TELUS teams with Free The Children for We365, a social activism network for charitable youth

Last month, I had the privilege to see Free The Children co-founder Craig Kielburger do what he does best: motivate and encourage youth to do devote themselves towards public good and social activism. The man is a force on two legs: he makes you want to get up and change the world, one donation, one piece of garbage, one small deed at a time.

He’d been wanting to create an app, something that youth would readily engage and identify with, for a long time, and TELUS has worked with Free The Children on its annual We Day events for many years. After years of discussion, the time appeared opportune to create such a product, with TELUS providing much of the in-house app design work on a new project called We365.

The app, which is available today for BlackBerry 10, iOS and Android, as well as on the web at We365.com, asserts that youth can and should be a driving force for good in the world.

While the idea crosses many boundaries — schools plan to use it to track mandatory volunteer hours, a feature Free The Children says was integral to its dissemination among school boards — at its core We365 is about helping others and encouraging fellow volunteers.

Signees can fundraise for one of 85,000 registered Canadian charities, keeping track of donations from within the app itself. As universities become more scrupulous about volunteer hours as a requisite for acceptance, fundraising leaders are likely to have an advantage.

We365 independently operates and curates a list of more than 60 Causes & Challenges, which youth can take steps to accomplish. Causes from anti-bullying campaigns to school litter cleanups to animal welfare are accounted for, and the app connects people with others with the same goals.

Of course, no modern day social network would be complete without some form of reward system, so We365 has an extensive list of badges and virtual points based on real-world accomplishments such as volunteer hours and fundraising amounts.

The team has partenered with Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) to ensure the app is safe for children; any student under 13 must acquire parental approval, and there are safeguards in place to ensure users don’t fudge the numbers, so to speak.

While there’s always a concern that “the youth today” are too apathetic to get worked up about a mandate that forces them to do something productive, I had a chance to speak to a number of enthusiastic ambassadors who assured me otherwise. One 14 year old promised that her peers are keenly aware of how much they don’t do, and just need a push like this — something easy and accessible — to hold them to account.

The iOSAndroid and BlackBerry 10 apps are available today, with French-language versions coming later this fall.