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Partnership in the Making

By: Gia, Riley Way Council Member, Hewitt School

It is always powerful when two distinguished organizations come together for the common good. On the evening of October 24, that is exactly what happened when members of the Riley’s Way Council joined with the Common Sense Council to discuss ways they can take impactful action this year.

At first, these look like two very different organizations. Riley’s Way Foundation is dedicated to empowering young leaders to use kindness and empathy to create meaningful connections and positive change, while Common Sense works to help parents, kids, and educators navigate the digital world through trustworthy reviews of apps, movies, and games. In a time when digital platforms can often be used for unkind purposes, it makes sense for these two organizations to join forces by sharing knowledge and ideas with each other.

My participation in both Councils aligns with my personal interest in social issues such as immigration, and their impact on teens and kids. How these issues are reported on becomes critical in understanding not only their impact, but how that reporting can influence social awareness. Collaborations like this have the potential for expanding the scope and impact of each organization’s missions. I see great hope in the potential for making digital spaces kinder; and now, more than ever, I believe that our national dialogue on social issues needs to lead with kindness and inclusion.

That evening, Riley’s Way shared information about its mission, work, and specifically the Call for Kindness, a national initiative to inspire teens to develop and scale projects that will make the world a kinder place. Participants brainstormed potential social issues and projects to consider undertaking this year. In groups, the members candidly shared their passions and their ideas, getting to know themselves and one another better.

All participants then came together to debrief through a reflection that led to a deep but unfinished conversation around the issue of overusing technology in today’s society. This topic arose as an issue of frustration for teens, which they want to prevent from growing to an uncontrollable level. From my perspective, it was fascinating to see how the generation believed to be the most “addicted’ to technology desperately wants technology to become less pervasive in the daily routine of high school! We discussed ways of making this an impactful project. “This past committee meeting helped inform me on the issues of overuse of technology and its impact on education. I am looking forward to discovering ways to try and solve this issue, especially within my school and community.” – Whitney (Common Sense Council Member, Greenwich Academy)

Council members collectively came to the conclusion that they wanted a world with more meaningful connections, involving less phone use. “I particularly appreciated the thoughtful discussion around screen use during the school day. It struck me that several students were grappling with the essential question: how do we find ways to connect more deeply and meaningfully with one another in our digital world?” – Tali Horowitz (New York Education Director, Common Sense)

This was a unique and exciting evening. At a topical level, it highlighted the need for more conversation between different groups working for the overall good, and it pinpointed issues around technology that might not have otherwise been raised. On a greater scale, it was clear to me that these two organizations have much to offer each other. Riley’s Way can inspire Common Sense to incorporate the lens of empathy into the work they do, while Common Sense can expand the reach of Riley’s Way through their unique media connection. I am hopeful that this evening represented the first of many such evenings to come, as a blueprint for other conversations, and ultimately for joint action to create a kinder digital world.