As the new kid on the block at Global Kids, I’ve had several opportunities to practice the “Elevator Pitch” describing our work:
"I work for a youth-oriented non-profit that helps teens in New York and beyond use technology to be better students and global leaders."
"I use virtual worlds to educate young people about important global issues and empower them to be better global citizens."
"I work for a non-profit called Global Kids. We connect teenagers with the technical tools and the knowledge to be better informed citizens and more successful students."
Yeah, I know, these suck.
Watching old hands like Barry and Rafi tell the GK story to various audiences large and small, I’m inspired to develop my own soundbites that communicate about our mission and work succinctly and convincingly.
Throughout my entire career as a non-profit organizer, I’ve had difficulty condensing what I do into something that is easily told at, say, a dinner party or in a bar. Too often I have found myself responding to the question of “So what do you do?” with a mumbled reply about “do-gooder activist stuff.” Usually by the time I finish explaining it, the person has moved on to the cheese platter.
Global Kids and the Online Leadership Program in some ways is much easier to explain to people: We help young people, we work with new technologies, we teach about global issues. The rest is just details.
But it is in the details where I get tripped up. The phrase "virtual worlds" often needs to be unpacked for anyone over the age of 25 (and lots of people under 25.) Not to mention "machinima," "Second Life," "the International Criminal Court," and "sustainable development." Just two days ago, I had to explain to a well-educated friend what a foundation was.
What I have found is that people quickly focus in on certain aspects of our mission. Some respond strongest to our work face-to-face with teens-of-color in some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York. Others are inspired by the potential of connecting teens around the world using virtual worlds. Some really get jazzed about digital filmmaking, others want to know more about the human rights and environmental education.
But none of them are bored by what we do. It's always the beginning of an interesting conversation.
Often the conversation ends abruptly when I have to admit that I don't know much more beyond the generalities of our game creation work or our young social entrepreneurs project. But as I inculcate the details around the different strands of our mission, I look forward to more in-depth conversations with folks -- from the guy sitting beside me on the airplane to my cousin visiting from the Philippines.
So the next time someone says, "And so what do YOU do?" my response will be more interesting than the cheese platter.