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by Martha Gleeson
6th December 2019

Young people aren’t engaged with the world. It’s a popular myth that seems to crop up again and again, but is this really the case?

Perhaps the reality is less that young people aren’t engaged with the world and more that this engagement is happening in less traditional spaces. YouTube is one of, if not the most, popular social media platform for younger generations with 96% of 18- to 24-year-old American internet users watching videos on the platform. It should therefore be unsurprising that many incredible charity events happen on YouTube every year, and yet most people who aren’t within the communities in question would never even know this is happening.

Just within the last year there have been plenty of examples of online communities coming together to raising money for charity, from Terroriser, a popular gaming YouTuber, raising over $45,000 for Movember, to Dr Lupo, a popular Twitch streamer, raising over $920,000 in just four and half hours for St. Jude’s Children’s Research hospital.

And if you wonder if there are any larger campaigns out there, you need look no further than Team Trees, an initiative to raise $20 million by the end of 2019, which will then be used to plant 20 million trees. This campaign is still running but it has already raised over $17.3 million, and whilst large contributions from figures such as Elon Musk have helped, a lot of this money has been raised by the fans and community of Mr Beast, a popular YouTuber who co-created the campaign. With roughly half of Mr Beast’s audience being under 25 (likely an underestimation due to younger people being unable to create accounts), and quick scroll through the recent donations often revealing people donating their pocket money, this campaign truly shows the passionate and engaged nature of the so called ‘internet generation’.

This is not a new phenomenon. The amount, and visibility, of these campaigns may have changed over the years, but people have been raising money and awareness on YouTube for as long as it has been around. The best example of this is Project for Awesome (P4A), an annual 48-hour charity livestream that started in 2007 and was created by John and Hank Green, also known as the Vlogbrothers. It may be unsurprising, given John Green’s popularity as a Young Adult author, that once again their audience is skewed towards the younger end of the spectrum, with their last census showing about 48% of their audience is 22 and under.

Since the fundraising element of the project was added in 2010, P4A has raised over $10 million, and perhaps the most innovative part of the project is that the charities it supports are chosen by the community. Whilst the first half of the livestream is dedicated to raising money for specific charities such as Save the Children and Partners in Health, the second half focuses on featuring videos submitted by the community, and getting people to vote for their favourite charities/videos, with the money raised during the second half being split between the charities with the most votes.

While all the projects I have mentioned are brilliant, there is something special about the community aspect of P4A which can’t be overlooked. The ability for people, especially young people, to choose what charities are supported is incredibly important. Even if you are unable to donate to P4A, or unable to create a video, everyone in the community has the ability to engage with the project and vote for the things that matter to them. Instead of being told what to care about, and support, P4A gives people the opportunity to decide, as a community, what matters most to them, whether it’s This Star Won’t Go Out, which supports families facing childhood cancer, or The Harry Potter Alliance, which uses the power of story and popular culture to make activism accessible and sustainable.

This year’s P4A starts at 5pm GMT today. This year we are taking part and have created a video for our 2019 charity, The Green House. The Green House is a fantastic Bristol charity which provides free counselling for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse at any point in their lives. You can watch, and vote for, our video here.

We hope you decide to vote for The Green House when voting goes live at 5pm. You can only vote once per video, but you can vote on as many videos as you like, so search for other charities you support too, and, as is customary during P4A, don’t forget to be awesome!