Question # 1
The biggest challenge students and young social entrepreneurs face is where to begin. Initially it seems like such a daunting task to get yourself heard, or to support a cause. After all most of us think, “What can one person really do?” Maybe that question was valid twenty or even ten years ago, but not anymore. With all the social media websites available to students, for FREE, it’s so much easier than we realize to enact change. Do you have a great idea for a charity, want to raise awareness about one already created, want to connect with people supporting similar ideas and charities? All you have to do is like pages on Facebook, follow organizations on Twitter, or search for bloggers with similar interests and get them on board.
I know you’re sitting there thinking, “She’s making this sound so much easier than it actually is.” Well, you’re wrong. It’s as easy as I’m making it sound. You might not become internationally known overnight, or well ever, but you can definitely attract a following and have people listen. Now I can say all of this with confidence, because just a few months ago I was the skeptic saying the exact same thing. My first day of Social Media, Dr. Knight introduced Beautiful Social and told us that we would spend the semester working for actual people and organizations. I thought she was nuts. No offense Dr. Knight, and I’ve since learned otherwise. Maybe? I wasn’t the only one in the class more than a little freaked out. I mean, I really didn’t think anyone would take Beautiful Social seriously. I also was pretty sure no one was going to seek us out, and I pictured us going inbox to inbox looking for work. I was wrong on both accounts. People did want our help, and by the end of the semester we were being contacted by total strangers who happened to find our website.
I experienced that same feeling of panic, which unfortunately was starting to become familiar, when Dr. Knight cheerfully announced that we would be hosting a TEDx event at SJU. My first two thoughts were:
1. I am not giving a talk
2. NOBODY is going to come
My third was again to question Dr. Knight’s sanity. There is an upside and a downside to what came next. Upside: I didn’t have to give a talk. Downside: we now had to invite speakers to come. Yet again, I had some serious doubts, and yet again Dr. Knight proved that one person could make a difference. Literally within 24 hours, she had recruited maybe four pretty well known and actually interesting speakers to come to our event.
I remember one of the first days of class Dr. Knight told us it is better to try something risky and wind up with a beautiful failure, than to play it safe and wind up with something mediocre. I think that was supposed to encourage us, possibly reassure us? It wasn’t working for me. I wanted a textbook to read, I wanted to practice together in class with fake assignments. I wanted to learn first like I did in all my other classes, and I wanted my professor to tell me what to do. I didn’t want to be a beautiful failure, I wanted to be told what to do, so I could do it and do it right. What I didn’t realize is that I would be learning while I was doing. You can have someone lecture you on how to ride a bike forever, but you won’t learn how to ride the bike until you get on it. And possibly fall a few times.
This semester, we were encouraged to “take the lead” in every aspect of the phrase. We read books (THANK GOD) like Clara Shih’s The Facebook Era, which taught us how people communicate through the social web of Facebook. We read Social Entrepreneurship by David Bornstein and learned how to become social entrepreneurs. But most importantly we learned to take the lead by actually taking the lead and diving head first into our projects. Rather than learning about social entrepreneurship and social media and going off to do it on our own, we were fully immersed in doing what we were reading and learning about, which further served to solidify our knowledge.
And after all knowledge = power!
That’s what students and young changemakers need to feel: POWER. If I had ended this semester without having been forced way out of my control freak comfort zone, I probably never would have actually definitely would not have done it on my own. And if I hadn’t been able to witness first hand the things we were accomplishing, I would have left the class still thinking that Dr. Knight had a vivid imagination and her sights set way too high. At the risk of sounding extraordinarily cliché and corny the knowledge and experience I gained in this class gave me the power to believe in myself, and that I can make a difference, and that I can pretty much do and be whatever I want.