1st Annual Summit: December 3-5, 2008 New York City
James: Welcome to all of you. You are changing the world. You are doing the important work. You are the best antidote to terror, to violence, and to oppression. You are the answer to the savagery of Mumbai. You are in the vanguard of non-violence, of freedom, of justice, and of social change.
Whoopi: Every day, millions of people worldwide use online social networks to share photographs, make connections, and cement friendships. But a growing number are also pioneering a much more innovative use, transforming the Internet into a powerful tool for change. These individuals harnessing the ability to instantly communicate with millions of others are using social networking sites to launch grassroots movements to organize rallies, protests, and smart mobs, to assist oppression, circumvent censorship, and denounce violence. In short, they are converting online activism into concrete real-world results.
One of the most potent examples is the story of One Million Voices Against the FARC, a Facebook group created by one man in January 2008 to protest the rebel faction that has terrorized Colombia for decades.
Oscar: My name is Oscar Morales. I am the founder of the One Million Voices Against FARC movement.
Whoopi: Using Facebook to crystallize, popularize, and amplify his message, Oscar was able to organize one of the largest mass protests in history. On February 4, 2008, just one month after the group was launched, more than 12 million people in over 200 cities around the world poured into the streets to oppose the FARC.
Oscar: It was, yeah, indeed, the biggest mobilization ever organized in the history.
Whoopi: The protest struck a crippling blow against the terrorist group.
Oscar: When they witnessed that the country was against them, that their ideals were no longer supported by people, they understood finally that they were in the wrong place, and they started massively to leave FARC and to reincorporate into civil society.
Whoopi: Inspired by Oscar’s story, new media company Howcast joined forces with the U.S. State Department, Google, Facebook, YouTube, MTV, and other sponsors to host the first ever Alliance of Youth Movements Summit, held over three days at Columbia Law School in New York City.
Jared: All we wanted to do was partner with as many people as possible to help what was already happening happen on a much larger scale.
Whoopi: The conference brought together delegates representing 17 pioneering youth movements from around the world.
Jared: And we have people coming from everywhere. And we have people coming from Africa.
Man 1: One Million People Against Crime in South Africa.
Jared: Latin America.
Marc: Cuba Development Initiative.
Jared: The Middle East, South Asia.
Man 2: Youth for Tolerance.
Sophie: Burma Global Action Network.
Jared: Five continents around the world.
Luke: IROC organization.
Janessa: The Genocide Intervention Network.
Andrew: Save Darfur Coalition.
Chris: Invisible Children.
Sharon: Hi, my name is Sharon Singh, and I’m from The People’s March Against Knife Crime in London.
Jason: In a lot of respects, these are modern-day Gandhis. They’re people that are going on and using platforms like Facebook, sites like Howcast.com, mobile technology, Bluetooth technology, really innovative ways, against violence and extremism around the world.
Matthew: And part of what we want to do here is bring groups together, share common practices, and try to inspire other groups to harness the same technologies in order to push for positive political and social change.
Whoopi: Now, I have the opportunity to moderate one of the many panel discussions, along with experts, scholars, and journalists like Luke Russert and Nicole Lapin. The delegates shared tactics and gained insights from each other and from fellow panelists, including Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Google’s Katie Stanton, and several members of Barack Obama’s new media campaign team.
Joe: Ultimately, we became a half-a-billion-dollar organization, but at the very beginning, it was just three of us and a whole lot of people who really liked this guy.
Jamie: Basically, if you fast forward two and a half years, our team, it’s the team now, we’ve responded to about 90,000 messages from 40 different countries.
Whoopi: It really is what this is all about, one person’s story knitting into the fabric, and suddenly, we’re looking at a world vision.
Chris: We have a Facebook cause of over half a million friends, a MySpace page with a quarter million friends, and an e-mail list which numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
Janessa: We’ve been able to leverage these people using the Internet and Web 2.0 technology to achieve real policy change.
Veronica: Our network is pretty expansive, and it goes to 55 universities. So if somebody in the University of Missouri wants to have an event, we’ve created guides for them, basically like a how-to checklist. So all they have to do is add water and people.
To be able to reach a new world of information. And it’s not just something that’s far away, some distant NGO. These are people. And you see that they’re young people and they’re just like you and they’re passionate. And I think that Facebook has been an incredibly valuable vessel or utility.
Dustin: I think we promote democracy, basically, by being what we are, by making the world more open, by making people more connected, by giving them a forum to be able to be heard. The nature of being connected is diametrically opposed to isolation and extremism.
Sharon: Just really overwhelming being here listening to everybody’s stories and just, you know, remembering that we’re all here a part of a really . . . It just seems a lot bigger than, you know, what we’ve done.
Whoopi: The first ever Alliance of Youth Movements Summit yielded concrete real-world results. Delegates pooled their knowledge and experience to create a field manual synthesizing the best practices and methods for creating online movements. The manual exists as both a printed and digital document so it can be easily spread far and wide.
Howcast produced a series of how-to videos condensing the manual’s message for even wider dissemination and launched a Youth Movements hub, a virtual space where some of the participants and anyone else eager to join the struggle to join the struggle against violence and oppression can connect and interact, sharing resources and spreading the message.
And finally, summit organized the secured 501(c)(3) status, ensuring that the Alliance of Youth Movements will continue to grow and fulfill its mission. Plans for a second summit are already in the works.
Roman: It’s about the individual connection with the young person, that they can do anything to change the world.
Whoopi: It’s the new UN. It’s the new way to solve problems. It’s the new way to be aware of what’s going on, not just in one place but everywhere.
Oscar: No matter what you are, no matter what are your capabilities, when the young people discover that they are not alone and when you embrace them and you give them tools and you give them courage, then you discover that “United, young people, we can change the world for real.”
Man 3: Join the Alliance . . .
Janessa: For Youth Movements.
Chris: Visit youthmovements . . .
Jamie: Dot howcast . . .
Man 4: Dot com now.
Man 5: Youthmovement punto howcast punto com.