Ten years ago, seven friends wanted to change the world by motivating young people to take action to address big societal issues. Ten years on, the seven friends have successfully implemented their inspirational concept around the world.
It works as follows: Young people volunteer 4 hours of their time on worthy projects and in return they are rewarded with complimentary concert tickets.
The concerts are exclusive to the volunteers and celebrities involved in these worthy projects, and have over the years drawn high profile names like the “Happy Man” Pharrell Williams.
Let’s have a chat with Stephen Greene, co-founder and CEO of RockCorps.
I read this profound saying by the writer Maya Angelou on RockCorps’ Facebook page “When you learn, teach…when you get, give…when you know better, do better.” In light of this saying and the 10 years of RockCorps, what do you think you have managed to do with your team? What do you want to improve in the following years?
At RockCorps we are a constant work in progress! With every new country and culture we work with, we have to listen to our local partners, and adjust the tone and approach of RockCorps accordingly. We think this has been pretty key to our growth around the world. Our hope is that by always listening and learning we can grow the RockCorps movement around the world, and inspire more volunteering.
We are all very curious about how the world works, this helps when it gets hard – to be curious.
In April 2014, RockCorps Japan launched a project in Fukushima. How are young people, their families and the city recovering from the 2011 natural disaster? What kinds of duties have been assigned to volunteers?
We all watched the disaster that struck the Tohoku province in 2011, with broken hearts. The region is still working hard to recover. The recovery will not be measured in years, but in generations. Homes were lost. Families destroyed. Ways of living lost. Healing is an ongoing process that needs active stewardship.
RockCorps hopes to build on that volunteering effort, to bring some of our energy and some new volunteers out from Tokyo to work alongside the communities in Fukushima and to celebrate their work. Volunteers are taking part in various projects to support the recovery – helping to rebuild community centres, markets, clear up beach communities and reunite people with their photographs, lost in the Tsunami. But, some of the best parts of our work occurs when our volunteers come from outside the region and meet and spend time with locals who have been through so much. This means a great deal to the residents and shows the real power of volunteering.
Being a social entrepreneur is a fulfilling but challenging project. According to you, what are the main difficulties faced by social entrepreneurs and, in general, businesses in the sustainability field?
Making your business sustainable, in the true sense, is the greatest challenge. I know you might have meant ‘sustainable’ in the more environmental/climate change sense, but for us sustainable is how do we make our project last, how do we make it scale. As scale and longevity are the keys to societal impact.
2015 will be a busy year regarding sustainability with the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris and the drafting of the Millennium Development Goals’ post-2015. How do you think the youth could be involved and heard regarding these events?
Young people are more engaged in these topics than ever. They know how to organize themselves, to make themselves heard and to change the world – and they want to do it. Young people these days don’t accept the world as it is. They have seen and they know they can change the course of their and our future. Often, all they are lacking is the respect from society that they can change the world… once they have the confidence, amazing things happen. I am excited for the Paris conference… let’s just throw some tools on the table and then get out of the way!