This July, Repair the World is teaming up with an awesome organization called Ask Big Questions (an initiative of Hillel) to ask the big, burning question: Who is in your community? Today’s answer comes from Tara Mahoney, co-founder of Gen Why Media, a production group working to innovate civic engagement.
What was the inspiration behind starting Gen Why Media?
We started Gen Why Media 2 1/2 years ago because we were inspired by our friends and the people around us. We noticed that there was a whole population of people coming into a new consciousness around social change, but not being represented well in the media. The only time young people typically do make the news, we are represented as entitled, airheaded, and superficial. That was just not consistant with our experience at all. We started with a 12 minute film, which we screened around town. The film resonated with people, and from there a community started to form. Today, we are an event and media production company that built on these ideas to re-imagine civic engagement for the 21st century, and to offer new outlets for young people to connect to important issues.
What are some examples of those new outlets?
One of the big things we do is host a large scale event series called Bring Your Boomers. It’s an intergenerational dialogue series that addresses how we can make social and political issues appealing to young, media savvy people. By combining the dialogue with something cultural like live music, the events attract a wide crowd. The idea is that young people invite the older generation, like their parents, to the conversation, which in turn strengthens the dialogue. The role of the events is to start a culture of conversation and ask what happens if young people and older people begin to feel like it’s okay to collaborate and ask each other questions. There are important things that each generation brings to the table, so this type of interaction is necessary.
What are some other projects Gen Why Media has done?
We do a lot of small scale videos for non-profit organizations and produce events on behalf of universities. We are also producing a longer documentary called Fractured Land. It’s the story of a First Nations law student named Caleb, who is using his degree to fight the destructive fracking happening on traditional territories in British Columbia. Caleb’s story is symbolic of the challenges a lot of young people are facing, and he represents someone who is doing something to face those challenges head on. The film is going through post production now, but we are already using it to help create an active community and cross-platform engagement around this issue.
Can you share a bit about the impact Gen Why Media has had?
It all depends on what you’re measuring. From an organizational standpoint, our events are well attended. The Bring Your Boomer events always sell out, so there is clearly an appetite for this type of conversation. Fractured Land has received a lot of good media coverage, and we have become the people that the media comes and talks to when they want to hear how young people feel about something. But the deeper impact I’ve seen comes from the people who email us after events, or after an internship, and say: “I didn’t know this type of community existed, and now I’ve found a direction I can follow.” Whether or not it’s the exact same direction we’re going in, they gain the confidence to take their next step. That one-on-one change of mind is what’s most important.
What unique gifts do you think the younger generation has to add to the conversation?
Definitely energy. When we are young, we have the drive to tackle some of these issues and take on systemic change. We also have optimism, and the belief that we can actually make a change. We are daring and willing to try new things. And as we get older as a generation, what I’m seeing is a deeper level of sophistication. We are coming into our power and realizing that we are the next people to lead the world. It’s an exciting time.
Find out more about Gen Why Media at their website.