We Act and We Day California

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We Act and We Day California: Empowering a Generation to Change the World

Bay AreaToronto
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We Act CA unlocks the power of youth to make big changes by deepening their understanding of issues they see both in their community and abroad. Students then collaborate to design and implement interventions. Once a year, 12,000 youth and their supporters unite to celebrate their collective impact.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

All youth across California understood their power to lead their communities towards social change
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The 6.7 million youth in California see a host of local and global issues in their world every day. Despite a desire to fix those, many young people may not know how or may not feel that they are capable of doing so. Many lack tools or a framework for action. We need all young Californians to understand and use their power to improve the world today, so that they will grow into a generation of active citizens who also do so as adults tomorrow.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We make taking action on social issues fun, accessible, and cool. We start with empathy: First, outreach speakers walk through their own experiences of challenge and triumph to kick-start a conversation. Then, our staff channel that empathy into action through planning sessions where youth look deeply at their own community and a community abroad to identify and discuss issues and then sketch out ways to address those issues. Staff provide resources and on-call support as students independently refine and then implement their action plans. Unlike other programs, We Act combines local and global action and gives youth a chance to gather with their peers - plus social justice and pop icons - to celebrate their collective impact.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As we educate youth and engage them in action, we also change their lives. This is an excerpt from a San Jose principal's letter, which shows how learning about others through We Act shifted his students' priorities and their perspective on their own circumstances: “We are a second-year, public charter school…96% [of our students] are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 43% are English Learners. Many live in a community infested with gangs and plagued by violence...Despite all the things they might have suggested the money be used for to improve their own lives, our students chose to support efforts in Haiti...for these kids and this community, [this donation] represents something significant: sacrifice and generosity of spirit." Agreed!

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

With Mission Measurement, we measured We Act's impact on youth, educators and communities at the end of Year 1 in CA (2013-2014). Of the 500+ schools that participated in We Act, 152 were in this grant's 5 designated counties. 24 of those serve primarily low-income families (per USDE). After We Day, we found that 100% of youth believe they are an agent of change (compared to 50% before) and 85% of participants work more effectively and respectfully in diverse teams. 100% of educators said We Day benefited their classroom by sparking interest in social action. 74% are more likely to integrate content about their school’s community into class activities. Additionally, 8,913 We Act leaders engaged 62,801+ peers in service; positively affected 336,743 community members; and volunteered over 198,499 hours. We aim to replicate these results in a greater number of schools in the coming years.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We plan to reach more youth to amplify their collective impact by: 1) developing partnerships with school districts and city councils to ensure a 75% increase in participation of schools annually; 2) developing our technological capacity so that existing staff can serve more youth - e.g. online action planning sessions and streaming events among schools; 3) hosting professional development sessions with educators to assist in top-down and bottom-up approaches to service learning in the classroom; and 4) building a network among local organizations to collaborate on these strategies.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Because We Act CA includes We Day CA, a sponsorable event, we have been able to form multi-year partnerships with companies and foundations including Microsoft, Unilever Project Sunlight, and Allstate Foundation. We balance these national, multi-year partnerships with connections to local families and businesses to ensure deep community roots. Our We Day co-chairs and advisers help grow this network and ensure funds flow from it annually.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While great organizations like DoSomething.org encourage young people to tackle issues in their communities, and others, like UNICEF, ask people to address issues overseas, We Act has a dual local and global focus. We are also cause-inclusive, opening space for us to partner with other CBOs (like GLIDE and Youth Speaks) to direct interested youth towards existing players in local activism. We also host We Day, an annual event that unites thousands of young people, social justice heroes, and pop culture icons to inspire and encourage each other to deepen their efforts to change the world.

Founding Story

In April, 1995, 12 year old Craig Kielburger was reaching for the comics when he saw an article about fellow 12 year old, Iqbal Masih, shot dead in Pakistan. Iqbal had been a child laborer, working long days on a carpet loom until he escaped, becoming an activist who spoke out against child labor. His successful activism led to his untimely death – he was shot by the "carpet mafia." Learning Iqbal’s story, Craig was driven to action. He rallied classmates, only to find few outlets for youth who wanted to help their peers living in vastly different conditions than their own. So Craig began his own organization – one that would provide a path for youth to change the world. His evolving vision has rallied 2.3 million+ kids since it began.


The CA Office of FTC is a regional office for the Toronto, Canada-based headquarters. Our 12-person staff is led by a Director and managers of HR & Operations, Development, and Educational Programming and Partnerships (MEPP). The MEPP manages a team of 3 outreach speakers and five coordinators (EPCs) who work with geography-based portfolios of schools. As the project grows, we will add EPCs and outreach speakers to deliver programming.
About You
Free The Children
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

Free The Children

How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

Canada, Toronto

Country where this project is creating social impact

United States, CA, Bay Area

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Foundations, Businesses.

Supplemental Information
On which of the following California counties does your project focus its impact? (check all that apply):

San Benito, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Monterey.

How does your idea help cultivate empathy skills to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change?

We Act and We Day cultivate empathy by encouraging young people to seek out social justice issues in their communities and then design ways to address them. Leveraging storytelling of personal experiences, our staff help to show students issues that exist for others around them. Students then take ownership over understanding those issues and working together to create solutions. Deeper friendships and understanding of fellow classmates result from this method. By gathering annually with thousands of peers, these youth see a physical representation of their CA-based youth social justice community. Students leave We Day aware of the power of their collective actions, feeling responsible for leading efforts among peers to deepen that impact.


Always looking for great organizations to point our students towards as they seek to understand and act on specific issues.


Driving a motivated body of young people to support your organization or cause - these youth are always looking to volunteer!

Tell us about your partnerships

State-level (to reach school districts): Superintendent of State Schools Tom Torlakson, Lt Gov. Gavin Newsom.

City-level (to ensure local support): City of San Francisco, City of Richmond.

District-Level (to facilitate our work in their schools): Los Altos, West Contra Costa.

Community-Level (for additional resources for youth): Youth Speaks.

Educational Bodies: California Association of Student Leaders (CASL).


As We Act and We Day CA continue to grow, we will face issues of scale - numbers of students involved and their geographical distribution could put strains on our small staff. We plan to address this in several ways. First, we aim to increase our internet-enabled offerings for students. Additionally, we will build teacher capacity through professional development opportunities, so they feel equipped to implement the program in their classroom. Finally, we will strengthen leadership skills of students so that they can guide their peers in researching issues and building action plans.

Does your project use any of the following approaches to cultivate community members as empathetic and collaborative leaders?

encouraging philanthropy, creating a safe space, building leadership skills, group play, immersion, collective problem-solving, identifying shared values and differences, enabling action.

Target Age Group(s)

6-12, 13-17.