Archive for the ‘Spotlight’ Category
By VJon On 6th December 10
We recently had the pleasure of meeting Melanie Steve
nson, responsible for business development for premier US charity Do Something, whilst on her sabbatical, visiting London. With the largest national database of volunteer opportunities for teens, Do Something have been a truly instrumental force in helping change the face of social activism in the USA, inspiring millions of young people to engage with and take an active role within their communities.
We caught up with Melanie to find out more about her role at Do Something alongside global attitudes towards social activism amongst young people…
It’s clear from the popularity of Do Something that young people in America are very socially conscious and proactive when it comes to volunteering. Have you seen any particular trends emerge over recent years? If so, to what extend do you feel trends have been influenced by wider political and social changes?
You’re right, teens in America are passionate about giving back. 1.2 Million of them will take action through DoSomething.org’s programs this year. Next year, we anticipate 2 Million Do’ers to activate through our programs.
Some trends we’ve noticed are:
- Customisation – This is the ‘Starbucks generation’ (think grande java chip frappucino with whip no drizzle). Young people today expect volunteer opportunities to fit their personalities and lifestyles. Whether they have a minute or a year, whether they care about global human rights or the environment, they should have opportunities to give back. It’s our job to make it easy to find them.
- Self-Starting – Young people are more likely than ever to see a problem, plan a project, and take action. They’re opting for direct activation over traditional “volunteerism” which is a more scheduled and structured experience. A few tips and resources help them get started, but they’re truly becoming “social entrepreneurs”.
- Social Shopping – Not only does a brand have to be cool and functional to win a young person’s heart – it has to have heart itself. 89% of young people today will switch brand loyalty based on cause association. Where they spend their money is part of how they live responsibly.
Young people today grew up online, where they can find exactly what they’re looking for whenever they want. In an instant they can create a customized pair of sneakers, find any “how to” guide you can imagine, and dig up dirt about a store at their local mall. These trends are direct responses to the power of online.
You mention ‘the power of online’ – to what extent do you feel developments in technology and social media have aided awareness of volunteering and social causes? Are there any particular technological developments or innovative social media campaigns that have inspired you?
Developments in technology have absolutely magnified the power of volunteering and social good. The single best way for a young person to find out about something is from a friend. And social media has turned that peer-to-peer conversation into a public forum!
One of our most exciting social media programs was a recent campaign called Make Art. Save Art.
Art is being cut from US schools every day. We asked young people to create and share works of art as advocacy messages for arts education. The designs were shared over 350,000 times on Facebook and Twitter, and posted over 1,000 times on senators’ Facebook fan pages!
The technology we’re most focused on here at DoSomething.org is mobile. The average teen sends over 100 text messages per day with a 100% open rate! It’s their preferred method of communication and their phones are by their side at all times. We’re working actively to deliver our programs more and more via mobile, and reward young people for their participation.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel and meet other youth volunteering agencies around the world. Have opinions towards volunteering and social activism differed? Have any particular organisations or individual stories inspired you?
My recent travel to Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, and England were such an inspiration! Each country has a unique perspective on the world of social activism. History, culture, politics, economy and even geography all play into how passionate the population is about social change, and how willing or able they are to take action. Everyone I met inspired me and challenged my perspective in some way. I was particularly inspired by the way the v20 are at the core of everything v does. We have an incredible Youth Advisory Council at DoSomething.org, but it challenged me to think of even more
ways to collaborate with them and celebrate their accomplishments.
By Hannah Wright On 17th November 10
cial network from LoveLife” width=”300″ height=”225″ />I recently sat on a panel alongside Scott Burnett of LoveLife, South Africa’s largest HIV initiative for young people. We were there to talk about digital innovation in international youth service programmes, and I found myself in the surprising position of being massively impressed by a WAP site called MYMsta.
OK, stay with me here… WAP is the ideal way to reach young people in South Africa, where only around 10% of the population has access to the internet, but 75% of young people have a cell phone. What’s more, instant messaging via a mobile-based social network can massively undercut the cost of text messaging, giving it instant appeal for the youth market.
MYMsta (“Make-Your-Move-sta” – named by the youth so you’re not supposed to get it) is a mobile social network with a difference, seeking to connect the
youth to their peers, but also to deliver positive health messages to its users. In short, why pay to advertise on other people’s communication channels
if you can deliver a service yourself, and in doing so win the loyalty of your target audience by saving them money? And what better place to offer sexual health advice on demand than on a mobile phone, where dates are arranged and hearts broken?
Here in the UK, the popularity of Blyk shows that many young people are prepared to accept advertising messages on their mobile in exchange for a free mobile contract, but while there are a few apps using the “provide useful unrelated service in order to deliver important messages” logic (MacMillan’s find a coffee shop app, for example), I’m not aware of charities embracing the concept in a big way. (If you are, I’d love to hear about it.)
I’m hugely excited by the prospect of a social network service, which genuinely benefits the target audience, run by a charity whose mission is to help ensure a generation of complete, creative and connected youth who have the tools to stay HIV free. So I’ll be watching their progress with interest, and just a little bit of jealousy.