“Nothing is impossible – you just need to have the passion and heart to give back. I strongly believe that, even if you have nothing else to give to someone, your kindness will mean the world to them. It’s always deep in my heart to do that for my community, it will always be a part of my life, and I hope it will become part of yours too.” – Shreyaa Venkat, co-founder, NEST4US
On September 15th and 16th, students, educators, and industry friends gathered at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park to celebrate the power of kindness, giving, and positivity. Organized by the California-based nonprofit #ICANHELP, #Digital4Good is now in its third year of honoring notable student achievements in positive tech and media use.
The students featured in this year’s event have led initiatives that feed the homeless, fund innovative pediatric cancer research, focus on suicide prevention, and so much more.
Aside from a selfless desire to help others, the thread that binds all of these students together is social media. Each of them uses a variety of social networks to amplify their reach, share their initiatives, and help their communities. Today, it’s more important than ever that we provide online spaces where they are free to share without fear of harassment or abuse.
Two Hat has been lucky enough to attend #Digital4Good for the last three years, and we are happy to report that it’s only getting better with age. #Digital4Good 2019 was the biggest and best yet, full of powerful speakers, inspirational stories, and one unifying message: When used for good, technology has an unparalleled power to connect us in meaningful ways.
An opportunity to connect
Speaking of connection, there was an added dimension to #Digital4Good this year. #ICANHELP founders Matt Soeth and Kim Karr paired industry experts with winners to mentor them through their #Digital4Good journey, providing insight, feedback, and encouragement as they prepared for the big day.
In our experience – and in speaking to other mentors, we’re not alone – the student winners were the real mentors. They inspired us to spearhead charitable works in our own organizations and they re-energized us to take action and inspire real change in the world around us.
Two Hat was honored to mentor Shreyaa Venkat, co-founder of NEST4US. A senior at Broad Run high school in Virginia, Shreyaa began her community service in the fifth grade and has since logged more than 850 hours of volunteer time.
She founded NEST4US with her younger sister Esha to help feed the homeless and reduce food waste. Since founding the 501©3 non-profit, they have expanded to provide tutoring services and “Birthday in a Box” for underprivileged kids through Nest Buddies, their latest initiative.
[Read more about Shreyaa’s work in Lessons in Kindness: How NEST4US is Giving Back to the Community]
Behind the scenes at #Digital4Good
On Sunday, September 15th, winners and mentors gathered at Instagram for an afternoon of conversation, roundtables, and even a Shark Tank-style pitch competition.
Winners met with experts from a variety of disciplines and learned marketing techniques, how to expand their reach, the best ways to use social media, and how to pitch to corporations. The Shark Tank judges (including previous #Digital4Good winner Karah Hopgood and Trust & Safety expert Anne Collier, and more) presented the #DigitalRockStar Awards.
Monday, September 16th was the big day. We gathered at Facebook HQ and went live at 9:30 am. About 300 teachers, students, and industry representatives from across the country joined us at Facebook. Thousands more tuned into the live stream. Hosts March For Our Lives co-founder Tyah-Amoy Roberts and Count Me In founder Shane Feldman introduced the winners and kept things lively between presentations.
Speakers included “Ten Feet Tall” speaker and author Brandon Farbstein and Instagram comedian AdamW. We watched the debut trailer for a short student film about the power of social media on teens’ life and learned how to manage a social media crisis.
At the end of the event, Matt and Kim got on stage and led us in the #ICANHELP chant – “I can help, I did help, I will help!” After that rousing declaration, there were hugs, thank you’s, and goodbyes.
We had planes and Ubers to catch, and work and school to get back to.
But everyone who attended walked away with the same feeling – there is no limit to what we can achieve with a little kindness, a willingness to give, and the technology that allows us to share.
A message of hope
At #Digtal4Good, we were reminded that social media is one of the most powerful tools in the world. Our job at Two Hat is to ensure that everyone – student, child, or adult – who uses online communities to share can do so without fear of harassment or abuse.
We are more inspired than ever to continue our mission – helping social networks build safe and healthy online communities by removing negative social interactions to make room for positive human connections.
But we can’t do it alone. Will you join us?
Two Hat believes that everyone should be free to share online without fear of harassment or abuse. We also believe that making this vision a reality is a shared responsibility.
That’s why we have allied ourselves with diverse organizations including non-profits, government agencies, private companies, and industry alliances to share best practices, produce online safety resources, and spread the word of proactive, purposeful content moderation.
Does your organization share a similar vision? If so, we would love to hear from you at email@example.com.
Learn more about the #Digital4Good 2019 winners:
Shreyaa Venkat – NEST4US
Riley Damiano – The Blue Lollipop Project
Olivia Rush – Sunshine Loves You
Clementine Chamberlain – Tampon Tuesday
Gabby Frost – The Buddy Project
Michael Pascal – Vets Van
Christina Mazzi – Project WOC
Ashley Lin – Project Exchange
Shreeya Aora – Tracking Our Heroes