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The GoodMakers Street Team — A Mother Watches Young Activists Empower Global Change

Tilo Ponder published the following article as a guest blogger at the site Progressive Impact – Douglas LaBier.

When my 21-year-old daughter suddenly left NYU Tisch a year and a half ago and came home to Los Angeles, she didn’t really know what she was returning to do — only that she was deeply concerned about how rapidly the deteriorating economy was impacting the world around her. She reported that her college friends were feeling anxious and depressed, some of them dropping out of school as their parents, who had lost their jobs, were unable to keep up with tuition payments.  In our home, we were scrambling to keep everything going, but were committed to keeping our daughter in college, no matter what.  My husband is a freelance commercial director, I was at an ad agency heading up production and also running our own production company. Add to this, managing investment properties in other states, shuttling our 5-year-old son to pre-school and sports activities, while also supporting an 18-year-old daughter living in Scotland and a 2-hour daily work commute — our lives were jam-packed, but worked somehow.

Our daughter’s announcement that she was taking a “semester break” created unrest and an ominous feeling that a small piece of our intricately maneuvered lives were being un-wedged in a dangerous way. I secretly wondered why she couldn’t just stay put.  Having tucked her away at a good college, I had assumed that she’d be set for 4-5 years, and that afterwards she’d be on her way to a prosperous career.  I challenged her assertions that her generation was apathetic and directionless, citing how it was her generation that only a year earlier ensured our nation’s first black president because of their passionate involvement in the final days of the campaign.  My daughter agreed on that point, but added that after so much build up to “change” and the subsequent downfall of a global economy, her generation had even less to believe in than before.

Given that, I wasn’t prepared for what followed.

In the weeks and months following my daughter’s return, I watched her transform from a creative artist into a creative activist!  She was attending poetry slams to meet other thought leaders, and writing music with artists who inspired change.  As she grew more involved, we slowly shifted our schedules to accommodate late-night collaborations that included round table discussions about how to identify and mobilize young artists, athletes and activists who would be willing to lend their talents to promote good causes.  And, the next thing we knew (more on that below), they weren’t just talking, they were taking action.  From art beautification projects at rundown schools, to creative workshops for at-risk youth in halfway houses, to facilitating “mic sessions” that empowered urban youth — they became a catalyst for change that was begging to happen.

The result is an organically-conceived, integrated social media company, to be launched formally as “What’s Good Media Group.”  It is creating and will be distributing content through a proprietary online hub that will accommodate a global community, offering digital collaborative tools to encourage “citizen journalism” and creative collaboration that will offer visibility and a platform for change, everywhere it’s happening.  Even if it’s in the Kibera slum. Especially if it’s in the Kibera slum.

Here’s how it happened:  My daughter and her creative tribe picked up steam with their activities, and soon our small home was overrun with recording sessions and brainstorming meetings, starting with group meals and ending in sleepovers, followed by early morning planning sessions for new campaigns to support charities and creative opportunity.  We ran out of space and put up a tent in our back yard dubbed “Tent City,” where up to 10 people could cram in with laptops. They taped mind maps to the fabric walls, put up reminders of goals and action statements and started inviting community leaders to meet with them for “tent talks” that resulted in even more action plans, mind maps and — very quickly it seemed — change in our local communities.

My neighbors began to think I was running a commune and . . . they were kind of right.  We were all in it together, and I had long ago switched my advertising brain into high gear, leveraging contacts, pitch skills and media strategies as I saw the impact their volunteer efforts had on others.  We put investment properties on the market, funded projects, housed and fed artists willing to devote time and talent to making good.  The charities they volunteered for (e.g., Boys & Girls Club, America SCORES, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), and Los Angeles Food Bank, etc.) reported extraordinary feedback from inspired youth and more charities began calling.

They named their tribe the GoodMakers Street Team, began pitching their services to Corporate America, and received an overwhelmingly positive response.  A number of companies have already contributed resources and others are looking forward to hitching their brand to a young, progressive group of twentysomething’s who are doing good things in the world, while raising funds through creating music you would want to buy, customizing shoes tagged by street artists that are being auctioned off for hundreds of dollars to benefit charity, and developing a line of gluten-free baked goods (which is a project that investors are clamoring to back).

They launched a radio program called “What’s Good Media” that features  thought leaders, artists and change makers, remixing interviews with original beats by talented DJ’s that reflect the immersive mixed media experience that is the  hallmark of their generation.This month, they are launching a campaign called “Take Back The Block” — which is the theme at the heart of the community projects that the GM Street Team is organizing in various US cities as well as in Tanzania and Kenya.  Starting small, thinking global, making a difference one block at a time.

Here’s some of their other projects:

I’ve had to give up on many friends who don’t get what my husband and I are doing and think we’re in some kind of mid-life crisis.  After all, who quits their six figure job, starts a nonprofit (which is another full-time commitment) and supports their daughter in leaving college to start a movement out of a tent?  What I tell them is this: “How could we not capture this moment in time?  How could we not support this bold and tenacious young demographic determined to create global change?”  My generation is being forced to deal with our addiction to unsustainable growth as this young generation is leading the shift toward real growth — the kind that comes from the inside and sustains the world around us.

Social movements aren’t for everyone.  They require sacrifice and a shift in resources — i.e., moving time and money away from things we no longer believe in and towards ideas that support an emerging world. Even if it’s a world we don’t yet fully understand.  That being said, I honestly believe that when your college bound child wants to pursue a career path that has nothing to do with earning six figures and everything to do with creating a better world, you should let them.

And get a good tent.

The original posting can be found here.

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