Susan's 5 questions for MostlySane
Today we launched the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls, calling on ideas from nonprofits and social organizations around the world to advance the economic empowerment of women and girls and create pathways to prosperity. Google.org will provide $25 million in overall funding and mentoring to Impact Challenge grantees to bring their ideas to life.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and creator Prajakta Koli are members of the Impact Challenge’s expert panel, a group of women leaders from more than 15 countries with expertise in global public policy, advocacy, and technology. They will help guide the selection of ideas with the greatest potential for impact.
Following up on their conversation about their shared interest in girls’ education in 2019, Susan asked Prajakta a few questions about what it’s like to be a creator and an activist.
Susan: I’m so glad to hear that you’re a part of the expert panel for the Google Impact Challenge! The last time we saw each other was when I came to India a few years ago. We talked about the importance of education for girls - you’ve done amazing work over the years supporting this cause. How has your outreach on social issues changed as your community and platform have grown?
Prajakta: The growth we have seen on YouTube has been a tremendous blessing in making conversations louder and clearer. Not just with reaching out to the masses but also with getting the attention of influential voices who can make greater impact happen. I now get to speak about things that are close to my heart to an audience that is paying attention and responding with perspective. And that makes a massive difference in bringing about change. The pandemic locked us all in with nothing but the internet as our window to the world. And that attention from everyone has tremendously helped outreach on social issues.
Susan: Why does this work resonate with you personally? Was there a moment it became clear to you that you needed to become more involved?
Prajakta: I have been making content on YouTube for a little over 6 years now and my biggest learning has been that conversations do wonders online. They flow free. And make greater impacts than we can imagine. I first realised that when I uploaded a video on the World Mental Health Day of 2016 speaking about Body Positivity and Mental Health. I got thousands of messages and emails following that video from viewers from across the world speaking of how much they relate to it and would want to make conversations on those issues. That is when it really started for me. And since then it has been one of the most important motivating factors for me to create content everyday.
Susan: Throughout my career, I’ve had mentors who have inspired me to advocate for the issues that matter most to me. How have friends or mentors helped you?
Prajakta: I always feel extremely fortunate to have people around me who help me learn and grow everyday. My biggest strength is my circle of people who act like my sounding board for every conversation I want to make. They share their experiences and lessons with me time and again which helps me in getting a fresher perspective. They also have always been very honest and direct with me every time I have shared ideas and plans. That helps me in making a clear decision about issues I want to advocate and how to go about that.
Susan: What do you think it looks like to be an activist for change in 2021? And even more specifically, an activist on YouTube?
Prajakta: The internet, especially YouTube, has given the power of voicing and listening to opinions online to everybody. So that essentially means that anyone and everyone can be an activist. It is liberating to know that you have a platform where your voice is heard and responded to.
Susan: Sometimes people want to get involved with an organization but don’t know where to start, especially during the pandemic when most outreach is virtual. What advice would you give to someone who wants to volunteer with an organization that helps women and girls?
Prajakta: It is amazing that we live in a time where there are numerous wonderful organisations doing great work in their respective fields. And the best part is that it is never too late to start doing your bit. For starters, look out for organisations that work with issues that matter to you. Sort out how you would like to help. There is service you can do in person or virtually. Discuss your scope of work and start small. Every little bit of effort counts.