In the TED Talk that we watched this week, Clay Shirky explains how we can and should use our cognitive surplus to create civic value and change the world. This week we were asked three questions.
- What collective effort have you seen on the internet that fits the description of a meaningful cognitive surplus project?
Clay Shirky says that a meaningful cognitive surplus project is one that creates civic value. In other words, it is created by the participants for the society as a whole, not just for each other.
In 2012, a friend of mine from church started Mighty Strong Girls. It is a ministry for teen girls. She created this ministry to show girls that their self-worth is not based on how they look on the outside (what main stream media would have them believe), but about their inner beauty. She wanted to create a place where girls could share their stories and see that they are not alone, and most of all to see that they are beautiful just the way God made them.
This ministry consist of an emagazine, a blog, and many community events. They have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Most of the people who work on this ministry are volunteers. Anyone can sign up to be a blogger or a magazine contributor. There is also a free guide to creating small groups called Mighty Strong Connections where girls get together and use the guide and magazine to take the advice, ideas, creativity, and scriptures even further.
To read more about what Mighty Strong Girls is all about, you can click on this link mightystronggirls.com.
- How would you benefit from this project?
Without actually participating, I would benefit from this project because I have a preteen daughter who is already struggling with some of the issues this ministry tackles. If I contributed to this ministry, I would benefit because I was once a teen girl, and it would just be nice to know I had a part in helping girls who are going through some of the things that I went through.
- Would you ever contribute your talents to this project? If not, is there a way that the projects could be changed or improved that would encourage you to participate?
Yes. In fact, I have. In January of 2013, Mighty Strong Girls had a fashion show for a fundraiser. The dresses were donated and sold after the show. My daughter and I gladly participated. She had an old pageant dress that she no longer needed and couldn’t resist the opportunity to walk down the runway.
Clay Shirky says that people will do something if they think it is something that is in their interest, if they think they will get some benefit out of it, and if it doesn’t cost them anything.
This fashion show was definitely something that was in the interest of my fashion design obsessed 11 year old daughter. She would have gotten benefit out of just attending, but by participating, she got even more out of it. She got the benefit of feeling beautiful on that runway and helping to raise money for this ministry that is helping other girls see their true beauty. It definitely didn’t cost us anything, but a few dollars of gas, a couple hours of our time, and a dress we weren’t using. It was well worth it.
I have also recently joined another friend of mine to start up a Mighty Strong Connections group for our preteen daughters. We have only had one meeting so far, but I think it is going to be great for these girls.
In chapter 7 of Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky says that we have to use our means (new social tools) and motivations (human generosity, creativity, and sharing) to create opportunities for others to join us in our endeavors. He also says that to be successful, it is important to give users opportunities to participate in a way that they understand and care about.
That is what Mighty Strong Girls has done with the Mighty Strong Connections guide. First they gave us something to care about, the health and happiness of our daughters, and then they handed us a step by step guide to leading them on the right path.
In Chapter 6, Shirky talks about the tensions between individual freedom and social value. He says, “We can take on problems ourselves, but to create change we have to work together.” Later in that chapter he says that creating real civic value takes commitment and hard work.
My friend who created Mighty Strong Girls has created something that can help change the world. It has not been easy. When she started out, she had another job. She soon realized that if this ministry was going to succeed, she needed to give it more of herself. She quit her job to give all her time and effort to Mighty Strong Girls (and her beautiful family of course). Her family and her ministry struggled most days to stay afloat financially. They are now in the process of selling their beautiful home full of memories so they can downsize and continue this ministry. If this isn’t commitment and hard work then I don’t know what is.
Please pray for this ministry and everyone involved in creating it, especially my friend who is pouring out her heart and soul to see it succeed. Thank you.