Four years ago this month, I stood hand in hand with my daughter on a stage in Boston to announce the launch of Born This Way Foundation. Our mission of building a kinder and braver world is still sound, and our strategy has evolved to focus on the wellness of young people by supporting research, relationships and real stories in our schools and communities. Our desire to empower and inspire young people and partner with them to build a kinder and braver world remains steadfast.
As I reflect on my time leading the foundation and the many young people I’ve had personal conversations with, I want to share what I’ve learned, the beliefs that shape our work each day and the conversations that my daughter, team and I are passionate about. Here’s what inspires us…
We believe in the power of young people, individually and collectively.
Because we believe in the power of young people, individually and collectively, we created the Born This Way Youth Advisory Board. Our work is guided by the feedback, input and stories of young people in both formal and informal ways and we look forward to finding more opportunities to integrate youth voice in all aspects of our programming and partnerships in the coming year. Over the last few years, we connected with more than 150,000 young people – face to face – in communities across the country and millions more online.
We believe in the necessity of convening young people – online and offline – to address their most pressing challenges.
Because we believe in the necessity of convening young people – online and offline – to address their most pressing challenges, we launched the Emotion Revolution. This past October, we brought together 400 people, including 200 young people and 200 teachers, funders, policy makers and non-profit organizations, to discuss how students currently feel in their schools and how they hope to feel. Through the Emotion Revolution and the ongoing work of our partners, we’re supporting young people as they demand an education that allows them to thrive, holistically.
We believe in the need and desire to put youth voice in the center of important conversations. the culture of community.
Because we believe in the need and desire to put youth voice in the center of important conversations, online and offline, we launched the #HackHarassment campaign in partnership with Intel, Vox Media and Re/Code to ensure that across digital platforms and in online communities, the values of kindness and bravery are being promoted and protected. Young people are communicating in unprecedented ways and there is so much potential to harness technology. Let’s join forces and work together to align this potential with the positivity we know promotes the ability to develop and thrive.
We believe in the value of listening and being listened to.
Because we belief in the value of listening and being listened to, we continue to collect Share Your Story testimonials from young people across the world. Thousands of young people have shared the challenges they face and the inspiring ways in which they’ve overcome those challenges. In the coming year, we plan to highlight some of those stories across platforms to learn from one another, support one another and shine a light on the brave young people that serve as examples to us all.
We believe in the generosity of our partners, and their deep commitment to collaboration.
Because we believe in (and have benefitted tremendously) from the generosity of our partners and their deep commitment to collaboration, we’re excited to launch a multi-year partnership with Mattel and Monster High to explore, encourage, and reward a culture of kindness and bravery online and in our schools. Lady Gaga believes it’s cool to be kind and we know the Ghouls of Monster High agree. We hope you’ll join us in this interactive exploration and pledge to be kinder to yourself and each other this year.
We believe that it’s okay for young people (or any one of us) to need help, and they should have access to quality resources to get that help, whatever it may be.
Because we believe that all of us need help, and we should know where to go to get that help, we’re partnering with leaders in the field of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mental Wellness in order to increase our investment in and awareness of online and offline help-seeking resources. Next month, we’ll launch the third iteration of our Born Brave Experiences Study and work to unearth research findings that move the field forward, provide resources to young people and strengthen our body of evidence to inform our future work.
And most importantly, my daughter and I want to share our strongest beliefs…
We believe that NOW more than ever is our moment to build a kinder and braver world.
We believe in YOU.
As a mother, I am reminded each day of the distance between the world we live in and the world that we want our children to live in. I have the painful privilege of hearing heart wrenching stories each day; the stories of families struggling with serious challenges, young people facing untold acts of meanness and cruelty on a daily basis, organizations that tackle urgent issues in our communities each day and do so with little to no resources or support. Fortunately, over the past four years, I’ve begun to see a change in these conversations and an impact from our collective work.
More and more, we’re hearing young people telling us that they’re overcoming their reluctance to seek mental health, due to exciting initiatives such as Mental Health First Aid and Crisis Text Line. A ground breaking group of school districts are collaborating and working with young people to build proactive, healthy communities to combat meanness and cruelty and promote social emotional learning with partners such as CASEL and Facebook’s newly launched InspirEd initiative. Innovative companies such as KIND and Mattel are launching campaigns that promote kindness and bravery by helping to support the work of like minded non-profits and individuals around the country and the world.
Born This Way Foundation wants to continue to be a part of the change that young people are leading; building a kinder and braver world and realizing the potential that lies within each of us. It is a privilege to do this work alongside you each day and on behalf of my daughter and the staff and partners of Born This Way Foundation, we thank you for a tremendous four years and for the promise of an even more exciting future.
All the best,