For me, some of the most refreshing moments come when I hear a young person talk about their life goals. Their voices are filled with hope, energy and drive. This brings me some solace in the complexity and multi-faceted nature of my world. And when I saw the above video, which was put together completely by young people, supported by KooDooZ, Dreams for Kids and Split Pillow, I was once again reminded of the power of the young person’s voice.
Young People, Social Networking, and Social Good: KooDooZ
This concept of empowering the younger generation is still relatively recent in the social entrepreneurship world. Groups like DoSomething.org, among others find ways to engage middle school and high school students in global impact. And now, a group is capturing the power of the younger generation’s perspectives through innovative “cause” social networking.
KooDooZ made their alpha site available to the public July 4th, 2009. They expect to officially launch in 2010. As explained on their founder, Lee Fox’s blog, the site is designed to empower youth by challenging them to find their life balance of heart, mind, body and spirit. Whether it’s attaining a personal goal, accomplishing a community objective, or being part of a humanitarian cause, KooDooZ lays the foundation for middle and high school kids to understand how to articulate and act upon their own values, motivations and passions.
Inherent in this COPPA-compliant social networking site is the concept of social learning and service to communities. KooDooZ enables non-profits, schools, student ministries, youth clubs and brands to challenge kids to do social good. The site also gives KDZ (KooDooZ users) the ability to share their work with friends and family who can choose to pledge and reward these young change-makers for turning a challenge into a real-world achievement. Ultimately, KDZ are empowered to make a difference.
Founder Lee Fox writes, “Young activists have long been the vehicle for change in this country. KooDooZ believes KDZ will define the next generation of social entrepreneurs. By unleashing their creativity and ingenuity, they will naturally become agents of change on the path of empowerment and innovation.”
KooDooZ and Global Entrepreneurship Week
The recent Global Entrepreneurship Week provided a great platform for KooDooZ, along with several partners, to engage Soledad Enrichment Girls Academy around Millennium Development Goal topics like homelessness, education, HIV/AIDS awareness, and environmental sustainability and others. And they pulled out all the stops. KooDooZ brought in recognized development leaders and speakers such as Mark Horvath, Scott Fifer, Nedra Weinrech, and Alexandra Teklak to offer students insight and encouragement to get involved.
But even more impressive than the accredited voices, in my humble opinion, is the list that KooDooZ compiled of young individuals serving the community. The youngest social entrepreneur or “youthpreneur” is just 4 years old. The following (along with links to each movement/organization) can be found on the KooDooz blog:
Millennial Development Goal #1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
- At age 13, Hannah Taylor’s LadyBug foundation was developed to help the homeless.
- At age 9, Addison Graham advocated for the homeless by organizing One Warm Coat drives.
- At 18, Salina Truong joined Gumball Capital for the purpose of recruiting students as social entrepreneurs.
Millennial Development Goal #2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
- At age 14, Riley Carney founded Breaking the Chain, a non-profit focused on literacy.
- At age 12, Craig Kielburger founded Free the Children in 1995, which is now the world’s largest network of “children helping children” by promoting education. Free the Children works in 45 countries and has built over 500 schools worldwide.
- At age 15, Shawn Grauel launched “Fast-Track Kabul” to raise money for school supplies to go toward quality education for youth in Afghanistan after his first trip to the country in 2002.
Millennial Development Goal #6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
- At age 4, Alex Scott showed her parents how kids across America could help raise funds and awareness for the life-threatening disease of cancer with a lemonade stand.
- At age 16, Jesse Fuchs-Simon and Nicolas Cuttriss founded AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) to help people with diabetes in Latin America.
- At age 13, Grace and 16 year old Preston founded Kids Fight Malaria to fundraise for Medical Teams International’s treatment of Malaria victims.
Millennial Development Goal #7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
- At age 17, Erin Schrode campaigned to help teens turn green.
- At age 9, Melissa Poe Hood campaigned for a cleaner environment.
- At age 6, Ryan Hreljac began raising money for clean water. One year later, he had raised enough to build a well at a Ugandan school. The project has since developed into Ryan’s Well Foundation.
What This Means For Non-Profits
What does this mean for non-profits? Or rather, what should this mean? Well, simply, if you’re not investing in the future generations- you’re missing the boat. Really missing it. Because these tweens and teenagers are the next college generation and will become the next professional generation…your future donor pool. But here’s the perhaps unexpected part- kids, if given the opportunity, will bring in significant resources to an organization…today.
In an Indiana University Center on Philanthropy study (funded by Campbell & Company), it was discovered that the Millennial generation is just as generous as the Baby Boomer generation. In fact, the report said that if organizations can 1) communicate impact and 2) make an effective ask, there’s a chance you might actually get these folks to give more than the generations before.
And if you think that Millennials can change the world, watch out for Generation Z- the focus of the KooDooZ effort. This group is comes with a serious desire to volunteer and be involved in solutions that simply (and profoundly) help others.
I heard this great quote from a friend: “Non-profit is a tax exempt status; not a business model”. And in the business world, in order to continue to grow, an organization needs to present itself as marketable to individuals outside of its current customer base. So ask yourself (and your marketing execs) this, why aren’t you investing time, resources, and yes, money, in a generation that not only will inherit significant resources, but offers the opportunity to rally great numbers (and dollars!) for the sake of your cause? And if you’re looking for a way to start, KooDooZ is currently seeking non-profit partners.
“Sites like KooDooZ offer non-profits a way to diversify their cause message from the grass-tops of the family to the grassroots – a concept we pride ourselves in understanding,” Fox said.
This is best business practice, folks. To invest in new markets is to invest in your organization’s future. And these kids are just waiting for you to show that you believe.