The Youth Lab


Covid-19 has sparked a new era of the everyday hero. Captain Tom Moore (arguably one of the biggest cultural heroes of the moment), walked 100 lengths of his garden before he turned 100 years old, and so far has raised over £29million for the NHS in the UK. An 8 year old boy cycled a marathon and raised €14,000 for frontline workers in Ireland. Italian social media stars rallied to raise money to triple the number of intensive care beds at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan (they’ve already topped their target of €4 million, with more than 200,000 people donating so far). People of all ages, from all over the world are caring and looking out for one another in new creative ways - for many worthy causes.

This 52INSIGHTS explores the new wave of young Covid-inspired changemakers - people who are keeping themselves busy by helping charities and local communities.


Many charities are struggling. They are losing out of much needed fundraising drives - mass events like charity marathon runs (the spring-autumn cycle just due to begin) simply cannot happen. Alternatives are needed… In response, the London Marathon encouraged people to take part in the ‘2.6 challenge’ on the 26th of April and support charities who’ve been drastically affected by the lack of fundraising events at the moment. It encouraged people to get creative with their efforts too:

“People can come up with an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26... in aid of their chosen charity... Sophie Allen, a charity worker from Romford, plans to swim 2.6km in her back garden to raise money for London Air Ambulance service, while award-winning mixologist Paul Martin will produce 26 cocktails in 26 minutes.” Sky

Pieta is an Irish charity working to prevent suicide and self harm. It relies on the annual Darkness Into Light movement (supported by Electric Ireland) and donations, for 80% of its funding. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Darkness Into Light run/walk due to happen on May 4th is postponed. Now, the team has launched an emergency Darkness Into Light Sunrise Appeal, so as to keep its vital services going. Young social media influencers are urging their followers to support the cause. Empathetic blogger Louise Cooney has raised €75,000 and counting for the charity through her personal social media / Go Fund Me appeal:

“I wasn’t surprised by the generosity of people. I just wanted to do something to help. Their helplines are so overwhelmed and I just wanted the services to have the funding there that they need. So I just said I’d use the platform I have… It shows the power of social media and the amount of people sitting at home on their phone!” She says.

‘Pandemic Portrait’ creator Shane Gillen has invited followers to donate to Pieta to be in with a chance to win one of his prints that he’s created during quarantine. Elsewhere, young volunteers with another mental health charity ‘Spun Out’ started sharing ‘4 pictures that make them happy’ on social media to encourage €4 donations to the Mental Health Fund. These charity appeals are proving successful because people understand that it is a time of great need - it helps that people have the spare time to engage with the fundraising drive, task or ask properly too.


In addition to young people now having the spare time to give to much-needed charity drives, tech is aiding fundraising efforts. TikTok recently launched donation stickers, assisting the awareness and donations for charities via the platform. When a user taps on the Donation Sticker, they’re guided to a pop-up window where they can quickly submit a donation without having to leave the app. It’s also encouraging users to avail of the tool by matching the first $10 million donations.

Instagram has also just added ‘Gift Card’ (a way for businesses impacted by shutdowns to generate income) and ‘Fundraisers’ (a way for users to link Facebook fundraisers - you can now also fundraise in an IG Live). From a youth perspective, this means that additional time spent on social media in lockdown can be very easily used for good.


The recent Global Citizen ‘One World: Together At Home’ event was a star studded effort that saw leaders, presenters and artists collaborate for a 8+ hour online event for frontline workers and the World Health Organisation. The result, curated by Lady Gaga, was wholesome content that entertained, moved people and encouraged them to stay safe at home. Another celebrity-driven Covid charity initiative ‘All-In Challenge’ gives donors the chance to bid on incredible once in a lifetime fan experiences.

More and more, we’re also seeing brands create initiatives that connect them to their audience but also deliver on a broader societal good. One recent example of this is Jameson Connects’ ‘Remote Utopia’ with NTS - 24 hours of ‘music and mayhem’ raising funds for the global food bank network.

These highlight the collision of function and fun in successful ‘purpose-led’ initiatives/movements. If it’s not fun, why do it?


Inspiring young changemakers doing their bit for charity are drawing heavily on the fun element of fundraising - linking fun challenges to fundraising drives. 21-year-old YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson - aka MrBeast - partnered with YouTube originals to host a livestream where influencers got competitive in a viral "rock, paper, scissors" tournament. The video of the event, featuring 30 other digital celebrities, including the legendary actor ‘Jack Black’, is now the most viewed original Livestream on YouTube (peak of 622k concurrent watchers). The fundraiser made $1 million for a Covid-19 s aid charity.

You can even listen to Bruce Springsteen for 24hours for charity this weekend, thanks to ‘Hungry Heart’ events - who have, in recent weeks, started running themed club nights for 4,000+ superfans from their living room. This Saturday (May 2nd) the goal is to raise £10,000 for Childline, Trussell Trust, Barts Trust, Age UK and Hospice UK by streaming 24 hours of nothing but The Boss:

“There’s a springsteen quote I love - ‘the best music is essentially there to provide you with something to face the world with.’ I knew from a personal perspective that this was true - leading to the start of our all Bruce Springsteen live stream house parties. As we had to postpone so many Hungry Heart events, we felt this was a brilliant way to bring people together - albeit online! - to celebrate the music we all love, and provide a little joy at the moment. I think we succeeded! Which made me think about other things we could do - more Bruce? More support for the others who need it? With such a vast back catalogue, we thought a 24hr-long Springsteen-athon would be a natural continuation of the house parties. Lots of music that people love - but a chance to raise lots of money for the other people who need our support right now!” Hannah Summers, Hungry Heart founder

Another ‘fun’ fundraiser largely driven by young people via Instagram was the recent ‘Run 5 Donate 5 Nominate 5’ / 555 challenge. Initially beginning as an NHS fundraiser ‘Run For Heroes’, it encourages participants to run 5km, donate €5/£5 to a charity of their choice, and nominate 5 friends to do the same. The challenge took off (winning the support of a number of celebrities along the way including Mo Farah and singer Ellie Goulding) - and quickly got competitive with people posting their speediest attempt at a 5km run.


“I feel like I’ve never been so charitable!” Sarah, 28

Young people are reporting how, because of these kinds of campaigns, they have never been so charitable. Covid charity contributions are inspiring a whole new generation of charity donors. Despite the majority being micro donations, we're witnessing a growing habit among younger generations who are experiencing charity drives not just as ‘good’ action but as entertaining social activity.


Limitations aren’t stopping people from raising funds for charity - if anything, it’s giving people something to do and they’re just having to get a little creative with how they do it and entertaining people while they’re at it. Personal bests aside, the tactic of getting people to step out of their comfort zone and do something a little different, adds novelty and intrigue to a charity challenge - which no doubt helped 555 go viral. But, as we learned from Captain Tom Moore, a meaningful personal challenge can be just as captivating to the masses. Communicating your why and your how in a targeted, simple and captivating way is essential. None of his would be happening without social media and the ability to capture and share all of these initiatives with the wider world - and specific fan communities.

What stands out more than anything is the huge genuine desire to do something to help others. While social media feeds get a boost, charities are intended to be the main beneficiaries of these actions. Communities are coming together - collectively, for personal causes and national causes alike, showing one another that in our darkest hours our instinct is to reach out our (virtual) hands to one another. Giving now has enormous social currency, seen as an increasingly valuable act. Covid-19 may very well have provided the modern world with the single largest moment of scaled human empathy.

See also


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“Honestly, it’s quite scary… It’s terrifying.” Gil, 14, UK