Building a Teen Movement to Repair the World – On MLK Weekend and Throughout the Year

January 15, 2016

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


Both BBYO and Repair the World are organizations, but they each work to fuel, build and empower a movement. BBYO is reaching 80,000 teens across 34 countries – including more than 19,000 AZA and BBG teen leaders – inspiring and training them to make a difference at home and around the world. Repair supports young American Jews acting for social change through meaningful service in their communities, reaching 100,000 Jewish young adults and enlisting 30,000 just last year in service with a Jewish lens. While BBYO’s mission is about more than service, and Repair’s is about more than teens, we’ve found a powerful opportunity in working together on a shared agenda of building a teen movement committed to making a difference in the world.

BBYO and Repair work together with teens to raise awareness around issues of social justice through peer-to-peer engagement coupled with the techniques of Jewish experiential education. At the core of BBYO’s Kivun: Educational Framework is the goal that teens involved with the movement will mobilize their peers to understand some of society’s most intractable issues – how Jewish values inform those issues – and then take action through service, philanthropy and advocacy.

While our partnership is still evolving, following are some of the key lessons learned as well as our aspirations going forward.

Both research and experience have taught us that service can be a powerful force for good. Volunteering can bridge racial, socioeconomic and religious differences, enabling participants to build authentic relationships with others. It enables participants to act in solidarity with marginalized communities; build confidence and efficacy in their civic as well as academic, social and professional lives; disrupt elements of systemic and institutional inequity; and address urgent needs necessary to improve lives.

Research has also shown that young Jews engage in disproportionately high numbers in service and advocacy, although they do not necessarily associate their moral and social vision with their Jewishness. We bridge these worlds, offering Jewish young adults a powerful way to fulfill their social justice passion through service that is both meaningful and richly connected to their Jewish heritage and values. Fundamentally, service offers young Jews a chance to act on their values.

BBYO has found that making a difference in the world is incredibly resonant with teens today and is among the most effective engagement strategies. Teens are highly optimistic. Open to new ideas and ways of thinking – and undaunted by big challenges – teens seek experiences not to bolster an existing worldview, but rather to create a worldview and begin to figure out their role in society.

Since its inception in 2009, Repair has developed and tested multiple approaches to service programming that works. In particular, we have found that, to be meaningful:

  • Service must be authentic: Planned and executed in close partnership with the local community, and addressing a real need.
  • Tasks must match skills: No one wants to feel useless in a service experience. People need to be deployed according to their skills and trained to be effective volunteers.
  • Intellectual and emotional engagement is crucial: Volunteers need to understand the social context and Jewish underpinnings of their service. At the same time, service brings up powerful and complicated questions about race, class, gender, privilege and our role in perpetuating inequity. A meaningful experience cultivates a space for opening up, rather than shutting down, these questions.
  • Peer engagement is key: People are more likely to serve – once and again – if their peers make the ‘ask.’
  • Service should be a powerful community-building mechanism: Meaningful service fosters deep and authentic connections with people both similar to and different from ourselves. By offering multiple ongoing venues for service and learning, we can enable these relationships to blossom into community.

In building a teen movement committed to repairing the world, BBYO and Repair provide the opportunity, the resources and the guidance, but the teens are ultimately in charge of owning and crafting the experience.

Read more at eJewish Philanthropy

Updated: Jan. 28, 2016