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QCT in Conversation: How young people are resetting the digital world for good

On August 17th, The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) joined a group of young leaders from our network and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to discuss social media and the role of the online world as a force for good. At QCT, we provide positive digital platforms to inform and inspire young people around the world.

This discussion brought to life the reality of online communities for good and the profound difference they can make to lives over generations in the future. This was the second QCT online discussion attended by The Duke and Duchess, who are President and Vice-President of QCT respectively.

In this session, the participants included Brighton Kaoma, Founder of Agents of Change Foundation in Zambia; Hunter Johnson, Founder of The Man Cave in Australia; Rosie Thomas, Co-Founder of Project Rockit in Australia; and, Vee Kativhu, Study & Empowerment YouTuber and Founder of ‘Empowered by Vee.’ The discussion was chaired by Chief Executive of QCT, Nicola Brentnall.

In the lively and optimistic conversation, the group discussed the power and potential of digital communities, collaboration and positive behaviours to drive mass positive change at scale.

During the discussion, The Duke of Sussex also reflected on the power and purpose of the modern Commonwealth and Her Majesty The Queen’s role in championing the Commonwealth and young people as a force for good: “I think everything my Grandmother wanted to achieve when she took this huge responsibility on, she’s managed… hearing you guys, and knowing the broad spectrum that QCT engulfs, you’re the definition of the 21st century Commonwealth, and what it means to be part of it. You are there, standing for equality, for mutual respect, and for fairness.”

The Duchess of Sussex commented on how important positive online experiences are in the current context: “Everyone’s mental and emotional wellbeing are perhaps more fragile than ever before, certainly with COVID and our dependability on devices right now in the absence of human interaction. People are going online more than ever before to feel community.”

Rosie Thomas spoke about the power of individual actions and how everyone has a responsibility to help create the digital world that we want to be a part of: “When you mobilise young people with empathy and connect each other you lift that veil of anonymity online…If we only blame tech platforms we’re actually removing the ability as humans to make a difference.”

The Duchess agreed that a “key piece of the puzzle” is for individuals to not give into the noise of social media and to choose not to share negative social media posts further if they want to make a difference today.

Vee Kativhu elaborated on the power and potential of digital communities to educate, engage, support and inspire – encouraging people to believe in themselves and not accept the stereotypes society project onto them: “I created my community online because I wanted young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to know that you’re seen, you’re heard, you’re talented, you’re amazing, and wherever your dream goal or university is, you can go there and do well - you don’t have to alter yourself.”

Hunter Johnson also talked about positive role models with a focus on addressing toxic masculinity and how showing vulnerability online can help shape new narratives of manhood: “What we’re trying to do is expose them to cool people they want to be like who have range in their identity. To show they can be strong and stoic, but the next day they can shed a tear, they can be emotional... They don’t lose any of their masculinity doing that, but they do gain more of their humanity.”

The Duke observed: “If we are all able to show our vulnerability that doesn’t mean that you’re weak. If anything, I believe, that’s probably showing most of your strength.”

On the theme of honesty online, Brighton Kaoma went on to talk about the power and ethics of information sharing and referenced fake news, the ripple effect of social media and the responsibility of individuals to share information responsibly on global platforms: “Go that extra mile and understand the source of the information that you are about to share. You can never change the world just by using single tweets as a source of information… Realise that when you post online, you post to the world.”

The Duchess responded, commenting on the reach of global platforms and the impact of the social media ripple effect: “When you look at what these platforms are capable of with that reach, and what that propels in terms of trolling… You can either train people to be cruel, or you can train people to be kind. It’s really that simple.”

Throughout the discussion, there were clear calls to action from participants around individuals making deliberate choices in online engagement and helping to create positive conversations, connections and information-sharing online. The Duke observed that one factor underpinning positive digital progress is courage, and said to young leaders on the call: “It takes a huge amount of courage for you to set up communities like you have but also for other people to stand up to hate.”

The call closed with The Duke and Duchess thanking participants for the work they are already doing to use digital as a force for good and pledging their ongoing commitment to supporting their work through QCT.

In his closing comments, The Duke said to young leaders on the call: “It’s on all of us collectively to make the world a better place – and we are.”

Article published: August 2020

Meet the discussion participants:

Vee Kativhu (UK)

Born in Zimbabwe, Vee came to Britain at the age of seven, learning English at her local primary school in Dudley. Vee started her YouTube channel after getting into Oxford University and realising that as a black girl at the institution, she was a minority. She uses her digital platform to share her top educational tips and advice in her mission to help underprivileged and underrepresented young people find their voice, follow their aspirations and achieve their goals. She is a natural born presenter and her engaging stage presence can be seen through her TEDx talk as well as her own self- created Empowerment platform and event, ‘Empowered by Vee’.

Rosie Thomas OAM (Australia)

Rosie launched PROJECT ROCKIT with her sister when she was fresh out of high school and dedicated the last 14 years to growing Australia’s youth-driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice. As CEO of Innovation, Rosie is considered one of Australia’s best and brightest emerging change-makers and social innovators. Her work has been recognised by UNICEF among the 12 Digital Champions for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age and was honoured in Washington D.C. with the International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cybersafety. In 2019, Rosie became a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, recognising her service to young people and her work against bullying. In 2020, Rosie was named a 2020 Westpac Social Change fellow as one of ten social innovators recognised for their social leadership in Australia.

Brighton Kaoma (Zambia)

Brighton Kaoma is an award-winning Zambian social entrepreneur, climate change activist, and radio innovator. As Co-Founder of Agents of Change, Global Youth Ambassador of the Children's Radio Foundation and a board member of Developing Radio Partners in the USA, Brighton was inspired at the age of 14 to fight misinformation and climate dissent in his home town of Kitwe. As a teenager, he developed a community radio model to mobilize thousands of young people for climate action by holding elected officials and business leaders to account. Those early small-scale projects led to the formation of Agents of Change Foundation, a nationwide organization training ethical young reporters in Zambia through community journalism. While in graduate school at Columbia University, he partnered with his American friend and co-founded a social good eCommerce logistics platform in Zambia called KARTON. President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel have recognized Brighton's work, describing him as one of the ''must-watch'' young leaders in Africa. He received the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2015, The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) President's Global Youth award in 2016, and The Outstanding Young Persons Award from The Emperor of Japan in 2019.

Hunter Johnson (Australia)

Hunter Johnson is CEO of The Man Cave, a preventative mental health and emotional intelligence charity for young men, their parents and teachers. Hunter has a diverse background in leadership, emotional intelligence and social entrepreneurship having facilitated programs with over 25,000 young people across the world. Previously, Hunter has worked at FYA, co-managing Young Social Pioneers; Australia's leading incubator program for the country's top social entrepreneurs; as Director of Innovation at Kids in Philanthropy; and as Advisor to the Nexus Australia Youth Summit, a global movement of philanthropists, impact investors and social entrepreneurs collaborating to fast-track social change. Hunter has been recognised as a Finalist for the 2020 Young Australian of the Year Awards (VIC), listed as one of Harper's Bazaar's "Visionary Men for 2019", named a 2018 Queen's Young Leader by Her Majesty The Queen, and 2018 Winner of the EY Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Southern Region).

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT) is an independent organisation. Views expressed in its content do not represent views of the Royal Family or the Royal Household. The QCT website offers a free and open forum where young people can share insights, expertise, advice and inspiration and come together to discuss issues that matter to them. The content and discussions shared by QCT are only intended to reflect the perspectives of those engaging with the platform.

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