Help Samuel send supplies to schools worldwide

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Samuel

After a service trip to a Guatemalan school during his junior year of college, Samuel McPherson knew he wanted to do something more to improve education worldwide.

“Going to the school with a group of 25 people and seeing the amount of change and impact we could have changed my perception of what was possible,” he says.

The 23-year-old Gainesville, Florida native is obsessed with all things social entrepreneurship. As an undergraduate Samuel studied entrepreneurship at Pace University, then got his Master’s at University of Florida. Everything he does is seen through this lens. Whether it’s interning for UNICEF or working in sales for an educational research company, Samuel views each experience as a learning opportunity for his new venture, Reciprocity.

The intention

The idea for Reciprocity is inspired by the one-to-one model made famous by TOMS shoes. When you buy a USA-made canvas bag, an international school of your choice receives a custom bundle of educational supplies. Bags because Samuel noticed on that on college campuses it was the one thing students all had in common, and education because he believes it’s essential for freedom of choice.

“Education is the bottomline of everything,” he says. “I strongly believe people should be able to make their own decisions about how their life plays out and the opportunities they take. That becomes very difficult without an education.”

Samuel is still figuring it out, but right now roughly 50% of the bag proceeds will go to the schools, who will keep the consumer update about how the supplies are positively impacting the students. Consumers who have contributed to the same school will also be connected to one another.


The concept of Reciprocity has gone through many iterations, and so far Samuel has a website and one of three bag designs ready to go. Currently in Washington, D.C., he is working on refining his idea and turning Reciprocity into an organization, seeking partners, and encouraging schools to participate.

“I’ve learned everything I can learn and now it’s time to put the feet to the ground,” he says.

Here are the challenges he is currently facing:

  1. For Reciprocity to work, Samuel needs to find schools worldwide to provide context about their institution, communicate with the consumer, and be the point person for the delivery of supplies. Schools say they are interested, but fail to follow through.
  2. Currently Samuel is solo, but would love a team of people who could give advice and mentorship about creating organizational structure and guidance, as well as working with youth and/or educational institutions.
  3. Since the company will have different bag styles, the development and production of the product can be expensive, the cost of which Samuel is currently self-financing. From investors to crowdfunding to grants, any potential avenues of funding would be beneficial.

How you can help


School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where Samuel volunteered at. (Photo via Samuel McPherson.)

  • Do you know of any schools Reciprocity might be able to help support?
  • Samuel is considering moving toward a more project-based approach i.e. 150 individuals purchase bags and proceeds go to installing a well in a school/village as opposed to providing finite supplies that will run out. What do you think?
  • How can Reciprocity stay away from creating a dependency and instead have a lasting impact on the students?
  • How can schools can best keep in touch with consumers given tech limitations and time constraints?
  • Samuel is planning on launching a Kickstarter campaign. If you’ve done one before, do you have any advice on launching a successful one, especially when it comes to video creation?
  • Marketing folks: Recommendations on how to best spread the word?
  • Do you have any general feedback about the business model or website itself?
  • Do you know of any organizations that might want to develop a strategic partnership?
  • Are you interested in collaborating, mentoring, or giving any of your time to Reciprocity?

Leave a comment below or send him a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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