Central Otago-based anti-bullying organisation Sticks ‘n Stones has announced a pioneering partnership with a global tech company that will help take its online safety message and initiatives into high schools across New Zealand.
Facebook is joining forces with Sticks ‘n Stones, a youth-driven group, to offer secondary schools access to Online Safety Advocates – young people trained to provide peer-to-peer support and lead online safety initiatives. The social media giant’s commitment will see 500 advocates from more than 40 schools trained by Sticks ‘n Stones to support 15,000 young Kiwis.
“We have been working with Facebook since 2015 when we partnered for its New Zealand launch of the ‘Hit Pause, Then Post’ safety guide in Cromwell,” said Karla Sanders, Founder of Sticks ‘n Stones. “Our partnership has led to some incredible opportunities for our young people and for our organisation. This partnership has been in development since the beginning of this year.”
With recent New Zealand studies highlighting education as one of the most critical drivers of change in positive online behaviour, Facebook’s commitment will significantly scale Sticks ‘n Stones existing work in schools to improve teen safety and well-being through peer-to-peer support and learning.
“We believe everyone has the right to be their real selves and that this diversity makes our world a better place to live and thrive,” added Karla. “Facebook’s support will enable us to upscale our work and empower hundreds of Online Advocates to support thousands of young people stand up to all forms of bullying and protect their friends.
“It means the opportunity to take our programmes nationwide to empower teens. It also enables us to build a collaborative community of young people who can recognise bullying, harassment, hate and negativity (online and off) and have the confidence and skills to stand up for themselves and others.”
Coming up with goals
Hermione Kemp, Founding Member and Graduate Mentor of Sticks ‘n Stones, is hoping this project gives young people more of a voice and a chance to come up with goals they actually want to work towards and achieve.
“It’s so amazing that Facebook has chosen to partner with us. Their support means a lot as the site has become a staple in every young person’s life, so to have this endorsement and recognition of the project shows how important it is.
“I think this project will show young people that they are important and their voices do matter. It will give them more leadership opportunities and a chance to work on something they are passionate about! Everyone’s voice will be equal.”
Safe and supportive communities
Facebook’s partnership with Sticks ‘n Stones will build on its augmented training approach combining in-person workshops with online modules through the organisation’s ‘It Starts with You’ platform to empower teens to create positive change for time online and offline.
Antigone Davis, Director and Head of Global Safety Policy at Facebook said: “This partnership is the next step in our ongoing effort to help young people build safe and supportive communities.
“Over the last decade, we have developed a wealth of innovative resources that enable young people to look after themselves and their peers, from our updated Safety Centre, to our online reporting tools.
“We are thrilled to take this commitment offline and into schools by offering trained online advocates to every high school in New Zealand. The Online Advocates programme aims to bring young Kiwis together to explore online safety issues in the real world in a safe, supportive environment. We look forward to getting feedback and input from students that can add even more peer-led ideas and initiatives in the future.”
Thoughts, ideas and opinions
An Online Safety Advocate is a young person aged 14 to 18 that’s part of a national collaborative community of peers being supported with training to develop confidence and skills to positively impact their social landscape (on and offline). These young people will lead in range of ways in their schools and community share their thoughts, ideas and opinions collectively to decision makers that do not usually hear from youth.
“Facebook’s support not only brings awareness to the issues of online safety, but also will allow easier implementation of the programme in our everyday lives,” said Harry Johnston, Founding Member and Graduate Mentor. “This will allow the advocate programme to be received by a much greater audience, helping it to be successful nationwide.
“I hope that the project will enable a greater support network behind individual student led groups, removing the unknown and the intimidation associated with starting such groups.”
Another Founding Member and Graduate Mentor, Nikki Wheeler, added: “I think this will allow young people to feel connected in a different way to social media – all working together towards a general feeling of social kindness among people both in and out of the programme. And allowing all young people an opportunity for leadership – not just the typical leadership students already given opportunities.”
In addition to the funding to create and deliver the Online Advocate Augmented training programme, Facebook will also be providing ongoing support to the Sticks ‘n Stones team.
“We will connect regularly to feedback on progress and ask questions,” said Karla. “Facebook will also connect us with members of their team that can support our work, including for the monthly webinars in 2019.”
The programme will be rolling out in Term One, 2019, starting with Dunedin and Wellington.
“From there we will be connecting with other interested schools and young people to book in the other full day workshops that are followed up with the online training. Part of Facebook’s support is also to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme. We hope this will then lead to more support in the future.”
Schools interested in in being part of the first workshops and rollout in 2019 should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on Sticks n Stones go to sticksnstones.co.nz
Join the ‘Catalyst Crew’
Schools and students wanting to be part of the team co-designing the programme can join the project’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/snscatalyst
“As part of the Catalyst Crew you will collaborate with the Sticks ‘n Stones team to co design the way our Online Advocate partnership empowers young people to have the confidence and skills to create space for everyone to be themselves,” said Karla. “This means creating the identity, ideating, co designing, and testing the resources, support and online platform we are building. You will drive decision making. Being a part of this crew will also give young people opportunities for leadership in 2019 as we roll out the programme nationwide.”