Preventing meanness and cruelty – both online and off – involves paying attention, encouraging and displaying empathy, and promoting kindness in one’s community; and, it’s just one priority Microsoft shares with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation (BTWF).
I recently attended the kickoff meeting of BTWF’s inaugural Youth Advisory Board (YAB). Microsoft was approached to help sponsor the YAB’s first gathering, as the Foundation looks to realize its vision in conjunction with Lady Gaga’s upcoming North American tour. Over the course of two and a half days, YAB members discussed everything from guidelines for their confabs
and interactions, to their presence online, on the road, and down the street.
As I told one colleague, “I laughed. I cried. I was motivated and energized. Being around such remarkable young people is a truly altering experience – in a really good way.”
BTWF’s YAB brings together 24 diverse and impressive young adults from across the U.S., to help carry out the Foundation’s mission of fostering a more accepting society. Day one kicked off with a video message from Lady Gaga herself, welcoming the youth. Personal stories from each of the members followed. These included tales of bullying, being socially ostracized, and other pre-teen, teenage, and many very adult challenges and struggles. “Everyone has a story to tell” quickly became a theme, as adults, too, shared their reasons for getting involved. The older set’s anecdotes ranged from a desire to help overcome and combat bullying, to inspiring hope for future generations, and a very real need among those who are parents to offer advice and guidance to hungry youth.
Later, Cynthia Germanotta, President and Co-Founder of the BTWF and Lady Gaga’s mom, gave a presentation about the Foundation, its vision, and mission. BTWF was established in 2011, and is dedicated to creating a safe community where individuality is celebrated, and youth are connected to the skills, resources, and opportunities they need to help build a “braver, kinder world.” Through research, education and advocacy, the Foundation seeks to help young people build self-confidence, improve their general well-being, prevent bullying, obtain mentoring, and develop their careers.
On the second day, members ideated as to the various places and groups, where and with whom, they might share their positive messages and promote their community-strengthening activities, both “IRL” (in real life) and online. These included arts programs, volunteer organizations, in-school clubs, and mentoring circles, as the Foundation also aims to connect youth with others whom they don’t already know.
Microsoft and the BTWF have other similar priorities. A braver, kinder world is akin to fostering digital citizenship. Improving the health and well-being of youth can be equated to encouraging responsible and appropriate use of technology by people of all ages and abilities.
Microsoft applauds the BTWF’s efforts, and its focus on energizing and empowering today’s youth. We look forward to watching the Foundation’s progress, as it inspires bravery for generations to come.
To learn more about Microsoft’s related work, consult our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit, and regularly check in to our Safety & Security Center for the latest tips and advice about staying safer online. “Like” Microsoft and BTWF’s pages on Facebook and Twitter (Microsoft Online Safety Twitter and BTWF’s Twitter), as we follow BTWF’s Born Brave Bus along the route of Lady Gaga’s 2013 tour.