Uber will collect your refugee donations for free today

Migrants cross the border line between Greece and Macedonia. Image: Getty.

Uber, king of the marketing campaign, strikes again today. For once, though, the company isn't handing out ice creams, rides with models or puppies - it's actually doing something, well, good. 

Under the tagline "Helping to move Europe when Europe is moved", the taxi service has said it will collect donations of clothes, music, films, toys, books and homeware and deliver them to the nearest Save the Children charity shop. The drive (get it?) is taking place across 20 countries, and in the UK will operate across eight cities: London, Manchester, Merseyside, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds. Collections will take place between Between midday and 8pm today.

The collected donations won't go directly to refugees, but will be delivered to Save the Children shops. The proceeds will go to the charity's Child Refugee Crisis Appeal. Save the Children has list of all suitable items for donation here.

To use the service, you move the slider across to "giving" on the app's home screen and then request a ride as usual:

I tried this out before 12pm, which is presumably why no cars were available yet. Judging by other campaigns, though, it'll probably be pretty difficult to secure a ride, as the service only has so many drivers - #UberIceCream left many disappointed. I asked Uber's press office about the number of drivers praticipating, and this was their response:

This number all depends on the generosity of riders and volume of request. We're hoping that demand will be great, and if so we'll increase the partner-drivers who are picking up donations. On a regional scale, hundreds of partner-drivers have opted in across Europe to drive these initiatives.

The company will pay the drivers for the donation drop-offs.

Uber hopes to pick up all the donations in time, but if not, a spokesperson told me the company will release "instructions as to what people can do to make their donation". 

Overall, this actually seems like a pretty good idea. Lots of us have clothes and books we don't need, but getting them to a charity shop during the week - when they tend to close before we finish work - is a challenge.

Equally, refugee charities are increasingly asking for monetary donations rather than more secondhand items, as they've been overwhelmed by physical donations but now need funds to buy more specialised supplies. Whatever a Londoner has in the back of their wardrobe is more likely to sell in a London charity shop than come in useful for a refugee at Calais or elsewhere.


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

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Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

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As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

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I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.