Last year, a team of students decided to demonstrate how beautiful Warsaw (Poland) would look without all of the billboards that clutter the building facades. Young people complained that these images are invasive and generate visual pollution and distractions that negatively impact passer-bys. Through drones and photoshop, they produced a two-minute video that, over the course of just a few days, had exceeded 100,00 views and been aired on national television. Shortly after, the president invited them to the signing of a new Landscape Law, which regulates outdoor advertising.
These young activists articulated their project through the Social Wolves platform, which was cofounded by the entrepreneur Rafal Flis and his partners, Paula Bruszewska and Marcin Bruszewski. Through this platform, over 18.000 young activists have developed 850 social projects during the past two years, thereby honing their management and leadership skills. This accomplishment has led to Flis´ inclusion in MIT Technology Review´s Innovators Under 35 Poland 2016 awards.
The users, mostly students, form teams which they register on the platform free of charge. Each project progresses through four project stages (initiation, planning, execution and closure), and the user can introduce the data relevant to each of these stages on the platform (calendar events, local partnerships, actions, scope, etc.). They can also read inspiring examples set by other young entrepreneurs, and use a project management framework guide to navigate the process. The team must complete each stage through interactions with their real-world colleagues and a team of mentors, most of them former users, provide feedback continually.
Many of these young activists become volunteers, found NGOs and companies, and also vote more frequently than most Polish millennials, according to data provided by Social Wolves. But in Flis´ view, one of the most important benefits of the platform is its ability to improve the users´ level of employability, since each project provides further training in increasingly sought-after skills like conflict management, persuasion, emotional intelligence and teamwork. Flis explains: "We don´t just want their help; we also want to increase their ability to find a better job."
To this end, they have created a dashboard where human resources professionals from several large companies can access their profiles, if the users have provided consent. The more points obtained through project organization or mentoring activities for new members, the more actively their profile is highlighted to potential employers. "These companies pay to gain access to this talent pool because they understand that experience is more important than grade-point average," Flis states.
In the eyes of the computer science professor from the Technical University of Warsaw (Poland) and jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Poland 2016 awards, Michal Woźniak, this project "can have an important impact on society, especially on young people." In this expert´s opinion, Social Wolves represents "a valuable combination of mature technology and social purpose."