3.1.4 Blend social media and face-to-face interaction for advocacy campaigns and international youth collaborations
Technology and social media can be powerful tools to link youth with each other and relevant constituencies for advocacy. Technology can facilitate international collaboration efforts among young people—connecting youth in different countries, continents, and time zones. Nevertheless, access issues remain a significant barrier to communication and international collaboration for many young people.
Youth advocates participating in Plan International’s Youth in Action Project tapped into technology and social media to communicate with each other, publicize their issues, and make their voices heard. They also realized the immense value of face-to-face interaction when they worked together on a joint trip to Ghana. Those personal interactions enabled them to meet and form friendships with other project participants and with Ghanaian youth (whom they would not have met otherwise or online). In returning home, participants learned the opportunities and limitations of technology and social media both for collaboration and advocacy in their home countries.
The Global Awareness Campaign coordinated by young people participating in the Youth in Action Project reached 550 youth in 6 countries directly and 50 European Union policymakers. Over 6,000 young people were reached indirectly. Below are key learnings related to the use of technology and social media for advocacy.
- Adapt media to circumstances: Participants in Sierra Leone had insufficient bandwidth to work with online video so participants in Norway mailed them a compact disc. The CD took over a month to arrive in Africa, and once it did arrive, the African participants found that it did not work. Thus youth had to adapt to new circumstances and constantly engage in problem solving around technology.
- See social media as a means, not an end: Participants reported that social media was frequently, but not always, the most effective way to send advocacy messages. Participants reported that face-to-face encounters through meetings with youth groups throughout Europe and West Africa seemed to generate the most interest and engagement in issues.
- Adjust media by region: Social media works well in Europe but in West Africa, radio, television, and mobile phones, were more effective so we turned to direct communication.
- Remember that not everyone has access: Martin, a Youth in Action Project participant from Cameroon, lives in a village and works all day on a family farm. His family has no electricity. In order to use the Internet he travels to another village and pays by minute for Internet. He sent the first e-mail in his life during the course of this project.