The Walt Disney Company is a multinational corporation that has a mass appeal among children and people of all ages from all different parts of the world. However, Disney, as it is more commonly referred to, is not only the created of entertainment content through movies, a television channel, series etc. but is also creator of the Disney Friends for Change organization. The organization is focused on creating a more environmentally aware and active youth and they targeted through Disney’s vast resources.
The Friends for Change (FFC) organization directs children and young adults towards outlets of becoming more environmentally engaged within their own community and all the while informing themselves more with environmental causes and issues. The organization is focused on utilizing the tools of the entire Disney Corporation to reach the whole demographic. Disney’s resources are limited but yet their pool of resources is still quite large and their message is reinforced through their the support and partnership with other nonprofit groups within local communities such as: National Park Foundation, Tree People, American Red Cross etc. The message is quite simple and that is to become environmentally active and to further mobilize this action they use their media tools of movies, TV channel advertisements and even songs on the radio. The channel uses Disney channel celebrities, who are also young adults, to promote messages about recycling or becoming involved through advertisements on their channel.
The impact of these media messages has not been empirically analyzed in studies but the frequency and growth of them is worth noting among their target audience. The reach of an extensive multinational organization is also not limited to online, television and music consumption but rather their reach with schools and the leaders within those schools. Disney has started a national campaign to mobilize the American youth to be more
Disney’s Influence on the Youth through the FFC Media Campaign
The FFC has a specific purpose and that is to motivate children and young adults of any age group to become involved within their own community or a cause. However, to motive this demographic, they much be convinced that volunteering and activism is valuable expenditure of their time. There is an entire media campaign designed to accomplish this goal. These minors are targeted through numerous ways, once of which being advertisements. The program initially began in summer of 2009 and featured Disney Channel darlings such as: Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, and the Jonas Brothers etc. The focus primarily that summer was on “project green,” in fact the whole title was “Disney Friends for Change: Project Green.” The focus of FFC has certainly changed now while the main priorities are still environmental causes; it now also promotes volunteering and civic engagement of all sorts. Some of the stars on the being featured now are Cameron Boyce, Karan Brar, Jason Earles etc.
These are all faces that children who regularly watch the shows on the Disney Channel are familiar with. They like these shows, they recognize the stars and they pay attention. If these kids have access to the Internet then they learn about the website “www.disneyfriendsforchange.org” on the advertisement which tells them to go online and learn more.
Their website is equally interactive and it begins with a checkbox pledge for the visitor asking them to check off on the choices of “volunteer at a nonprofit organization/join a cleanup at the beach, waterway or a public park/recruit your friends to support a deserving cause/organize a special event, collection or fundraiser.” Checking off one of these pledges will guide the visitor to the next step in accomplishing their goal by linking to nearest possible resource or organization in their area that could help them get involved.
The pledge is not the only tool on their website of use. They have graphics of other non-profit organization that they have partnered on the bottom of their home page and each graphic is a link to the non-profit’s own individual website. Some key NGOs on the website are: Nature Rocks, Generation One, Youth Changing the World etc. The FFC website not only in this way visually implores the young visitor to become a part of one of these projects but with the bright blue and green imagery of the website also enhances the visuals to make the experience seem light, fun, interesting, and most of all invigorating. Their website is littered with images of other children becoming involved with local community based projects with the environment. There are pictures of them cleaning public parks, recycling, volunteering in hospitals etc. and all the while smiling genuinely. These images are incredibly profound and have the capacity of having a monumental impact of motivating a minor into taking action and becoming truly involved.
These pictures are not the sole persuasive tool either, there are short video interviews and of young school children on their website who have volunteered within their own local communities. Some have even volunteered with their favorite Disney stars and began their own FFC club(s) in their own schools. If seeing pictures of kids similar to you are not enough then high-definition videos is just another way of driving the point home.
There are even guidelines on the website for those who have already taken some course of action towards activism and/or volunteering. There are further “Printable” steps listed and plans of action to strengthen their work within their cause such as: “1: Sparking An Idea/2: Finding Friends for Change/3: Get the Word Out/4:Making it Happen/5: What Comes Next.” The FFC website contains an entire arsenal of information and resources to empower a young adult to take action, become involved and join a cause, and their main focus has been and still remains environmental that benefit local communities of these kids.
Young adults that have started their FFC groups at their schools of their local community centers have used online resources to mobilize. There are several “open groups” on Facebook linked to high school students each of them ranging from 13 to over 300 members. They are also connected on Facebook to the main Disney FFC page through which they are able to receive constant updates on how to expand on their respective projects. Social media is a lucrative means of interacting and generating more content since over people usually spend over 500 billion minutes on Facebook, (Ferriter). These high school groups’ presence on Facebook also allowed FFC to familiarize themselves with their audience and create a dialogue in a much more direct way with them across the entire nation, than it would have been possible through television or radio advertisement. The FCC also has two separate sources of Facebook, their first being for the television show and the second for the games that FCC also sponsors to raise awareness about excessive energy consumption within the US. The combines “likes” between these two Facebook resources is currently 79, 533 likes and all of those are connected to copious amounts of high school FCC groups interested in recycling, animal rights, clean energy, human rights, poverty reduction etc.
Disney Channel, by itself, has 429, 303 YouTube subscribers and there is no separate YouTube channel for the FFC. Therefore, whenever their YouTube channel releases a video relating to messages that the FFC promotes, it appears in the video queue of every Disney Channel YouTube subscriber that belongs in that 429K numeric value. Most of the FFC related videos have also easily garnered over 30K views.
The FFC’s impact on the Youth
Studies have not been conducted on the long-standing civic impact that the FFC has had on the American youth. It should also be noted that the program began not too long ago in 2009. However, it is important to take into consideration the amount of extensive work that has been accomplished at the hands of young motivated individuals who receive added incentives to strengthen and further their cause. The self-started high school FFC groups also have the enticing incentive of receiving a grant for their organization and school should they reach accomplish their goals and truly have a holistic affect towards the betterment of their community.
There are 150 kids awarded each year by the FFC and their grants range from $250K-$750K worth of funds. These awards are also further highlighted by Disney and FFC by featuring these school kids on Disney Channel and showcasing nationally the work that they have done in their own local area. They will also have the opportunity to meet with and to spend time with Disney Channel celebrities. As these kids get older, they can apply and enter into volunteerism competitions to travel and volunteer with another accomplished young student to another country. For example, this is the current competition being held on the FFC website:
“VOLUNTEER WITH DEBBY RYAN
Debby Ryan is volunteering in India to help build two new school classrooms, a center for preschool-aged children, and after-school resources in efforts to expand learning opportunities and promote a culture of learning in the larger community. As Friends for Change Ambassador Debby Ryan works to make a difference, Free the Children will be lending a helping hand in this amazing project. But that’s not all!
You can do your part to volunteer and help in your own community. Volunteer in your own backyard with tips from our downloadable Action Kit. Pledge online, try your hand at our interactive trivia game, and create works of art to promote community spirit with our digital painter! See all the ways that you can help promote community volunteerism by checking out Debby Ryan’s volunteer page!”
(For more information on how Disney promotes youth projects: http://disney.go.com/projectgreen/aboutffc.html)
This competition clearly poses a treasure box of opportunities for a young adult who has already learned greatly about activism, volunteering and civic engagement within their own community. The opportunity is, at the end of the day, just another tool for someone to take a pledge on their website but it is also a chance to expand further as a young activist. The FFC has clearly provided chronological steps in the route of activism and advocacy. The organization has made it an exciting endeavor and one which can benefit not only those who choose to take part but those who are on the receiving end of their projects.
While, there is no empirical data to suggest the success of the FFC, their media campaign and their grassroots community approach, there is evidence to suggest that young people positively benefit from volunteering, learning and becoming an active participant within a cause they care about.
According to the U.S. News Book titled “How to Live to 100,” kids who volunteer realize the value of greater civic engagement within their community and continue to volunteer as adults. Their invested interest with their area grows as well as their social capital in relation to that area. They develop these habits as young adults and will tend to carry them with themselves as adults. They are more likely to care about the conditions of their city and community and pass on those same values to their children.
Children who also volunteer are also less likely to resort to unlawful activities when they are older because they begin to care about the place they live in. They become stakeholders and they work diligently to improve it and realize first handedly the accomplishments that they have made in that regard. Volunteering also decreases the chances of drug abuse, school dropout rates, and teen pregnancies while raising interest in education, ambition and self-confidence. It also equips individuals, both young and old, about valuable skills regarding leadership, collaborative teamwork, diligence etc. (Camino & Zeldin).
Furthermore, the Walt Disney Company is too vast to measure on an abacus, however, the company has remarkably documented their reach through the Friends for Change program and the methods they have used to reach the younger demographic. Their work and interference has connected children and young adults to copious amounts of non-profit organizations, has motivated them to start their own projects, and has clearly had a significant impact in raising social capital among the youth. That is a life long asset that will not only benefit those individuals but the communities that have benefitted thus far from their activism and volunteerism.
How To Live 100 by U.S. News & World Report
‘From Periphery to Center: Pathways for Youth Civic Engagement in the Day-to-Day Life of Communities” by Linda Camino and Sheperd Zeldin