs for airtime, electricity, data, Ster Kinekor movie tickets, Shoprite & Checkers groceries and even Vida e Caffe and KFC eVouchers!

That’s right, a mobile platform that helps the unemployed do good and in turn, feed their families. It exists!

So far they’ve rewarded 200 000 GEMs to over 8000 volunteers across SA.

They have also done studies on how this small reward has had MASSIVE effects; improving health and wellbeing, increasing employability and furthering volunteerism on a more consistent basis; ultimately bringing people from all walks of life together.

And we haven’t even gotten to the beneficiaries! Tens of thousands of misguided youth, stray animals, HIV affected orphans, the homeless, the hungry, the inspired in need of tutoring and mentorship – all of these individuals have benefitted from the GEM platform in our 3 years of operation.

“BUT here’s the thing – even though we’ve won awards, been tipped as the biggest tech-development tool to come out of the non-profit space, been told we’re innovative and forward thinking, at the end of the day we remain a Social Venture.”

“This year we’ve faced some tough and challenging times. Do we sit back and cry foul? HELL NO, we take the bull by the horns and ride on BUT: we can’t do it alone, we need your donations to help us take it to the next level!

This month, MANDELA MONTH, we’re asking you – our kind and loyal supporters to purchase GEMs and help us FILL THE GEMJAR!”

The team are pushing to expand into other cities, more impoverished areas, which possess great possibilities but with limited capacities.

“We can create the micro-economies these places need to help improve their living conditions! But we CANNOT do it alone. EVERY SINGLE rand (dollar, pound, euro) you donate will go towards rewarding volunteers for mentoring, caring, feeding, reading, cleaning and teaching needy beneficiaries who have so much to gain.”

So this month (MANDELA MONTH) they are taking the high road, stopping along the way to pay tribute to the great words of Mr. Ian Thomas, “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

Indeed, there are still beautiful, kind and empathetic people in this world. People who want to help and who DO help. Some of them volunteer with their time and efforts and some with their networks and resources.

“And so dear friends, it has come time for us as GEM to request assistance with the latter. We understand that not everyone can find the time or availability, or is maybe not close to one of our locations, and that’s why we’ve made it easy – donate!”

“Help us make a difference in the lives of SO MANY ordinary South Africans; to continue to positively impact 1000’s of people every month.”

“We’re filling the GEM Jar and be it with love (SHARE, TAG OR COMMENT) or money – your support means the world. Crowdfunding link – “

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz


Sources: Facebook 
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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