News is information we consume passively, except when it really pisses us off.
In October 2012, having just graduated with a degree in Poli-Sci and interning with an NGO start-up focused on ending extreme poverty, the most disturbing of events took place. Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year old girl, was shot by the Taliban on a school bus for advocating for her right to education.
This is enough to enrage anyone, and it enraged everyone. Sitting in the office, next to a dozen or so twenty-something "do-gooders" like myself, each as angry as me, I read former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's op-ed announcing a new petition that would demand the 31 million girls excluded from primary schooling be let into classrooms. The article kindly included a link to a website where I could sign that petition.
By the end of the op-ed I was still angry, but also inspired by the people out there seeking to address this. And feeling slightly reassured about the state of the world, I clicked out of the article and continued reading my emails.
But had I actually signed the petition... Not quite.
I've not admitted this to many people -- as this fact makes me a hypocrite of all sorts, but catching myself not doing anything to support Malala made me nervous (particularly as a campaigner) and so I thought hard about it.
I concluded it wasn't a question of me not being bothered; it was a question of accessibility.
Entering your name into a petition list is about one of the easiest things we can do as citizens. But for some reason, seeking out this petition felt to me, as it has to others, like too many steps. We all read bad news; we are enraged by it, we wonder perhaps sometimes what we could do, how we might challenge that news. A large percentage of news we read is actionable, but not accessible, unless we are connected to actions that let us participate in the solutions. What if readers could be effective participants in news? Can we engage in more meaningful ways than sharing articles on our social feeds or commenting in a discussion forum?
The answer is yes, if we streamline the process.
That's why this week, with help from Huffington Post, we're launching the Action Button, designed to connect newsreaders to meaningful opportunities to take action to end extreme poverty. The Action Button is powered by Global Citizen, an online platform working to catalyze the movement to end extreme poverty by 2030, and is currently in a pilot phase. It works to make civic participation accessible, simple and fast, where readers don't have to leave their article to delve deeper into a story they care about. Moreover, these actions are not gratuitous; they are connected to the work of some of the best non-profits in the sector who deliver targeted and effective outcomes for the world's disenfranchised.
Now when you're on The Huffington Post and you read a story related to ending extreme poverty that enrages or impassions you, the organizations fighting for those issues are at your fingertips. You can sign a petition in support of Food Aid Reform in the US, email Congress to support safe access to clean water and sanitation, tweet to call for funds needed to enable better access to schools for girls in developing regions, or take a quiz to reinforce your knowledge on global issues. You can also earn points for these actions to redeem for concert tickets and music events by joining the community of Global Citizens: a movement working to right the injustice of extreme poverty by 2030.
We're excited to be launching at Davos with a tweet action directed towards making the reduction of preventable maternal, new-born and child deaths a priority for the G7 meetings taking place in Germany this June.
2015 is an iconic year in this fight, and throughout 2015 the Action Button will continue to grow and diversify into new markets, recruiting new advocates from around the world and connecting readers to more NGOs and opportunities for action.
The news is not just information to consume; it's an opportunity to act.
(*I have since signed Gordon Brown's petition and I'd like the world to know.)
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2015 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 21-24). Read all the posts in the series here.