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The Future of Social Activism

July 10th, 2012. Filed under Emerging Discussion Trends,Social Good


When you think of social activism, you probably think of all those grainy black and white videos from the 50s and 60s with people marching in the streets. Back in our parents’ and grandparents’ time, they gathered in thousands and stood up for racial equality, women’s rights, and freedom of all kinds. They wanted to stop practices that they saw as unfair, and demanded that the government sit up, take notice, and step in. After long fights, numerous battles were won and few people could argue that things didn’t become better in many ways.

Today, it’s rare that you’ll see thousands of people take to the street for a cause they believe in, with the Occupy Movement being the obvious exception to this rule. But just because people aren’t always as visible now, that doesn’t mean that they are doing less.

As we’ve become an increasingly digital society, more and more activism has moved online – especially with the advent of social media. In fact, a recent study on social activism in America’s young adults (20 to 28) found that 73 percent are activists. The thing that has changed is who is engaging in activism and how they are doing it. So, what will activism look like in the coming decade?

The following infographic was created by TBWA and Take Part:

Young Adults: The Future of Social Activism

Some trends we noticed:

The revolution will be female. According to the study, 60 percent of younger activists are women, and they care most about education, healthcare, and energy. One can only imagine what the alleged “War On Women” being waged right now will do to those numbers – on both sides of the argument.

The revolution will be corporate. Three quarters of people want companies to take action and would think better of those businesses that do so. Even better for progressive organizations, though, is that 80 percent of people surveyed said they would be more likely to buy from a company supporting a cause they believed in. Those are the kind of numbers that motivate companies to change the world for the better.

The revolution will be financial. More and more young people are donating money, participating in fundraising events, and – perhaps most importantly – boycotting or supporting businesses based on their practices. Promising money if you like what a business is doing is one thing, but actually taking money out of their pockets when they engage in bad practices hurts them where they live.

The revolution will be from the inside out. Picket signs and comfy marching shoes have gone out of style, to be replaced with suits and ties. How so? Companies that do engage in positive social change are finding that people want to work for them to support their good deeds and help further them. As more and more talent moves to these socially responsible companies, bad actors will have no choice but to get with the program and engage in positive change of their own.

The revolution will be digital. While it’s sad, there’s a reason the U.S. Post Office is on life support right now – the world has moved online. Why would anyone think that activism would be any different? Today’s activists don’t write letters – they email representatives, text each other, sign digital petitions, and more. Even much of the money is donated over the internet.

How has your activism changed in recent years?


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