brief: “a cup of tea”
primary objective: discover, identify and
organize 20,000 unknown, unidentiﬁed,
unorganized personal support homecare/
healthcare workers (PSWs) in ﬁve targeted
cities in Ontario by Q4 2014.
By offering the PSWs a “cup of tea” via a
mobile phone-driven outreach campaign—the
chance to talk about their lives, about their
hopes, their dreams of a better life for
themselves and their families on their own
terms: to own their own life experience.
The “cup of tea” engagement concept is
designed for compatibility with the multiple cultures for which a shared cup of tea is a symbol of
trust, respite, conversation and friendship.
 mobilize SEIU stakeholders [clergy/church groups, media, university students, human rights
groups, persuaded politicians] to
[a] evangelize and recruit community leaders in targeted catchment populations and therefore
[b] catalyze fear-free dialogue (“a cup of tea”) with prospective SEIU members;
 incite political action by SEIU stakeholder communities, allies, and (especially) neutralize/
convert potential foes in order to regulate an unregulated healthcare market for the beneﬁt of
its workers, their clients and for a greater return on taxpayer investment;
 make history and grow the SEIU brand by headmanning the biggest single union new
membership enrolment in Canada in a generation
20,000 unorganized PSWs
8,000 SEIU members
Mine the vast number of untold PSW stories through the “cup of tea” program - an invitation to
prospective members to engage in a conversation that will allow us to draw attention to their
The resulting “story engine” serves two purposes: to increase public awareness of homecare
workers' contribution to society and to establish a rapport and general good-will with
prospective members to increase the probability of new memberships.
trust is paramount
The critical element is that the storytelling play out in in a fear-free, risk-free way:“a cup of tea.”
The “cup of tea” program's 'story engine' is the sum-total of all the untold stories of the
Odds are, given the 80% success rate in recruitment in the existing literature, a signiﬁcant
proportion of prospective members approached for “a cup of tea”—and, when the timing is
right, a video interview—will recruit themselves after telling their own story. (In many cultures,
nothing “happens” until the “third cup of tea,” when trust is established amongst all participants.
trust as outreach
When the prospective member is completely at ease with the process, the “cup of tea”
interview sessions will be videotaped for social and orthodox media dissemination via brief,
punchy videoclips drawn from interviews.These interviews will be ﬁlmed by SEIU “news teams”
for online and smartphone mobile viewing and sharing.
That storytelling is coordinated with a mobile phone outreach program designed to win
otherwise impossible-to-reach prospective new members, using well-established SMS mobile
outreach practices proven in women-centric programs in the developing world.
outreach “village elders”
mobile phone outreach
These 'PSW-storytellers' are identiﬁed and located by an SMS text outreach campaign run by
trained, mobile phone-equipped SEIU volunteer recruiters.
The SMS calltree model is based on well-established successes by the Grameen Bank in Bengal
and East Africa, identifying trustworthy female tribal/“village elders” who, once equipped with
mobile phones, led economic and social change campaigns far more effectively than any outside
These recruiters give away simple, cheap “free texting” mobile phones with airtime delimited
service packages to leaders in the prospect communities (ethnic, linguistic, geolocated), who
network the SEIU's membership opportunity to prospects otherwise unknown to SEIU.
There is no risk to the prospective members: they feel safe, trusted and have a “lifeline” all their
own to SEIU and its support/organizing network.
challenge: what about the expense of “giving away” phones?
solution: Alcatel’s $2 (correct: two bucks) phone, available, unlocked, in Canada by special order
to UK.With a Rogers or Telus SIMM card ($10), a prospective SEIU member can be in constant
free touch with an SEIU volunteer recruiter/mentor for $17.55/month via unlimited text.
(Credomobile.com in the US can help SEIU with system wrinkles and rollout, given the
company’s experiences with MoveOn.Org and other US social justice entities.)
In other words, the cost of acquisition of a new prospect in hard costs is >$32 per new
member if each recruitment takes a full month of SMS mobile use. If one phone results in four
recruitments/month, raw cost is $8 per new member.
the “call tree”: organic networking outreach
The SMS calltrees “grow” like this: a “village elder” who trusts SEIU and its intentions asks SEIU
permission to give an SEIU-owned phone to prospective SEIU member unknown to SEIU.
The phone’s SIMM can be pre-set to prevent longdistance calls and other abuses. If the “village
elder” receives permission to give the phone to a prospect, a text conversation begins.
The aim of the text conversation is either immediate recruitment (if possible) or a slower
conversion process around a broaching the the idea of video interview for the prospect to tell
her story to the SEIU “news team.”
Once the prospect is recruited, the phone is handed off to the next prospect by the “village
elder”—in the best case, with a recommendation by the phone’s present user—and the cycle
 SEIU becomes a trusted voice by fearful prospective members and their networks
 SEIU becomes an “SMS publisher,” sharing SEIU beneﬁts, professional tips and networking
options via daily “newsbreaks” in appropriate language, with SMS-embedded URL links to allied
YouTube and Facebook experiences
print advertising media broadcast
social media outreach
the SEIU “story engine”: story as “call to action”
The “cup of tea” storytelling system is simple: SEIU acts as “publisher” to tell the stories.There
is no political or organizing ‘message’: the aim is pure emotional impact, based on the power of
the PSW stories we hear and record.
For more see
There are two genres of video storytelling in this system:  the PSWs and  stakeholders
supporting them: their clients, their “village elders,” even their families.
Once identiﬁed, these prospects interviewed by the SEIU “news team,” interviews designed to
be distilled to brief, tight (>90secs), professionally edited videoclips telling the prospective
members’ stories and (best case) including comments from their client, praising their work. (Of
course, new members are asked to be part of the same process, likewise their client base.)
These videoclips are published by SEIU for mobile consumption and sharing across app
networks such as WhatsApp and online on SEIU'sYouTube channel.
The videoclips are also formatted for embedding in SEIU emails and in SMS to the growing “call
tree” network so prospective members with internet access can see and hear SEIU members
who’ve “crossed the moat” and are now advocates.
In essence, prospective members become their own best media channel, with SEIU mediating
distribution and tracking incoming prospect coordinates for followup conversations to organize
the new members.
These interviews are designed speciﬁcally as “calls to action” to stakeholders to
 motivate other SEIU prospective members and
 move and incite stakeholders by telling highly personal, highly relevant stories about
meaningful work, personal service, the importance of the caregiver relationship, and,
 in context, show why, with an aging population and an unregulated personal service worker
marketplace, union representation will raise standards of care well beyond the incremental costs
of “living wage” increases.
This last point is critical: demonstrating to all that an SEIU-mediated business model for PSWs
simply makes good business sense in an Ontario healthcare environment under severe funding,
demographic and service provider pressures.
all clients disabled seniors media
politicians community groups “village elders”
Simply put, the sum-total of all stakeholders is the audience ecosystem for this project—our
storytelling touches everyone: that’s the nature and power of shared story.
For one thing, we’ll need all the help we can get to organize 20,000 prospects; further, political
action across the entire movement-for-change ecosystem—from SEIU volunteers to university
students to activist lawyers to Queens Park—demands we effectively share these powerful
 downside of any public approach to a fearful, anonymous group of at-risk individuals is
exposing them to employer threats and worse
 any social media exposure invites “ﬂaming,” “spamming” and abusive behaviours
 a program predicated on mobile telephone “call trees” is subject to potential abuse of
texting privileges and loss of the device
 political opposition
 media opposition
 community ignorance
 client opposition
Safety. Dignity. Respect. Pride. Change. Possibility.A simple cup of tea that changes everything.
tactics: (sample communications vehicles/programs)
social media outreach
clear channels for spreading stories across social media venues:
• deploy twitter to drive trafﬁc to Facebook hub content extend conversation generated by
• propagate video to Pinterest and Tumblr to maximize sharing potential across all stakeholder
communities, especially socially aware, politically active women 18-45.
• build SEIU/PSW contact tab on (password protected/‘secret group’) Facebook to make it easy
for prospective members to get answers to difﬁcult questions.
• create campaign-speciﬁc FAQ set from best ones to help inform the rest of the group; direct
quotes from SEIU thought-leaders via videoclips onsite
• align all social media storytelling to mobilize volunteers/union staff to help recruit prospective
members in speciﬁc languages, in culturally appropriate ways
• identify Canadian bloggers who focus on social issues, contact them, and set up a timed
content distribution system to give them ready access to the SEIU stories and core SEIU
messaging.They'll create blog posts that will help mobilize other social activist groups
community newspaper ads; arts events (photography exhibitions, special dinners, townhalls);
community radio station appearances; message boards in temples, churches, social clubs, coffee
shops and specialty food stores well-known in ethnic communities;
secondary: ad placements on public transport in the ﬁve target cities, with messaging focussing
on trust and care for the PSWs themselves and making them aware of mobile phone outreach
campaign.“The biggest changes in life sometimes start with a simple cup of tea”
Awareness outreach via face2face meetings with “ﬁrst responders” likely to have contact with
prospective PSW member prospects
• public health staff
• CCAC staff
other tactics: explore brand alliances with suppliers of items PSWs actually use to sponsor
scholarships/stipends/professional development programming for new SEIU members as
corporate social responsibility piece and community “give back” opportunity
• sterile gloves
• hand sanitizer
• wet wipes
Also: approach local, regional and national tea companies with clear social justice brand value as
“hostess” for SEIU “cups of tea”
program development cycle: 90 days from approval
pre-launch logistics/training volunteer pieces: 45 days post-development cycle
program critical path:TBD based on audit internal/volunteer resources prior to budget lock
Outside of SEIU existing infrastructure (organizing and communications staff, telecom
overheads, mileage/per diem, web resources, web developer) the following budget line-items are
conversation-starters only, to develop a full-on budget: I’ve no certain idea what resources SEIU
can practically dedicate to this proposed program without an audit of available assets/talent.
• 25 “give away” mobile phones and monthly minimum plans @$35 each per month for 24
months = $21,000 (assumes “start to ﬁnish” mobile usage: unlikely, as program will naturally
grow to personal word of mouth beyond mobile “call tree”)
• 1000 “cups of tea” @$2.50 each (incl tip) = $2,500
• video interviews: camera/audio talent @$15/hr (ﬁlmmaking or digital journalism students/
Ryerson, Fanshawe, Conestoga, UWO, UofT, Carleton)
• assume 150 interviews @ 2hrs each worktime = $4500 + HST
• editing video interviews @$35/hr @ 350h (review total captured footage + edit) = $12500 +
• media placements (not essential but likely beneﬁcial): public transport display ads (in-vehicle
and select external-vehicle) and community newspaper classiﬁeds
item rationale cost
25 “giveaway” mobile phones @
$35/month for 24 months
contact/”word of mouth”
$21,000 + HST (NB: assumes full
month mobile cost to acquire new
1000 “cups of tea” @ $2.50 each,
trust-building social encounter to
set up recruitment and interview
“news team” video interview talent ﬁlmmaker/journalism students keen
on social activism ‘learn by doing’
$4500 + HST
editing talent ditto $12,500 + HST
OPTIONAL: public transport ad/s:
rolling ad placements, one city at a
time, over ﬁve months for 30 days
“drive to SMS”: incites interest in
getting in touch w/”village elders”
to get SEIU “lifeline mobile phone”
$3500 + HST (average publishing/
placement cost) x 5 month =
$16,500 + HST
newspaper (native language)
incites interest in getting in touch
w/”village elders” to get SEIU
“lifeline mobile phone”
ﬁve 30 day placements x 10
newspapers total @ $25 + HST =
$1250 + HST
$58,250 + HST
what does success look like?
Extant research on PSW organizing in the US via the Los Angeles and northern California SEIU
recruitment drives (Delp/Quan, 2004) suggests a positive response rate of some 80%, a ﬁgure
echoed in Gail Acton’s white paper (2009).
Assuming we reach 50% of all possible as-yet unorganized PSWs, some 10,000 women, and we
succeed in recruiting 75% of those within 24 months of launch, that’s 7500 successful new
At the suggested “above the line” “conversation-starter” budget outlined above, that’s a cost of
acquisition per new member of $58,000/7500 or $7.76 over two years.