A self-described “grassroots social experiment” encouraging New Yorkers to be kind to each other is currently afoot in the city, and will be in effect for the entire month of June. Backed by a shadowy group of anonymous philanthropists (just kidding, we’re sure they’re very nice) The Kindness Card is both a phenomenon and an actual card that rewards unprompted gestures of goodwill with cash and helps New Yorkers “pay it forward” with a charitable donation. Intrigued? You should be. Here’s the story.

photo: The Kindness Card

5,000 Cards in the Naked City
The Kindness Card Experiment described itself as “a social movement for change that draws attention to the power people have to improve themselves, their communities, and their city with simple acts of kindness that connect us to each other.”

What it is, is this: One June 1 and 2, The Kindness Card ambassadors distributed 5,000 actual Kindness Cards throughout the five boroughs, to people they observed doing something nice for someone else. What’s “nice” or “kind”? That’s really up to the person giving the card; it could be holding a door, giving directions, offering a seat on the subway.

People recognized with the gifting of a card can either redeem it online at the project’s portal for a $10 e-gift card at merchants including Starbucks, Target, etc. (a retailer where you can actually get something for $10) or, they can keep the good will flowing by donating their $10 to a local charity.

photo: nyophotography via Flickr

Pass it On
Recipients of Kindness Cards are then asked to recognize someone else doing a good deed, and pass the card to them — which each pass the card gets reloaded with the $10 credit. The goal, say organizers, is to form a chain reaction spreading kindness throughout the city, and to see just how kind New York can truly be.

Track the Kindness Online
Those who encounter, and become a part of, The Kindness Card Experiment are encouraged to document their experience online at kindnesscard.com, where the number of acts of kindness registered, dollars redeemed in kindness, and dollars donated to charity are tallied. The portal enables visitors to see data on a map, read reports from recipients on how and why they received a card, and read mentions of the project on social feeds, tagged with #kindnessishere.

Organizers have enlisted the power of a variety of “social influencers” (i.e. people with lots of followers on Twitter, Instagram, et al.), so expect those pale pink cards to start popping up in your feeds.

The experiment ends June 30, so be on the lookout, and start being nice!

Online: kindnesscard.com

Have you received a Kindness Card? Tell us what you did to get it! 

— Mimi O’Connor