The long term vision of Social Rise is simple: Get the world connected online. Teach social media tools that we use every day to help under served populations improve access to information, increase their visibility online, and build a community.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”
I thought about this quote from John Maynard Keynes a few weeks back as I was working on getting Social Rise off the ground. Before I even had a name or vision, I had just attended a career development seminar on social recruiting. One of the central points at the seminar was that social recruiting through Linkedin and Twitter was more essential than any other type of online job attainment strategy. Brands and hiring managers saw the opportunity to use social analytics in their recruiting and were moving quickly to these platforms. Virtual branding was no longer just a social necessity; it was now an economic necessity as well.
I understood the concept of social media for the job search but was frustrated by one thing: A country that already had rampant problems with poverty and technology equity was now increasing the gap by putting more jobs out of reach. I had worked as a volunteer with the social services organization LIFT back in the Fall of 2012; A team and I met multiple clients every week to help them apply to jobs online. The rise of a Linkedin meant less reliance on aggregators like Monster and Craigslist to filter out good candidates. It meant less opportunity for people who didn’t know social media to connect with these otherwise obscure availabilities.
Social Rise started with the simple question: Based on the conclusion of the seminar, could social media actually help people get jobs regardless of their circumstance? In 2015, social media tools are initially free. Linkedin and Twitter have more than 300 million users. Sure, experience and education are important. But Linkedin summaries, endorsements and recommendations enable employers to see powerful intangibles such as potential, enthusiasm, and cultural fit. Credibility is suddenly vital to hiring managers. Brands are openly connecting with the public and constantly selling their image on social media. Pivoting a personal brand could be helpful, right? Like Keynes suggested, I tried to abandon all the assumptions that I had about this population and focused instead on digging into this lofty question.
There are 100 million Americans living every day in poverty. Technology access has been a hot button issue in community transformation and the poverty dialogue since the proliferation of internet use more than a decade ago yet people are still skeptical that those in poverty need computers and smartphones in lieu of basic needs such as food and shelter. Many organizations such as ByteBack and Zero Divide are changing this paradigm, leveraging and teaching technology as a medium of social empowerment. For those of us who have used computers and smartphones for years, it’s hard to imagine a world where we may not even know how to use Microsoft Office. But was it worth it to teach them a new beast like social media?
Consider the following scenarios:
What if there was a way to help small business owners from impoverished or immigrant backgrounds market their products and services when they have small direct networks?
What if there was a way to help low-income individuals who live near libraries use computer networks and find live feeds of information on food, shelters and community events?
What if there was a way to bring students who come from schools with the lowest graduation rates to get online through Linkedin and discover a full network of college resources and potential mentors that can give them subjective insights on career paths?
What if there was a way to allow someone re-entering society from prison to re-invent their image, create a professional identity online and deep dive into new careers?
What if there was a way to empower a group of disengaged and disenfranchised individuals to mobilize around a social cause “hashtag” and build awareness around their experiences and opinions?
What if there was a way for aspiring artists and writers from marginalized backgrounds to share their work online with strangers in exchange for income?
What if there was a way to get 20 people from the poorest neighborhoods in a room to have a twitter chat with Barack Obama?
What if there was simply a group or forum online that frustrated and impoverished people who felt alone in their journey could go to in order to have a sense of belonging and self-esteem?
These are only some of the questions we have been proposed and look to answer every day as Social Rise continues to grow. The journey continues to be a challenge. The field is generally bereft of data on social media use. There are still many skeptics. Many experts who have spent their entire life studying poverty still can’t ensure it will succeed. We are not naïve to think getting people on social media could fix opportunity gaps overnight or serve as the final solution. We don’t expect 100% buy-in. It is simply another, albeit small, step forward. As the old proverb says:
“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
Interested in getting involved? We have many volunteer opportunities available.
Be sure to connect with us on Twitter and our website. We hope to hear any thoughts and insights you have to share!