Change the World with_Young Campaigners?


Image from Innosanto Nagara, author of progressive children’s books

During exploration of campaign videos, we were asked to consider what the campaign approach was and what actors were involved. So memorable was the approach using children in the anti-smoking campaign created by Ogilvy & Mather Advertising that I wonder can we change the world with…..young campaigners?

Youth as campaign leaders


Image from Oxford Times

The video above demonstrates children as campaign messengers. Paul Hilder (2007, p26) in Contentious Citizens references the involvement of children in the sustained campaign of abolishing the slave trade. Fast-forward to present and we have two young women leading campaigns: Malala Yousafzai, a student from Pakistan on female education and Emma Watson, a celebrity with over 23 million Twitter followers for #HeforShe. Both powerful campaigns. Both campaigns tactically use and rely on the media.

Yousafzai’s journey began by blogging. This plus her near-death attack were catalysts for her continued campaign on girls’ right to education. Interestingly, Britain’s role in framing Yousafzai’s experiences had ‘victim’ frames (rather than ‘powerful’, ‘survivor’, or ‘feminist’) across newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Independent – which often carry competing frames (such as with campaigns on fox-hunting and response to IRC’s life jacket graveyard stunt). Regardless, the media made these events meaningful, guiding individual and collective action (Snow, 1986) to support Malala’s efforts, resulting in her being the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The launch of #HeforShe was driven by social media following Watson’s first UN speech. Emma remains active with One Young World, a charity empowering young leaders to create positive lasting change within their community. I’d argue Emma is becoming less of a celebrity and more a memorable activist.

News media is a primary source of political information today. “People vary in their appetite for, and attention to, mass media and in their level of political interest. Some individuals actively seek political information; most seem to acquire it with little-to-no effort” (McCombs and Shaw, in Stachowiak, 2013, p18). It would be surprising to come across many who has not heard of these women and their causes, demonstrating the power of media within a campaigns theory of change. Media was also opportunistically used to support youth attendance to a summit, simply by ‘liking’ a video.

Involving youth in campaigning

Many campaigns have a youth element. Children involved in LGBT, FGM and autism for example are ‘learning by doing.’ Some claim that this methodology should be part of school education, enabling a renewed space for campaigning skills (Hilder, 2007, p86), potentially creating generations who see power as changeable and dynamic, not something held exclusively by elites (Aslinsky, 1971, in Stachowiak, 2013, p20).

The Plant for the Planet campaign is a great example where children have, and believe they should, have a voice as well as impact. I love it!

‘Never forgot, one mosquito can’t do anything against a rhino, but a thousand mosquitos can make a rhino change its direction.’

No pressure or anything, kids! However, I support the belief that children and young adults can be strong social change campaigners.


Hilder, P. et al. (2007). Contentious citizens – civil society’s role in campaigning for social change. The Young Foundation. Available from  [Accessed 6 January 2017].

Snow, D. et al. (1986). Frame Alignment Processes, Micromobilization, and Movement Participation. American Sociological Review.  Vol. 51 (4), p. 464-481.

Stachowiak, S. (2013). Pathways for change: 10 theories to inform advocacy and policy change efforts. Washington D.C.: Centre for Evaluation Innovation. Available from [Accessed 6 January 2017].

This blog is part of my MA in Media, Campaigns and Social Change with the University of Westminster.


One thought on “Change the World with_Young Campaigners?

  1. Madison Rasmussen says:

    These are great examples of young campaigners! The impact of Malala and Emma Watson has been huge, especially with such a large online following. I do wonder about the ethical implications of involving children in social campaigns, though–although I agree with causes like anti-smoking and gender equality campaigns, some could argue that children aren’t able to fully understand what they are advocating for. Could potentially get tricky in terms of adults using them as a type of manipulation tool.


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