Twestival Singapore 2011: Using social media for good

April 1st, 2011 | by Chan Chi-Loong

All hail the Twitter bird!

Social media has the power to change the world. It allows people with the same shared beliefs to come together and marshal grassroot support for causes.

It could be used to organize protests, campaign for beliefs, or even used to promote giving back to community.

One such great example of the latter is Twestival, a global phenomenon that started two years earlier in 2009. Twestival is an event in which people organize organic grassroot fundraisers using twitter to give to charities all over the world in a single day.

For 2011, that day was last week on March 24th. In Singapore, volunteers here picked CARE, a charitable agency which aims to help youths at risk, as the beneficiary.

The volunteers took just four weeks to organize and setup the entire event, and mobilized mainly through just twitter. They met for weekly face-to-face meetings on weekends, but much of the coordination was done online.

Said Supriya Addanki, one of the core volunteers behind the event: “We simply told people that we’re organizing Twestival this year on twitter, and asked people to contribute whatever skills or resources they could bring.”

And people did in droves for the second year that Twestival was run here in Singapore.

From local food and music dive TAB hosting the place, to events agency Waddup! supplying a magician and doing events management, to PR agency Text100 doing media relations, people contributed.

All for free. There were many, many other folks and unsung heroes — for example, the musicians and bands, the photographers, the emcee — all who contributed their time without a dime.

On top of this was a ton of free gifts from companies — an eclectic mix from cameras to shopping vouchers to hotel stays — to attract folks to donate in a lucky draw drive. 100 percent of the donations that evening went to CARE.

Folks enjoying themselves at Twestival Singapore 2011

Twestival: Tweet, meet, give

What’s most important that set Twestival apart from other fundraisers, though, was Twestival’s soul.

According to Supriya, people didn’t volunteer to get recognized or lauded — they simply wanted to help.

“No one said ‘I did this so what’s in it for me?’,” quipped Supriya. “It’s not about people saying ‘Yay! Now I can put grassroots organizing in my resume’.”

In fact CARE was so surprised at being picked as a beneficiary that CARE co-founder and director Adelyn Poh purportedly asked: “Why are you doing this? I don’t understand!”

And the response from the Twestival volunteers was simply: “Because we want to.”

Supriya said that although social media has sometimes been perceived in a negative way in the media — think fake, shallow banal conversations that amount to nothing — it can be very much a driving force for good, like Twestival.

“It’s a bit of a cliche, but social media is not about creating a ‘persona’,” said Supriya. As a seasoned PR veteran, she’s very mindful of this fact. “It’s about being transparent and candid, and sometimes it really works that way.”

For CARE itself, it was an eye opening and enriching experience that was more than just about fundraising monies.

Said Dr John Tan, the executive director at CARE who was at the event itself helping out: “It’s a fantastic platform to raise awareness.”

Typically, a fundraiser will be a formal sit down dinner with corporate clients, said John.

Twestival felt different. The whole tone was full of enthusiasm, especially with the youthful crowd — a segment that is typically more difficult to reach via traditional channels.

“CARE is not really tech or media savvy,” he said. “We’re really glad for this outreach opportunity.”

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