Impossible is, according to its website, a social network that aims to motivate users to do nice things for perfect strangers. The concept and creation was brought to us by the mind of 26-year-old Lily Cole, the renowned red-haired English model, actress, and Cambridge grad. You may recognize her from her work with world-renowned designer brands such as Alexander McQueen and Prada, or from her leading role as Valentina in the 2009 film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but now Cole – a brilliant combination of beauty and brains – is pursuing another dream.
In a recent phone interview, Cole told Blog: “I believe that people are fundamentally good and generous if given the opportunity to be so.” Impossible, a website and mobile app, gives people a platform on which they can post wishes for things that they want or need help with, and on which others can offer their resources or skills to help. For example, if someone posts that they wish to learn the Greek language, another user who speaks fluent Greek could offer their skills and time for free. This is loosely based on the idea of “gift economy,” which Cole describes as “distinct from exchange in that the reciprocity isn’t direct. You’re usually exchanging something for something, like it could be barter, etc.”
When asked from where the inspiration for the idea of Impossible came, Cole responded, “I was traveling with a friend and it just came out of a conversation, so it kind of seeded the idea that, ‘wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a technical platform that connected people to be able to share something they wanted?’ Because we seemingly have an abundance of skills and resources.” Cole also drew inspiration from her endeavors as a Cambridge student: “I wrote my thesis in university on the idea of a post-post-modern concept of Utopia, and optimism, really, over everything. It was called ‘Impossible Utopia,’ and I’m actually publishing it now.. and it wasn’t about the gift economy but it was really about possibility and optimism… I talked a little about the idea of what is possible and impossible and how we could potentially create those paradigms ourselves.”
Impossible also boasts the brainpower of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. “I met Jimmy and Yunus two years ago and feel very blessed and lucky to have met them on this journey,” Cole told Blog. “They’re both extraordinary men and human beings, who I’ve learned from personally, and they shaped the project from their thoughts and opinions and ideas.”
When asked how her modeling and acting career has impacted her newest venture, Cole replied, “I think when I was working in fashion I did a lot looking at production things, and where things come from… I’ve always been interested in the idea of business as a force of good, and whether [or not] you can have somewhat of a political power with the things you buy.”
While its success can’t yet be measured, Cole is already able to see the positive impact that Impossible is having on its users. “I believe deeply in [the idea behind it],” Cole told Blog. “I think that people thrive off feeling deeply connected to one another, being more social by nature. And we don’t necessarily live in structures where we encourage that kind of behavior, but when you do see it, and I think you see it quite often, it really makes people happier… I think there’s an intrinsic connection between our happiness and our willingness to operate cooperatively.”
If you’re interested in the idea of kindness as currency (and aren’t we all?), be sure to check out Impossible.com and the Impossible mobile app.