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They Cracked It! Youth Who Track “Awareness-Raised” with Culturally Relevant Social Media Campaigns!

29 Jan

I wanted to share this example of a by-youth-for-youth organization online that uses the vampire phenomenon to raise funds and awareness for the environment. They have already raised over $16,000 for Gulf Relief and have garnered celebrity support. Check out my guest blog on about their work and look out for my comments on how they’re tracking awareness raised. What are your thoughts?

Special thanks to all who retweeted the post!

Changing the Face of Youth Leadership in 2011: Vampire Support

What do you get when you combine environmentally conscientious vampire craze fans with innovative grassroots web campaigns that support a partner organization founded by a celebrity role model? Vampire Support, a promising youth-led organization for 2011 with a mission to “raise awareness about causes by using the vampire phenomenon to start projects and encourage the world’s youth to speak up for what they believe in.”
Its founders Chloe Dawn and Amber Davis have led several campaigns already to support the launch of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and help with Gulf of Mexico relief through theNational Wildlife Federation. Their new campaign requires youth to demonstrate their awareness of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to compete in a raffle for a basket of Twilight prizes. All proceeds will support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. What better way to engage youth in taking action than by raising money for an organization supporting innovative partnership projects resulting in real outcomes for the environment.

What really give this campaign impact are not only the long-term environmental outcomes that will result thanks to funds raised for the IanSomerhalder Foundation, but also the results it will have for participants as well. The contest ballots will represent tangible evidence of participants’ “awareness raised” about the oil spill in the Gulf and the prize is truly enticing due to its pop culture relevance.
Want to participate in the contest but need to brush up on your knowledge of the oil spill first? Visit the official website of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation to do your research. Be sure to enter Vampire Support’s contest before January 22nd.
Follow Vampire Support on Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with culturally-relevant grassroots youth leadership online.


My New Favourite Youth Action Ideas: Part 2

7 Jan

I took the discussion about youth engagement to the Volunteer Match LinkedIn Group in December and asked:

What are some examples out there of youth coming together around a common personal/social interest to support a common humanitarian interest?

The response was incredible, and I would like to continue the discussion about my favourite youth action ideas in part 2 of this blog.

1)      Party With a Purpose: This form of engagement is for older youth, in the 20+ crowd. A sample project is discussed here. It is a great way for older youth to raise funds and awareness for a cause that they care about with their friends.

2)       Showcasing to Youth Leadership: One of the best ways an organization can demonstrate their commitment to youth leadership is by designating an official website of the organization to the activities, resources and opportunities delivered by and available to their youth. Plenty of examples can be found on

3)       Social Interest Clubs – Know of a social interest club at a high school or post secondary institution with a high volume of engaged youth attracted to the club’s activities? Encourage them to host a fundraiser or campaign for a cause you think might be important to them where activities supporting both the social and humanitarian interest can be the theme. This encourages innovation and creativity in youth groups and helps them hold stock in their interests and skills while affecting real change in their communities.

My Contribution to the Birthday Project

4 Dec

It is likely clear from my prior post about my favourite youth engagement ideas that I have been amazed by all of the online activity that has supported the launch of the IS Foundation. One of the IS Foundation partners, the Natural Resources Defense Council, explained recently in their blog post about the IS Foundation why the online activity supporting the foundation is so remarkable:

“It’s not often that you associate vampires (bloodthirsty night-dwellers) with environmental activists (solar-loving vegetarians) but friend of NRDC Ian Somerhalder is trying to bridge the gap by launching the IS Foundation.”

With this seemingly unlikely relationship between fandoms, environmentalists and Vampire Diaries enthusiast environmentalists taking place, I was impressed with the ingenuity and success of all of the work supporting the IS Foundation. I wanted to help, to contribute to the Birthday Project by making a “donation” to the Foundation before ian Somerhalder’s Birthday. With a family vacation looming around the corner and my “overseas” launch taking place on December 8th, I decided to make that donation a small guest blogging project that would hopefully attract a large network of nonprofits and volunteers to support the IS Foundation.

My guest post on Volunteer Match demonstrates how the IS Foundation is a model social innovation for the environment. Check it out below, and don’t forget to donate to the IS Foundation!

The Launch of the IS Foundation: A Model of Social Innovation

A remarkable model of social innovation has been taking over the Twitterverse and blogosphere and has motivated networks of environment-minded people to create meaningful change. That movement is the launch of the IS Foundation, founded by Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries).

What makes the launch of the IS Foundation so remarkable is the self-organizing of support networks that has been taking place online in order to address all of the complex components that are involved with protecting the environment. Below we look at the Foundation’s pre-launch activity using some of the core components of social innovation. This shows how the IS Foundation is a model for other nonprofits and volunteers to follow to achieve their goals for protecting the environment.

Read on to discover more about the IS Foundation and learn how to “team up to become a united spirit for change.”

Complexity – According to the Social Innovation Generation, one feature of social innovation is complexity, whereby “subtle rules of engagement, between and among elements, gives initiatives a life of their own.” This typically starts where a problem reaches a tipping point, motivating a leader to act. For Ian Somerhalder, this tipping point was the aftermath of the BP oil spill in his home state of Louisiana. His involvement in the cleanup and subsequent PSAs motivated environmentally conscious people, including his fan base, to act.

In his interview with Ian stated:  “Rather than be Generation Extinction, the youth of today could become Generation Green. Our mission strives to transform – with every willing person, organization and government body – our destructive relationship with our planet into one that is a true symbiotic relationship.”

Building Relationships – Ian’s influence secured support for the launch from powerful online communities of fans of his work on The Vampire Diaries – people who also happen to be passionate about the environment. One notable mention is the Ian Somerhalder Birthday Project and their Bash on the Bayou event on November 13th, 2010 in support of the St. Tammany Humane Society, along with the organizations supporting the Foundation (Conservation International, Natural Resource Defense Council, Go Green Mobile Power, the National Wildlife Federation, New Leash on Life, and the St. Tammany Humane Society).

Resilience – The book “Getting to Maybe” by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Patton, describes resilience as “the capacity to experience massive change and yet still maintain the integrity of the original innovation.” Since the collaborative efforts of partners of the Foundation have involved the “self-organization” of “powerful strangers” working towards environmental change, the resilience of the Foundation looks promising.

According to Ian: “In order to solve the interconnected issues facing humanity, we must work in full collaboration with other organizations and government bodies to create and provide tangible solutions that will empower people to protect their health and the environment. Any organization, business or person committed to creating positive change is invited to reach out and partner with us.”

How You Can Get Involved: If you are working towards improving the environment, your vision for change can be accomplished by collaborating with others who share your vision. To find out more about how you can join the IS Foundation in this collaborative innovation, visit the official Facebook page.

My New Favourite Youth Action Ideas

12 Nov
As a professional working with youth volunteers in a number of arenas I recently found myself highly interested in a fresh perspective of innovative youth engagement. Thanks to the Twitterverse I’ve stumbled upon some incredible and unique ways youth are becoming engaged as activists, public educators, and fundraisers. These are just a few examples of activities that have harnessed incredible momentum motivating youth into action.
1) Engagement Through Social Media
This video shared with me by as part of their Digital U series champions social media as the tool of choice for youth to find innovative ways to do something about a cause they wish to support. Despite some concerns that social media is a more disconnected and less meaningful way for youth to get involved, the support harnessed through participation via social media is irrefutable. Unique stories of involvement with social media are highlighted. 
2) Empowering Youth Through the Arts
This GTA partnership among youth-for-youth action groups produced an innovative toolkit with creative ways youth have raised awareness about HIV/AIDS. A noteable favourite is Fashioning Change: A Youth Inspired Fashion Show (starting on pg 14).
3) Making Youth Famous for Doing Good
An explosive example of youth participation in the United States is Think MTV, connecting youth with unique volunteer projects supported by celebrities with a diverse host of the most well known, and some lesser known organizations. Recognizing that most youth have a desire to do something meaningful for the world yet so few are able to put their iseas into action, the pillars of this project are motivation – through multiple forms of meaninful and powerful support, recognition – by acknowledging youth who act as “rock stars,” and accessibility – by providing youth with the tools to act online. Whether connected to a major media hub like MTV or not, many organizations are successfully using social media tools today to recognize their youth volunteers as the rock stars that they are.   
4) Youth Doing Good for the Famous
Many celebrities have been positive role models for youth by encouraging them to support their own foundation or another organization supporting an issue that they are most passionate about. I give kudos to Ian Somerhalder (LOST, The Vampire Diaries) for engaging his fan base and fellow environment-minded Twitter community in the upcoming launch of the IS Foundation by placing a call out to bloggers for support. As assumed from his thank you message to those following him in the Twitterverse, the response rate from those willing to help was a huge success!
5) Celebrating Youth
In the spirit of recognizing youth engagement, the United Nations dedicated August 2010-2011 the UN International Year of Youth. The framework and examples of participation can be found on the website. Celebrating youth is one way to show commitment to young volunteers that is carried out by many organizations. Captures the Power of Volunteers

8 Dec

An intriguing volunteer trend has made me reflect recently on the value of tracking both qualitative and quantitative data about volunteers. recently launched a movement in partnership with the Corporate Council on Volunteering called Power of the Hour, whereby both workplaces and individuals are being challenged to pledge as many volunteer hours as possible in order to reach a goal of engaging Canadians in 2,000,000 volunteer hours in 2010. Hours pledged by workplaces and individuals are being tracked at here and there are currently over 1,000,000 hours pledged. The live list of pledges is updated very frequently and is an exciting and motivating tool for anyone who is interested in volunteerism or who is looking to volunteer.

I also reflected on the challenge of attributing value to an hour when it is sometimes difficult to understand the impact that 1 hour from 20 volunteers or 20 hours from 1 volunteer has on an individual, or the greater community. This reminds me of a blog that was posted a few months ago from Volunteer Vancouver  where the following comment was made about tracking volunteer hours:

“Measuring hours is like comparing how quickly I can fix a computer to how quickly someone who actually knows how to fix computers does it. It tells us absolutely NOTHING about what work was done…So instead of measuring how many hours your volunteers work with you, why don’t you measure what impact they had on your organization, your clients and your mission?”

In a reply to this post, one reader commented:
“…the value of that person’s volunteer work may lie in that person’s increase self worth or sense of self efficacy. It may lie in connectedness that that person now has with a greater community. But attaching a value to either of those is difficult.
So how do we measure successful volunteer engagement? Ask. Ask the program managers supervising the volunteers what value has been created by working with volunteers. Ask the volunteers how they have been impacted.”

Clearly it is important for all stakeholders in the volunteer experience to understand the value of an hour, and most importantly to ensure that each hour volunteered is in fact valuable for all. is working to ensure that this is the case by encouraging all who pledge their hours online to “create an action list and log their hours with descriptions and photos.” With action lists that will hopefully capture over 2,000,000 hours volunteered by Canadians one can only imagine the innovative and powerful volunteer activities that Canadians will share with each other. I consider this a promising example of tracking volunteer engagement that represents an alternative to the recommendations suggested by the two bloggers I quoted earlier from the Volunteer Vancouver blog.

It is also important, as I stated at the beginning of this post, to consider the value of quantitative data tracked about volunteers. While the number of volunteers engaged and hours tracked may not tell us much about the work that was involved with any particular volunteer activity, people do hold stock in the power of an hour. With so many Canadians engaged in this quickly evolving challenge many more will be motivated to jump on board to ensure the target is reached. With this in mind, I do also hope that those same volunteers will engage in as much sharing of their volunteer activities as possible with project descriptions, photos, and narratives of memorable moments.