spencer west wedayOn November 20, 2013 thousands of Waterloo Region youth will enter the world of WeDay. Founded by brothers Craig & Marc Kielburger, We Day is an interesting landscape of star power  (speakers/performers this year will include We Day veteran Shawn Desman, Nelly Furtado, Martin Luther III, Spencer West, and  Craig & Marc Kielburger) and social justice, intended to launch a year-long series of actions (We Act) and social change.

While the Kielburgers have taken their fair share of criticism over the years, it’s pretty hard to argue the impact of We Day.

We Day by the numbers:

We Day reach

We Day

Twitter 7K | Facebook 3.2 million

Free The Children

Twitter 59K | Facebook 131K

Me to We

Twitter 14K | Facebook 77K

 

 

Of the 278 000 attendees We Day has amassed between 2007- 2012, all are allowed (in fact, encouraged) to use their smart phones to help broadcast the event. Millions more are able to virtually attend via livestream and engage in the experience online. In addition, the event benefits from the powerful reach of its numerous celebrity speakers, partners, volunteers, and the Kielburgers (@CraigKielburger has over 128K on Twitter).

If you want to see a well-oiled social media machine, look to We Day.

 

As the Associate Director of Digital Media, Michael Rajzman is in charge of Free The Children’s content and social media strategies. Managing social marketing and amplification of an event as large as We Day is a huge undertaking. Rajzman’s social team strategizes and plans ahead of time and spends months following the event, amplifying stories through rich media and social content. During the event, his team is well-equipped to listen and engage in social conversations about the speakers, performers on stage, over #WeDay and spur-of-the-moment hashtags, and over youth and media mentions.

“We Day is such an incredible event and everything moves so quickly, so having a solid social relationship platform is absolutely essential” – Michael Rajzman, Free The Children.

(Read More at How Global Charities are Amplifying Stories on Social Media, via HootSource)

We Day logo

And to anyone asking ‘what’s the ROI’?

$20 million has been fundraised for 500 causes

 3.4 million hours volunteered for local and global causes

5,700 schools have participated

(download full We Day Impact Report HERE- )

We Day Waterloo Region

Last year, on November 14 2012 nearly 7000 students from across Waterloo Region cheered, cried, and enthusiastically did the We Day dance at the Kitchener Auditorium. Their passion and unabashed optimism were not a happy accident or merely a result of youthful altruism. We Day is a brilliant formula carefully orchestrated and succinctly delivered by Free The Children’s Marc and Craig Kielburger.

Based on the belief that young people are powerful instruments of change, Free The Children staged the first We Day (then called Me to We Day) in 2007. In 2010- and thanks in large part to Research In Motion (RIM)- We Day Waterloo was born. There are now nearly a dozen We Days annually, reaching hundreds of thousands of people both in stadium and via livestream.

 

Focus on youth.

Rather than discriminate and discourage young people for their lack of years, We Day works to empower youth, by emphasizing and utilizing some of their greatest strengths: optimism, passion, and defiance. One of We Day Waterloo’s most energetic speakers also happened to be its youngest: Grade 7 student Sydney Brouillard Coyle, who emphatically assured the crowd that “children are not just the future, they are the present too”.

Additionally, admission to We day cannot be purchased, it’s earned. Tickets are given to schools, and organizations that award them to young people with a proven dedication to social change. The result is a receptive audience of peers primed to accept, integrate, and implement We Day’s message.

 

Engage. As equals.

We Day doesn’t just acknowledge youth culture, it puts it to work for the greater good. At We Day Waterloo, attendees kept their eyes riveted to Canadian superstar Shawn Desman, Emmy and Golden Globe award winner Martin Sheen, and the Platinum selling These Kids Wear Crowns. From stars to speakers, entertaining performances to multi-media presentations, We Day chooses to speak the language of its audience without pandering or losing sight of the cause. The Beatlemania-like reception for motivational speaker Spencer West that proves beyond a doubt that We Day is carefully anchored to a message of empowerment and change.

 

Empower.

Canadian astronaut, physician, and CEO Dave Williams recounted how astronauts witnessed the planes crashing into the Twin Towers from the International Space Station on September 11. He argued that when we take a step back our problems don’t actually get smaller, but we gain the perspective to understand just how powerful our impact on the world can be. The sentiment was echoed by Donisha Prendergast (Bob Marley’s granddaughter), who spoke (and sang) about One Love: the power of unity. Spencer West reinforced it as he shared his incredible journey up Mount Kilimanjaro.

“Just because the world tells us something is impossible, it doesn’t mean we have to believe it.” Spencer West.

And Liz Murray, now famous for going from Homeless to Harvard left the audience without a doubt: impossible has no place in the vocabulary of social change.

 

Outline goals. Provide the means.

But frankly, it’s a broad and lofty message. Be the change. Nothing’s impossible.

And We Day operates with a very keen awareness of that. We Day Waterloo called on youth to take a step back, look at the massive task of changing the world, and take aim at two palpable goals: one local act, and one global act.

And they follow through with resources.

Swag bags, social media, and ongoing campaigns carry the We Day spirit beyond this one day event. At www.weday.com  young people can find information about every We Day across the nation, and opportunities to:

Be the Change locally, through programs like GO Local, promoting student voices in local issues, and empowering disadvantaged youth with training, resources, and opportunities.

Make changes globally. By visiting www.freethechildren.com, and collecting pennies youth can assist Free The Children to provide access to clean drinking water for 100 000 people.

 

The goal may be lofty, but the method is not. Craig and Marc Keilburger have created a comprehensive formula for change challenging some of our most discouraging, cynical messages to today’s youth by saying instead:

Your age is not an obstacle. Your voice is important.  And yes, you can be the change you want to see in the world.

(Full article originally published to Charity Republic, November 2012)

 

Tweet me- @janieeden- at @WeDay Waterloo