From reproductive rights to anti-discrimination laws, 2021 was undoubtedly fraught with political, environmental and social changes. Now, with less than 3 months before we all welcome 2022, the voices of dissent have grown stronger. When despair gripped older generations, the youth of today have risen to the challenge—by speaking up on the behalf of tomorrow. Not only has youth activism demonstrated an unyielding desire for a better society, but it has also proven vital for the development of a collaborative and purpose-led world, rooted in inclusivity.
As with any activism, however, initiating change and persuading people to actually listen is always an uphill battle. That’s exactly what footwear and lifestyle brand TOMS is here to address. Backed with the belief that progress begins on the ground through efforts led by those closest to a community’s obstacles and opportunities, TOMS has curated the Good On The Ground summit—a digital event featuring members of grassroots partner organisations such as The Advocacy Academy and Peace First as well as external advocates, all coming together on Thursday 7 October from 6 p.m. BST to immerse you into their world of local activism.
Through a series of inspiring keynotes, galvanising workshops and honest conversations, this event seeks to be a watering hole where you can connect with other young activists while learning the basics of local advocacy.
The summit will be kicked off with a spoken word performance by the multi-published writer and poet Tanaka Fuego, who will take the stage to perform a powerful poetry on their experience growing up. Amy Smith, Chief Strategy & Impact Officer at TOMS, will then address one of the most common questions plaguing the quest to create change: where do I begin? Well, the answer lies right in your local community! Sharing her own experience while collaborating with nonprofits around the world, Smith will teach you what makes local, ‘grassroots’, organisations so powerful in creating long-lasting change.
The session will be followed up with two simultaneous labs, where you’ll be able to choose the one you’d like to attend on the day of the summit. The first lab will feature Saba Shafi, CEO of The Advocacy Academy, where she will share her inspiring journey along with artist-in-residence Rhianna Ilube, who will give pro tips on how to co-create impactful campaigns. Here, you’ll have a chance to learn what it takes to collaborate artistically with friends, fellow activists, or organisers and how to navigate questions of allyship, consent and power dynamics.
After repeatedly being told that, as a young person, you are the ‘future’, it can be scary to show up confidently in the now and know how to build connections with those that we’ve been made to see as our elders. This is where Tatianna Ennin and Oluwaseun Kayode from Peace First come in to help with a second lab option for you to pick from. In this interactive workshop, you’ll be given the tools required to identify the people and institutions that are key to getting your social change campaign off the ground, along with insights into building meaningful alliances with them.
Once you’re done and dusted with your choice of labs, the summit will be concluded by two female founders who are experts at making an impact. Nafisa Bakkar, entrepreneur and founder of Amaliah magazine and Shira Jeczmien, founder and director of Screen Shot media, will wrap up the summit with a final conversation on the potential storytelling harbours as a powerful tool when it comes to transforming ideas for change into sustainable projects.
At the Good On The Ground summit, all eight speakers will equip you with the tools you need to create change within your own community. This initiative further reflects TOMS’ vision of a future where all people have a chance to thrive. The brand has therefore pledged one-third of its profits to grassroots good, in support of the people working to build a more equitable tomorrow. TOMS is not only committed to changing the world but is also at the feet of the people who are.
So dust off your TOMS, sign up for free to the virtual game changer event on Thursday 7 October 2021 between 6 to 9 p.m. BST, and learn how to run the world with unapologetic advocacy, passion and creativity that speaks louder than words ever could.
It’s funny how the apparent generational rift can divides us—new gens are often criticised by some of our predecessors, be that our social media habits and apparent phone addiction or the presumption that we don’t care for the world around us. Yet, when we do share our opinions on urgent issues such as climate change or poor political policy, we are labelled as ‘snowflakes’.
Being the ‘social media generation’, it isn’t surprising that we end up resorting to social media activism, with many now turning to TikTok to resonate with a wider and younger audience. TikTok is rapidly increasing in popularity, especially amongst gen Z audiences, who make up over 50 per cent of the platform’s user base. So how did TikTok become the go-to-app for politically driven content?
This week, the UK is about to have one of its most important General Elections in recent history, which will be a turning point in determining the future of the country’s politics; naturally, our social media feeds are covered with news about this. Ela, perhaps better known by her Instagram handle @sunkidi, has recently published a TikTok video on her Instagram feed, which has now gone viral, questioning why people vote conservative. “I made it on a whim really. I’m in my pyjamas in the video aha. I make really stupid TikToks when I’m bored and post them on my private Instagram, it was never meant to go on my public insta but my friends thought it was funny so I posted it there,” Ela tells Screen Shot.
The video has now received over 93 thousand views, and has been shared by hundreds, with Ela receiving overall positive responses, as not only did she manage to start a conversation about something incredibly important and find a way to engage with people online, she did so through humour. “I think every generation uses different means to express ourselves. Memes can cover all sections of life so there’s something for everyone to have a giggle at,” says Ela. It appears that as a generation we tend to turn to memes, humor and now TikToks to voice our concerns, and it is incredibly effective.
“I think social media is so important for this election because it’s giving people access to information that isn’t broadcasted by mainstream publications and it’s giving people who are suffering under a Tory government a voice.” There is also a real push to get young people to vote in this election, firstly, because the election determines the long-term future of the youngest members of the country, and, secondly, since there has previously been a lack of young people in the electoral register. A large majority of gen Zs were unable to vote in the Brexit referendum, for instance, because they were underage at the time. Since this current election was announced, over 47,000 new applications have reached the voting age by September alone. Ela is not the only one who used TikTok as a means to create awareness for this election; the Brexit Party is an avid TikTok user, while young supporters of other parties also turn to TikTok to create politically driven content in regards to the election and the current state of British politics.
It is uncertain what exactly influenced new voters to register, but activism and social media influence have played an active role in that. So do we owe it to ourselves and others to be political on social media? “I think we do owe it to ourselves to be political!” Ela tells Screen Shot. “I think social media activism is so important. I remember In 2014 finding out about the Ferguson riots before the mainstream media had reported it. I also think the media can be so quiet on important issues that people need to know such as the Hong Kong riots and killings of Muslims in China for example. I wouldn’t have known about that if it wasn’t for social media.”
It is true that there are many cases in which social media has managed to report on news before mainstream news outlets have; the Sudan crisis being a great example of such, or the most recent Chinese concentration camps for Muslims, and social media activism has been pivotal in raising awareness to these issues. Teenager Feroza Aziz recently went viral after posting a TikTok disguised as an eyelash tutorial in which she speaks about what is happening, urging people to take action—with the Chinese app temporarily disabling her for doing so. That hasn’t stopped Feroza, however, as she tells the BBC that she is not “scared of TikTok”.
The future belongs to the new gen, and we are claiming it by fighting for a better, kinder future, TikTok by TikTok, if that’s what it takes.