Interview with DoSomething.org
DoSomething.org's Campaigns Manager, Sahara Lake, said it better than we ever could. So, without further ado: read Editorial Team member Jade Cave's interview with Lake - and if that's not your thing, listen to the podcast interview here.
What’s the purpose and mission behind DoSomething.org? What's your role in the world of youth activism right now?
Sahara Lake: DoSomething.org is the largest online platform for young people and social change. In general, we provide volunteer and civic action campaigns in just about any cause you can think of. Whether it is climate change or issues in homelessness and poverty, you name it. Our role in this space is to provide a diverse amount of young people with the tools and resources to complete these campaigns. Being that we are an online platform, we are able to work with young people all over the country, provide them with whatever they may need, and tailor them to work in their own community.
What initiatives and campaigns does DoSomething.org normally run and what’s your impact?
Currently on our site, we have over 250 campaigns, and so our impact is pretty widespread. These campaigns can look like things to do with your friends in your community, like running a canned food drive or collection campaigns. To things that are more unique to us, like signing online petitions, sharing information, and educating young people in our network about issues
they can take part in. In terms of our impact, we have over 5 million members across the globe. It tends to be a lot of young people in the United States, but our reach is really wide, and so our impact looks different in each community. We have people signing up by the thousands for our campaigns, so it varies from campaign to campaign, but our scale is pretty big.
How has COVID-19 impacted those campaigns that you’re running?
In response to COVID-19, we’ve offered both resources and campaigns to help young people stay healthy and fight anxiety. Also thinking about the different populations of young people, how we can help them, peer to peer, to make a difference. All our activations and campaigns have had to move online because we are honouring physical distancing. We know that it looks different in each community, but for the most part, people are still inside, students aren’t at school, they’re not in after school programs, and they’re not playing sports. As an organization, we’ve thought a lot about how we can take this impactful platform that we have and move it online. One example is our campaign, Senior Homies, which encourages young people to help a senior or an adult in their life fight social isolation during COVID-19 because the disease is really affecting the older population. We’ve done a lot of surveying of our members about “what is important to you all” and “what cause do you want to focus on at this time” and a lot of young people said they were very worried about their grandparents and other seniors in their lives. For this campaign, Senior Homies, the ask was to have young people call or video chat an older adult in their life and swap stories to make sure everyone is feeling loved and connected during this time, which can be pretty isolating. We had a very similar campaign called Grandparents Gone Wired, which we’ve been running for years, that has empowered over 100,000 young people to teach older adults how to use technology. So we started with that model and pivoted it to make sense under COVID-19.
What’s the best way for a young person or anybody to get involved in any of these?
I would say that you can visit our website DoSomething.org and take a look at our campaigns there. You can also follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and we’re on TikTok too! And then it’s through our website. When you visit our homepage you’ll see a lot of the COVID campaigns we’re promoting now and a few of our other favourites. It's pretty simple - you click on the campaign, you read about it, and once you click ‘join us’ you get access to all the resources and tools, and we walk you through step by step on how to participate.
For our international readers, would these opportunities be available to those outside the US as well?
Yes. I don’t know right off the top of my head which countries we’re in, but I know that we’re in over a hundred countries across the globe. I’m sure that many of your international readers can visit our website as well!
What makes DoSomething.org different from other youth action and youth mobilization organizations?
What makes us different is that we’re here for all young people. I think that when it comes to special opportunities for volunteerism or leadership development, there tends to be requirements around grades, GPA, and access. Because our platform allows us to be really democratic, you find young people who are definitely leaders in their community and really passionate, but you also find young people who are like, “I found this article, and I wanted to do something about it and so I found you all, and now I’m engaged, now I know how to take action against climate change or against racial injustice.” It’s the diversity of young people and the access that we are able to provide that makes us unique and special.
Wouldn’t that also broaden your impact, just how much change you can make is you have such a diverse group of young people?
Yep! And I always think that any young person can make a difference. If you can educate yourself and can learn and make it work for your community- that’s awesome! Volunteerism is not a monolith, it doesn’t have to look one way, so yes, that allows us to have a lot of impact and a lot of different types of impact, which is great.
What advice do you have for young people who are looking to make an impact in their community, who are looking to make a change but don’t necessarily know where to start?
I would say always start with what you’re passionate about. I think that we are in such a 24-hour news cycle that there are so many things, especially now going on to just find what you’re passionate about. And it doesn’t have to be the biggest thing, it could even be small. Something that’s going on in your school, at your church, in your neighbourhood. Just think about how you can rally people behind you and really get the word out. Then I would say continue to educate yourself on what it is that you’re passionate about and you will find organizations like us, you’ll find more news, more like-minded people, and that’s going to help your movement grow and grow. So if you start with what you’re passionate about, that will allow you to expand, and to work hard in anything you want.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
I’ll share a few of the other COVID-19 campaigns that we’ve got going on, in case anyone reading is interested. So beyond Senior Homies, we have a campaign called the #oneteam challenge that we have going on with our partners at ESPN. It is a sports-themed campaign that’s about taking action against COVID-19. It started and stemmed from thinking about all the high school students who are missing their spring season of sport, thinking about the seniors who are missing their last season of sport. So how can you rally behind your team, your school community or your specific athletic team and take action together. So that’s up on our site. Another one is called New State of Mind, a campaign that is all about mental health; particularly sharing tips about how you’re doing with stress and self-care during this time. And lastly, beyond just volunteer campaigns, we have a whole slew about civic action. We have a campaign called COVID-19 and the election. That’s talking a lot about voter rights and getting out to vote in November with or without physical distancing. No matter what, there are issues that are taking place and there are ways to take action.: DoSomething.org is the largest online platform for young people and social change. In general, we provide volunteer and civic action campaigns in just about any cause you can think of. Whether it is climate change or issues in homelessness and poverty, you name it. Our role in this space is to provide a diverse amount of young people with the tools and resources to complete these campaigns. Being that we are an online platform, we are able to work with young people all over the country, provide them with whatever they may need, and tailor them to work in their own community.