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The Underground Plant Exchange encourages grassroots empathy

The Underground Plant Exchange, which encourages white people to send black people plants, was created by New York-based DJ Freedem in June 2020. The idea, which originated as a tweet, quickly gained traction on Instagram, with posts for each US state. Users can comment on posts that match their location, requesting and offering plants, with drop-offs and deliveries arranged amongst users. The initiative, which was launched in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, was described by DJ Freedem as a space ‘where black people come to collect their reparation plant from white people.’

The link between houseplants, improved concentration and productivity and reduced stress levels are well documented..

So this grassroots movement is a moment of cheer in a world that’s dominated by pandemic worries, racial tensions, climate concerns and more. Even before George Floyd’s death pushed racism to the top of the collective agenda, many consumers were looking for moments of joy, with searches for ‘good news’ reaching a peak in April 2020, and John Krasinski’s Some Good News YouTube channel reaching 2.6 million subscribers as of June 2020. But this movement amplifies that, allowing white consumers to show empathy, connect with and give back to people of color (note, of course, that this doesn’t negate the very real, ongoing need for white people to put in work to end racial discrimination).

What can brands learn from the Underground Plant Exchange? This movement works because of its people-powered authenticy – that’s often lost once a corporation gets involved. So if you want to embed empathy and generosity into your brand DNA, make sure the focus is on the users and their needs. If there’s even the slightest suggestion of corporate gain, a movement becomes a machine.

The Underground Plant Exchange is also testament to the power of community and connection, sentiments that have been amplified by the pandemic. How can you continue to build communities on and offline, whether that’s to tackle broad social issues, offer disaster relief, or share knowledge and skills?

Stay healthy,

The TrendWatching content team