Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Philanthro-teens and Social Good

September 25, 2013

As you'd expect at an event about digital media and social change, there was a lot of talk about youth at the Social Good Summit, a conference “where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions.”

The three-day event, which kicked off Sunday in New York City, brought together an impressive lineup of speakers from non-governmental organizations, government, and the private sector to discuss how technology can solve our greatest challenges.

The day consisted of many speakers who each had brief moments to share their take on social good and what role youth can play in working towards it.

Young people are growing up with technology as digital natives, spending hours each day online, and increasingly engaging their peers and driving social change.

Here are a few sound bites:

"The majority of the world is under age 29,” said Ruma Bose, a serial entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and author.

Talking about how technology will shape our world in the next 15 years, Crown Princess of Norway Mette-Marit, said: “Young people want to be involved, they really want to have their voice heard… Young people can use social media to transcend [the digital divide].”

Ben Keesey talked about Invisible Children’s videos (Kony 2012 was all the rage last year) and inspiring young people to wake up to their passions. "Tell them: you’re more powerful than you think you are."

"Millennials don’t want to go to work to just get a paycheck or help the company make a profit. They want to change the world,” said Jean Case, CEO of Case Foundation.

 Young people are growing up with technology as digital natives, spending hours each day online, and increasingly engaging their peers and driving social change.

According to Tina Wells, CEO and founder of the Buzz Marketing Group, the number one trend that impacts youth culture is conscious consumption: “We can buy something we love, that’s beautiful, and that contributes to the world”

Zeenat Rahman, adviser to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, shared that a recent study of millennials in the United States found that 84 percent feel it’s their duty to do social good. She encouraged government to be willing to take risks to adopt things that are driven by young people. 

Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. representative to the United Nations, also touched on the importance of leaders listening to citizen voices and the fact that social media allows real feedback for government.

The only youth who spoke for herself was Emma Axlerod, a teenager who started a petition on with her two friends, asking the U.S. Commission on Presidential Debates to choose a woman moderator for the first time in more than 20 years. This well-spoken young woman told the story of gathering thousands of signatures, which resulted in the commission choosing Candy Crowley as a moderator for the 2012 presidential debates between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Pretty impressive work from three teenagers.

Youth are the next generation of advocates and philanthropists, and the internet makes it easy to get involved in issues that they care about. Kathy Calvin from the UN Foundation even coined the term “philanthro-teens.” If you know any young people, you know that they like to find their own solutions, and they like to take action online. Crowdfunding is perfect for that.

Kickstarter is funding more arts than the National Endowment of the Arts, according to Matthew Bishop, US Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief of The Economist. That’s solid evidence of the power of citizen philanthropy and the democratization of giving. 

Catapult is a new crowdfunding platform for girls’ and women’s rights. It gives people the power to choose to support the projects closest to their hearts, track progress, and experience the impact of their donations in real time. Whether you have $5 or $50, or even $5,000, through Catapult you can choose exactly how you want to give, and help create opportunities for girls and women every day.

At Catapult, we’re hoping to engage youth and people of all ages around girls’ and women’s rights this #GivingTuesday on December 3rd. Gender inequality, be warned.

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