Butterfly Effect – Social Networks that Link Youth Across the World

SPEAKER 1: We’re now going to
consider another kind of connection, another form
of ripple effects. We’re going to hear from
Jennifer Corriero, who is the Co-founder and Executive
Director of TakingITGlobal. Which is a way of using energy,
idealism, and technical expertise of young people
worldwide to address global problems. Again, the theme here is
disturbances around the world amplifying the ripples and the
ways that people can reorganize themselves to address them. She is from Canada. She is 28 years old and she is
tremendously impressive, so I ask you please to join me in
welcoming Jennifer Corriero. [APPLAUSE] JENNIFER CORRIERO: I’m so
thrilled to be here with all of you to talk about the theme
of the Butterfly Effect. I remember back when I was in
grade 12 I did a physics independent study project,
and I studied chaos theory. And my professor was really
curious with where I was going with my paper, and so now I
think he’d be proud of me to know that I was here in this
panel and sharing some reflections on what young
people can contribute to solving some of the world’s
greatest problems. And actually want to invite
you– who have your cell phones– to text in your
reflections to this question, what contribution can young
people make to addressing global poverty? So I’ll just give you a minute
there to think about it. What brings me here is
that I believe that the contribution is massive. As many of you know over 50%
of the world’s population is under the age of 25. And this poses an incredible
opportunity, as well as a potential threat. And if I go back to 1997, I
actually developed a website. It was about promoting Canadian
women who had struggled and fought for the rights that we
have in Canada as women, and it was a website dedicated to
inspiring younger girls to be more aware of the struggles
of women before us. And I was invited to speak at a
conference– it was actually my first conference. It was a national conference. I was invited to speak about
this website that I had developed, and it was about
global poverty, and it was about also how we could help
respond to poverty within Canada. And I realized growing up in
sort of a suburban comfortable environment that I didn’t
really know very much about poverty, and I was intrigued to
have a conversation with someone who was living
on the streets. I invited him for lunch and I
learned about his challenges, and his struggles, and his
hopes, and his dreams. He actually wanted to become a
computer programmer, and unfortunately, he was living on
the streets, and he was kicked out of his house so he left
home and he just didn’t have those kinds of opportunities or
encouragement, access to education, and support that was
really needed for him to follow his dreams. And a lot of that conversation
was really a catalyst for me when I was speaking at the
conference, this being my first conference, in talking about
the power of being able to connect people, and the
importance of really building on inspiration. There were people at this
conference from all across the country, and I realized that
the web could really be used as a platform and as a way to
connect people across divides, across differences–
socioeconomic divides, geographic, linguistic. And really, that there was a
missing opportunity, which was really a need to create a
learning environment to help children in youth really grow
up with a sense of a global perspective, and to be able to
walk into the shoes of another person who’s living in a
very different circumstance or environment to them. And nine years ago I was
rollerblading with Michael Furdyk, who is my Co-founder
of TakingITGlobal and he was reflecting on his
own experiences as a young entrepreneur. At 14 he started an internet
company that he sold at 16. And as a web sort of
entrepreneur, sort of looking at those opportunities, how do
we create a world where more people can have access
to opportunities? I’m really loving the text
messages you guys are sending in talking about getting
involved in one key focus, acting against it, consuming
less in developed countries. Spend time walking
in their shoes. Thanks, guys. Promoting conversation
and conservation. Social networks, and how they
can bring countries and people much closer. And so I’ll invite you to kind
of join me on a little journey to understand a little bit more
about TakingITGlobal and the online social network that we
launched for social good. We launched back in 2000. And actually, as a result of
Google.org and some of the adware donations that we
received we’ve reached over 10 million unique young
people, unique visitors. And young people through our
programs that extended offline through many workshops that
we’ve run in local telecenters, community centers,
after school programs. And really, it’s become a
platform for inspiration, information, and involvement. So young people can really take
action and express their visions and hopes
for the future. There’s over 1 million pieces
of user generated content on the site, and that ranges from
our online global gallery, our blogs, our project pages,
commitments that people can make. Commit to a better world, which
is a tool where people can join up and sign on different
commitments and share blog postings about what they’ve
done on those commitments. Our language platform has also
been a bit of a phenomenon. We launched it in 2004, and we
created a system, whereby our members could actually
translate the content in their own local language. It’s launched in 12, but
we have a lot of other languages in the works. And the system has really
inspired me because I’ve seen how people have really taken
the initiative upon themselves to really bring this site, and
some of the ideas, and that sense of community to their
communities that might not have been able to have access as a
result of language divides. We have over 200,000 members in
pretty much every country in the world, and there’s a lot of
regional diversity which is what makes our network
really unique. And we’ve been able to leverage
that diversity to help influence various policy
processes, especially at the international level
with many UN agencies. Back in 2003 we worked very
closely with the World Summit on the information society and
we facilitated a youth caucus, where we ran campaigns over
national campaigns in over 30 countries. We involve thousands of youth
in local consultations, e-consultations, and really
tried to connect young people with their governments. We were able to convince many
governments to take youth as part of their official
delegations. And the youth paragraph, which
actually, I was in the room as part of the official Canadian
government delegation, was the first paragraph that those
governments had agreed upon. And it stated that young people
need to be empowered as learners, developers,
contributors, and decision-makers in the
information society. And if you really think
about it, young people are growing up digital. They’re growing up with
technology, and especially those who are on the side of
the divide with access and not those without the access. And so how do we really harness
that potential to really be able to contribute? There’s this expectation of
being able to not only have a voice, but to say what you
think, and to turn your ideas and your visions
into realities. And so it’s really important
to create a constructive and cohesive environment that is
diverse and that’s connected with the different realities
and issues that are being faced on local and global levels. To really prepare ourselves
and our current and future generations to respond to the
challenges that exist, not only in the future, but today. In Don Tapscott’s book,
Wikinomics, he talks about TakingITGlobal as one of the
world’s best examples of how N-geners are using digital
technologies to transform the world around them. And so we’ve done some studies
on the areas of the impact, and we’re thinking about sort
of the Butterfly Effect. What happens when you bring
people together with common interests or very different
world realities? And three major areas of impact
that have come as a result of our site kind of fit
into these groupings. The first is on support
and motivation. 74% of our members surveyed
feel that they’re experience with TakingITGlobal has
improved their perception of the ability of youth to
affect change in the world. This is something that
really does give me hope. It gives me hope because if
people have a positive outlook on the future, and if they
believe that they have an ability to affect change, this
is really what’s needed to prevent a sense of apathy and
just submission to everything that exists in the sort
of powers that be. You really need to feel that
when you’re faced with a problem that you can be
part of the solution. And this is a mindset that
we really need to start encouraging at very young ages. The second area of impact
is around networking and information. 55% of members surveyed say
that TakingITGlobal has helped them to become more informed
about issues that are important to them. And the third area is that
shift from a sort of virtual connection to actually having
an affect in the real world. And I want to share a
few stories with you. The first one is of
Christabell, she’s from Kenya. And in 2006 when she found out
that she was HIV positive she didn’t know where to turn, and
she found out about a local youth group, but she also did
some research online and she found TakingITGlobal and
the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS which is an
initiative that we host. And she took e-courses that we
ran online, and it helped her to develop a project, the Stay
Alive Youth Support Group. Has helped them to get global
exposure, and now, years later, she’s also been working with UN
Habitat and some of the post conflict work in Kenya in
trying to promote dialogue among youth there. We also have Laura,
who’s from Mexico. And she first heard about
TakingITGlobal at a workshop run at the World Youth
Congress, and she published her first articles on our website. It gave her the confidence
to express herself. And since, she’s actually
written for six different newspapers in Mexico. And she’s become a very
active volunteer and editor on our site. The third story I want to share
is from Mohammed in Iraq. And he talks about how before
the war in 2003 he had very little contact with
the outside world. Traveling was very hard and
the internet was limited. TakingITGlobal was the
first site that I really connected with it. It allowed me to interact
with people from across the world, and for once I felt
connected to the world. And he talks about the debates
he’s had in our discussion forums, and how he’s had a lot
of disagreements, especially with people from
the United States. But after these kinds of
agreements there’s some sense of understanding and compassion
and friendship that form from it, and this I think, is the
basis of creating a more peaceful and sustainable
world for the future. I hope these stories were
inspiring for you, and enjoy the rest of the conference.

  1. GREAT Stuff
    Please Connect with me if you read this Jen!!
    I'd like to open up some dialogue with you and run some opportunities to work together by you!!

  2. I have no idea what Jen is going on about, are they trying to benefit financially by doing this?

    Look at Wikipedia. It is a genuine tool to aquire knowledge in all countries. We don't need a social network to prevent poverty, we need less greedy people in the west. – And not to mention using the patents which provides free energy from the vacuum. Where are those? – Suppressed by greedy businesses…

  3. BLA BLA BLA,… It's like listening to one end of a teens phone conversation.Lot's of better videos here on this subject.

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