by Maya Enista
I really love my job. If you’ve read this blog, you’ve heard me say it and if you’re new to this blog, you’ll hear me say it now. One of my favorite parts of this job is the opportunity to meet and get to know some of the most innovative, thoughtful and passionate Millennials in the field. Today, I have the opportunity to write about my friend and colleague, Lauren Hauser Manager of Youth Programs, who shared with me the legacy of YouthNoise and her hopes for the future of the 171,000 person community that YouthNoise built as they join the community of Mobilize.org.
If you’re thinkin’ that Lauren Hauser sounds a lot like Maya Enista Smith, then you’re right, and that compatibility and mutual commitment to engage and empower our generation is the spark that ignited this powerful collaboration. I had some questions for Lauren, and she had some good answers, so I’d like to share them with you here:
Maya: Tell me about YouthNoise; you’ve been around a long time, what you have you done + what work are you most proud of?
Lauren: YouthNoise was created in 2001, and after September 11th, 2001, we found that the site was flooded with teens wanting to connect and discuss and get involved in a lot of different conversations. They were looking for outlets through which they could communicate, engage and connect. I have been with YouthNoise for four years, first meeting the organization as an AmeriCorps VISTA and then later being asked to join the team. One of the things that I loved most about working with YouthNoise was that I was able to be surrounded by such passionate, dedicated and creative people but also that I was given a lot of leadership roles. YN has always been youth-driven, internally and externally.
Maya: What are the most important contributions made to the youth “field” by YouthNoise?
Lauren: YouthNoise was one of the first in the field to leverage the Internet for social change, was one of the most established websites for youth and their social causes. YouthNoise has always been on the forefront of exploring different funding models and collaborations that support youth work. Valuing young people, internally and externally, as key players in decision making also made us unique, but I’m glad to see so many other organizations adopting that model. For us, young people were always in the center of creating content, making program decisions, etc. and we were a stronger organization for it. I’m glad to see that will continue with Mobilize.org.
Maya: Speaking of Mobilize.org, why did you pick us as the new home for the YouthNoise programs and the YouthNoise community?
Lauren: I felt that Mobilize.org was the exact right home for YouthNoise for a lot of reasons; because our missions are so similar, because the strategic direction of Mobilize.org is the one YouthNoise was hoping to move in. I was also really impressed with the Mobilize.org team; they have a really strong passion for engaging the Millennial Generation – empowering them to be on the forefront of authentic community change. Mobilize.org really understands what it means to value young people and their capabilities and provide them a slate of resources.
Maya: Working with the Mobilize.org team is the best part of my job too, they’re fantastic (and, you should follow them on Twitter – @menista + @ayofemi + @jenstarkupdate + @njallsop + @ambermcruz + @atillema + @PRMillennial + @mob_org) and since I mentioned social media, maybe you can tell me what opportunities you see in using digital tools for civic engagement and social change?
Lauren: Young people are growing up using digital tools. Our generation pioneered social media and community networks to organize personally, and professionally. This is the first time we’ve been able to open windows and doors and see the world in a different way and connect with people in a different way. Our generation is leveraging these tools in a positive way, so it seems natural to always have a digital component to our work in order to create stronger connections between people + projects and inspire people to be involved in something. It’s also where a lot of people now live, they have online worlds as well as personal ones.
Maya: What do you wish you knew about starting a non-profit, and what advice would you like to give to our entrepreneurs?
Lauren: There are too many non-profits today. Be strategic, explore, listen, etc. to the root cause of the issue and get a better understanding of what’s already happening around that particular issue. Build your project to address a true need, an unaddressed need. We need to build on the work that’s already happened, not recreate it.
I’d like to thank Lauren for her thoughtful responses and for believing in the mission and vision of Mobilize.org. On behalf of the Mobilize.org team, we thank you and your team for entrusting us to steward your community, and fulfill your vision.
Keep Mobilizin’ (and, making some noise!)