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Hybrid Activism: How Millennials Want to Save the World (On the Side)

Millennials have been accused of apathy and just plain laziness, and it can be difficult for Boomers and Xers to understand that the generation can have activist tendencies—even if they aren’t all taking to the streets as generations before them might have. The truth is that Millennials want doing good and making a difference to be a part of their daily lives. They are inherent multitaskers, and they are steadily bringing their two-birds-one-stone mentality to saving the world—while they do everything else they love.  Here are three sites that are finding success with a Millennial audience by making hybrid activism a part of everything they do:


1. Sevenly

Our piece on CREDO wireless and Retail Rebels delved into the idea that Millennials are increasingly interested in brands that not only disrupt the status quo, but make activism part of their core appeal to consumers. We are seeing more and more young brands tap into the desire to do good. Sevenly is a lifestyle product line that takes the Millennial desire to make a difference and pairs it with their love of contentious consumption, creating a retail/activism hybrid brand. Stylish graphic tees, prints, toys, baby clothes and more are all sold on, with $7 of each transaction being donated to a weekly charity. The products are ones that young consumers might buy elsewhere anyway, but with the hybrid activism approach they are given the added benefit of feeling like they are changing the world with their purchases. The charity featured for the week is showcased through a touching video and visitors to the site— even those who do not make a purchase—are encouraged to share the cause’s story and “donate their social influence.” 28-year-old Dale Partridge, who has the goal of “moving [his] generation towards generosity,” founded Sevenly in 2011 and has seen his creation raise $2,503,987 for causes to date. Companies like CREDO and Sevenly are baking activism and the appeal of making a difference into their brands at the ground level—and take the buy-one-give-one feel-good consumerism of the last few years to a new level with an intentional emphasis on putting causes before product in their messaging and marketing.


2. Upworthy

One of the areas we are seeing the hybrid activism model grow the most successfully is in online news consumption. In our infographic on Millennials and news, we let you know that 62% of the generation turns to news websites as a news source and 30% say that news sites are their primary news source. Now new sites are taking the generation’s tendency to look for their news online and making activism a part of staying informed digitally. Upworthy is arguably the leader in “social good content,” posting stories on subjects like global warming, minimum wage, and human rights in a way that presents them as tidbits as entertaining as a cat video. The site calls itself “a mission-driven media company”—a title that pretty perfectly showcases their hybrid activism appeal—and announces clearly that they have a progressive point of view that they hope to spread with each of their stories. Visitors to the site are highly encouraged to share the stories they find and are promised “no empty calories” or “right-column sleaze.” Fast Company has called Upworthy the fastest growing media site of all time, crediting their use of emotional data as a key ingredient to their success.


3. Ryot

Upworthy not making you feel like enough of an activist? Ryot takes the emotional news content that Upworthy specializes in and provides visitors with the tools to make a difference for each story, giving them the “power to ‘Become the News.’ Their header reads “News and Action,” and every post includes a call to action that asks readers to have an impact on the story by signing a petition, donating to the cause, sending a tweet, or (as with Upworthy) sharing the story itself. A portion of all advertising revenue made by Ryot goes to a non-profit, with a different cause featured every week. In an interview with Forbes, co-founder Bryn Mooser talked about how the hybrid activism mission of the site is appealing to young news readers:

“As we started to do diligence, we found that there wasn’t a great, go-to site for Millennials to get breaking news. When we asked them, the number one reason young people gave for not reading or watching the news was that it made them feel depressed and helpless. On Ryot, we give them a course for action so that excuse doesn’t work anymore. Our demographic is very young: 15 to 34-year-olds make up nearly 90% of our readership, which is incredibly exciting and makes us optimistic.”

Ryot was named for a philosophy to give a voice to the voiceless, and informs visitors that the word Ryot means a person without a voice in Hindu and also pays homage to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Forbes called the site’s hybrid approach to news delivery the future of content, and it is clear that the hybrid activism system they have created is highly appealing to Millennials.