“Change the world” – you’d be forgiven for finding it to be a bit of a vague concept: we all want to do it, but how does one actually go about philanthropy? Whether your passion is animals, the environment, children’s well-being or something entirely different, it all starts with YOU – by empowering yourself, you’re grabbing hold of the tools you need to change the planet, as proven by the rise of philanthropy through social media: from Kickstarter campaigns to Care2 petitions, the world wide web is a powerful tool for spreading the message. Case in point: social entrepreneurs Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes and Olivia Rothschild, who joined forces with yoga superstar Rachel Brathen (if you’re an Instagram-loving yogi, you will know her as @yoga_girl) to start international charity project 109 World, driven through social media.
By gaining almost 2 million followers on Instagram, Rachel proved that online outreach has the power to change hearts and minds, which she along with Co-Founders Leticia (Chief Impact Officer) and Olivia (Chief Operations Officer) is now channelling into a worldwide charity initiative rooted in yoga. Vilda talked to Olivia and Leticia about their new mission.
Explain the concept of 109World – what is it that you actually do?
L: 109 World stems from the growing trend of working towards your own personal well-being, the rise of consciousness regarding global issues and the power that social media has to help alleviate them.
We hope to become a journey and a dialogue, with oneself and others who want to make the world a better and happier place. Through mission travels 109 will fund and support local impactful projects. We will be organizing seven yoga retreats per year with seven social and environmental causes. All profits from the retreats will go to a related social or environmental initiative. The retreats will be followed by social media campaigning covering all channels at hand. Our ambition is that the retreat and the dialogue that we will create online will serve as a catalyst for people, like me and you, to feel empowered in addressing the greatest challenges of our time.
O: Basically, we are making philanthropy fun – we are shining light on our global challenges and inspiring people to take action. Either by joining one of our social mission trips where you get the chance to come close to the issue we are addressing and the impact we are creating together, or by making small changes in your everyday life or donating to our causes.
109 is a reliable, transparent and fun platform for doing good.
What is YOUR particular role in the organization?
L: I am the Chief Impact Officer and I use my passion for both market-based and nonprofit sector strategies to create positive social and environmental impact. I will ensure that the strategic and operational objetives of 109 World are aligned with our goals to enable each individual’s potential to create positive change and advance the field of philanthropy worldwide
O: In a small start-up you end up always taking the role that needs to be filled but my particular role as COO is to make sure we make the connections that will advance our cause, involve the right people and look into the right areas in order to get up and running and that we do so as smoothly and impactful as possible. Up until now, much of my task has been to set a tone that will pervade the organization – this can be everything from formulating our causes to developing our graphic language.
Why do you think there is a need for a movement like 109World?
L: For 3 reasons:
1- Working for the past 2 years with social entrepreneurs it was normal to me to see young people taking ownership of their world and transforming it to be the best place it can be. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs challenging historical economic models and seeing a shift towards impact and fulfillment that is baffling traditional economists of 50 years ago. But every time I stepped outside that community (either going back home to Brazil to visit family or sharing about my work with friends that are working in different industries) I realized that, unfortunately, that passion and commitment of young people into solving the world’s toughest issues was not normal, was not obvious. So I started to wonder why and found out that’s because they don’t believe they are capable of solving those problems and if they want to try to move from complacency to action, they don’t know how/where to start.
2- The demand for yoga and spiritual retreats has grown significantly throughout the past years. This awakening to the depths of yoga it’s a result of people pursuing well-being and the desire to do good and that is becoming a new mantra among the younger generations.
3- People underestimates the power of social media. Working with those entrepreneurs I saw how busy they are in creating and measuring impact, raising funds, establishing the right partnerships… so they forget or don’t prioritize the collective power of individuals that is so well validated through social media- that if well used can result in significant financial support and awareness.
In addition to that, the youth of today have a voice like we never have before thanks to social media. So how can we leverage this powerful tool for social and positive environmental impact?
So, rooted in social media, 109 will empower individuals to come together as a community to create meaningful change in seven areas—water, children, education, animals, food security, women and the environment. 109 will create social mission yoga retreats that include humanitarian improvement projects with all profits going directly to supporting the project’s cause. Whether helping to build a school or bringing water to areas in need, participants will engage in hands-on projects providing direct positive impact while also practicing with some of the best yoga teachers in the world.
Calls-to-action and engaging content will be shared and spread through social media daily during the days preceding the retreats. The social media focus will help companies communicate their engagement and obtain both social and financial return on investment.
So to link the answer to the 3 points above:
1- 109 is an online and experiential platform to raise awareness about global challenges, allowing anybody to engage in creating positive impact in a way that fits their lifestyle. We want people to see how everybody has a role to play when it comes to changing the world!
2- Yoga is one of the most important elements that we need for creating a movement that blossoms people’s self-discovery, that develops a deep inner truth and help people to put all of it into service for the world. Because once you learn about yourself, others become known and you can see clearer and feel stronger on how to contribute to a positive development of our planet and the living creatures on it.
3- Our social media campaigns aim to raise awareness among the public an facilitate engagement and contribution in global issues.
O: Social media has become our biggest source of information and news. We follow catastrophes and crisis live around the world from the hands of people experiencing it. This gives us the prerequisites to understand the problem and thus to act upon it. That is why, on the other end, we must make use of social media as a unifying tool that shows the positive power of people coming together – this is what 109 is harvesting in order to make positive changes in the world.
109 is responding to a demand of getting a deeper understanding of the global issues we are addressing. It is no longer enough to give for the sake of giving, people want to know exactly what they are giving to, understand the problem and see/experience the impact the support is creating.
How are you planning to change the world?
L: Empowering every single individual, no matter their background, in taking actions toward social and environmental impact. Whether that is by joining one of our social mission trips, learning and spreading the word about our causes, donating time and resources or taking action in their every day life – 109 has a way for everybody to make a difference in the world.
O: Redefining philanthropy.
There is a need of redefining the concept of philanthropy and make it accessible for all and today we have all the necessary tools to do so. If we succeed with that – philanthropy for all means well-being for all. We have been talking about globalization for quite some time and 109 is just one of the movements that will show the unification of our actions and help us create shared value.
What are some goals you hope to achieve with 109World?
L: To unfold layers of consciousness and help people live in harmony within and without. Help them learn about themselves, but also about the challenges our planet has been facing so they can contribute and join the community of amazing humans that are out there leading positive change through incredible impactful initiatives.
O: Apart from the big picture goal stated above, for each cause we have specific goals that we want to achieve with the help of our community of change makers; e.g. providing a community in need with reliable access to clean water, giving undernourished families a constant source of nutritious food, supporting orphans so they can grow up in a loving and safe environment, making a whole village in India self-reliant etc.
If someone wants to help, how can they get involved?
L & O: First and foremost join our community of change makers by subscribing on our website or follow us on our social media channels! By building a solid platform of people who want to do good we are creating a movement that will be useful in any positive endeavor we take on.
People can also join our social mission trips according to their specific passion. This is probably the most effective way of contributing. All profits from the trip go straight to the local project we are collaborating with, but on top of that participants will get the chance to understand and spread knowledge about the issue, which is key.
If individuals cannot join the trip we encourage them to different actions in their everyday life that will create positive change and share it with their surrounding to inspire others. Of course, everyone can also support our projects financially and get insight into the impact created through following 109 on social media.
Name two causes that you are passionate about and explain why.
L: My two passions are women and education! Education for me is the biggest enabler of every individual’s capacity to respond to toughest challenges and contribute to economic growth and social well-being. And linking that to women/girl; an educated Girl will reinvest 90 percent of her future income in her family, compared with 35 percent for a boy. So better lives for girls means better lives for everyone in their communities – their brothers, fathers, future husbands and sons. When you improve a Girl’s life through education, health, safety and opportunity, these changes have a positive ripple effect. As an educated mother, an active, productive citizen and a prepared employee, she is the most influential force in her community to break the cycle of poverty. And yet 250 million adolescent girls live in poverty and are more likely than boys to be uneducated.
O: I have always been very passionate about the environment – our planet. I believe this comes from growing up close to nature and having the fortune of being outside most of my days as a kid. The sea, the forest, the mountains – it all has a very deep effect on me and it makes my heart ache to see what we are doing to destroy our nest.
Food security intrigues me – there are so many creative ways to make it a reality for all without having to do it on the expense of the environment. The food production industry is in great need of reformation, we just cannot go on with the distance we have put between the origins of the products we are consuming and ourselves. This does not necessarily mean “back to basics” but that we need to be innovative in our approach which I know we have the potential to be!
What’s next for you and 109World?
L & O: We cannot wait to get the first social mission trip going – this will enable us to discover our own potential and build a base for our continuation. We have made 109 our platform for social and environmental change, now we just want to share it and make it accessible for everyone (individuals and all types of entities).
What is the essence of yoga for you?
L: I am not a yogi, but I do practice yoga and every time I end a session I think: “why I don’t do this everyday, again?” I got into yoga when I lost my mom 3 years ago in an accident. My friend had the idea saying it would be a good way to take care of my body, mind and soul – so I tried. First class I was so focused in trying to synchronize my breathing to the ashtanga positions that my heart was beating for the first time without an excruciating pain of who lost the best mother in the entire world. When I left the yoga studio, it felt the outside world stopped for 1 hour and 40 minutes while I was discovering that no matter where you are, what you are going through, you always have immediate access to that inner stillness. So for me yoga is about living your path with discovery, soul and intention. And when an individual chooses to put these concepts into practice for exploration they find out that when you live in harmony within you can live in harmony wihout.
O: I receive the question “are you a yogi?” very often and for some reason I struggle with the response. Although I am relatively new to it, I practice yoga and I enjoy it a lot. But what identifies a yogi? For me, the essence of yoga is acceptance, patience, understanding and with that comes well-being. Core values that 109 will be built on.
Follow 109 World on Instagram at @109world.
Follow Leticia Gonzalez-Reyes at @leticiareyes
Follow Olivia Rothschild at @orothschild
Photo credits: Rebecca Slaughter, Sodalime