Share with Selam

A few months ago I found myself walking in the footsteps of Selam, a 13-year-old Ethiopian girl whose lack of access to clean drinking water challenged every aspect of her life. I wasn't standing in Ethiopia; I was standing in a mall in downtown New York City with a Samsung VR headset strapped on to my face. During the 9-minute film I found myself immersed in Selam’s view of the world, sharing a sliver of her challenges. Since I’ve had access to clean water my entire life it’s hard to imagine a world without it. The urge to help lingered long after taking off the VR headset.

How might I actually share water with Selam?

Donation drops button

A Dash for A Drink

Amazon released an impressive IoT device called an Amazon Dash Button. The button is designed to be placed next to the thing you need, like paper towels. Every time you need paper towels you push the button and Amazon will deliver paper towels in two days and then you can continue living your life. It is certainly cool technology but it adds less than impressive value to society. Who needs that many paper towels?

If I can press a button and make anything arrive at my doorstep in NYC why can't I press a button and make clean drinking water arrive for Selam in Ethopia?

Process flow

How it Works

Donation Drops starts with sticking a Dash Button next to a sink (or any frequented source of water). Every time I grab a drink and feel like sharing one with someone like Selam I hit the button. At the end of the month I'm prompted with an email suggesting how much to donate based on how many drinks I decided to share. The donation goes to a charity that works on bringing clean and safe drinking water to developing nations.

I've also added a logger app on my phone so I can share water on the go.

Data tracker snapshot


Follow along on the dashboard here. The dashboard tracks how well I’m sharing across time. Water isn’t just for drinking, it is also crucial for other aspects of living like bathing and cooking. So I log three different 'types' of shares-- drinks, cooking, and showers. Each type of share has a corresponding donation level. Another benefit of the system is it provides a timely view of my water consumption over the month-- I've been staying well hydrated.

Donation page


At the end every month an email drops into my inbox with the donation amount the tracker logged. Charity: water introduced me to Selam and the challenges posed by the global water crisis so my monthly donation goes to them. Charity: water’s 100% model means the entire donation goes to funding clean water projects (they also prove all the projects they build and they have a local network to maintain projects). Charity: water's original VR film and their volunteers embraced a mindset of donating out of hope rather than out of guilt. Each press of the button is always driven by that original hope.

Up Next

I love pressing buttons and in all seriousness I think it’s one of the reasons Amazon customers give the dash buttons a try —it’s human nature to be curious about what buttons do. But unlike normal buttons, the only action that happens after pressing the Donation Drops dash button is a small feedback light. How might I provide more instantaneous and exciting feedback to the sharer after a push? I don’t have the answer yet but if you do please drop me a message.

I’d like to make the Donation Drops more whimsical and less Amazonian. I’m considering a 3D printed mount for the dash as a starting point. See it here.

What do you like and what do you wish to see? What do you have questions about? What if…?