Photo by: Oxfam Shelflife

Thrift shops are brimming with secondhand items, from vintage clothing and books to home decor and housewares. But have you ever wondered about the stories behind these donated goods?

Oxfam’s new application, Shelflife, can tell you just that. A mix of charity, shopping and storytelling, the application allows people to share the stories behind the items they donate to one of 10 Oxfam shops in Manchester, United Kingdom.

All one needs is a smartphone. Donors attach a unique QR code to the product — tags are handed out at the participating Oxfam shops — and then photograph the item and write their stories via the app. Thrift shoppers, meanwhile, can read these stories by scanning the QR codes using the app.

Shelflife takes inspiration from the Tales of Things and Electronic Memory project, which employs the same technology. TOTeM, a collaboration between five British universities, has supplied Oxfam with 10,000 tags for the pilot project.

The app is free and ready for download, but only for the iPhone. An Android version is in the works, according to BBC.

Oxfam believes it can raise more funds with the new application. After all, everyone loves a good story. Sarah Farquhar, Oxfam’s head of retail, said products with an “interesting” story behind them are more appealing to the organization’s customers. While the use of riveting stories to generate sales is not new, Oxfam has modernized the concept, tapping a medium more suited to today’s modern age.

It’s an interesting idea that may inspire other aid groups eager to find new ways to raise funds.

Read our last #innov8aid.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

Join the Discussion