There are thousands of homeless people around the world, with no one to listen to their voices, share with them their dreams or sooth their fears…. This is why the “Underheard in New York” initiative began.
Idea & Objectives:
Underheard in New York is an initiative to help homeless New Yorkers speak for themselves through Twitter. “In a time when communication is all around us, we felt it was necessary to give a voice to the people who needed it most. Between Jan. 2009 and Jan. 2010 the total number of unsheltered individuals within New York City rose an estimated 34%.”
Four homeless people — Danny (@putodanny), Derrick (@awitness2011), Albert (@albert814) and Carlos (@jessie550) — were given their own prepaid cell phone, a month of unlimited text messaging and a Twitter account.
While Underheard in New York has no direct fundraising component, Weeks hopes it will help people better understand homelessness and inspire them to volunteer or donate to shelters like the NYC Rescue Mission. The Mission helped select the four men, who all sleep there at night.
Weeks explained that these four men serve as a pilot group that the team hopes to expand with more Twitter accounts and voices from the New York area. Although the co-founders will close the initiative after their internships end, Weeks is looking at a bigger picture.
700 followers on Twitter for the original Unheard in NY account. Individually, the number of tweeps following each of the homeless men is as follows:
- 1,577 for Albert
- 1,577 for Carlos
- 1,686 for Danny
- 1,863 for Derrick
“Right now, the four accounts don’t have a ton of followers but they do contain some moving insights about loneliness, hardship and the basic human kindness shown by — and shown to — these four men.”
On Facebook, the fan page has 81 likes – including mine – and little to no conversations, likes or comments on posts and updates.
The Public’s Reactions:
Here are some reactions to this initiative so far:
I think what would be even MORE effective is if the phones had video/photo capability so they could SHOW, not just tell, the reality. But in general I think this is a great idea. Who better to tell the story than the one living it?
The money used for the Twitter crash course and mobile phones could have been better spend for these INDIVIDUALS yes, but this way they are giving the whole world insight into homeless peoples lives.
- I guess ‘homeless’ isn’t synonymous with ‘poor & destitute’ anymore. Can just mean…person w/o an actual home BUT who can still afford smartphones and the dataplans there in AND/OR computers and paying monthly ISP fees to Tweet/Facebook… and any other world wide web activity?
Opinion & Lessons Learned:
Personally, I like the idea of this initiative because it’s unique and fresh, otherwise, I think it could have been executed more effectively in efforts to raise more money for the homeless, maybe help then learn something new, or get a job!
So, what can we learn from Unheard in New York?
- Think big: Although the objectives of the initiative are noble, they were missing important elements that could have made a great difference in the way people reacted to the initiative, which consequently would have helped get more benefit from it.
- Provide hints: People are so wrapped up in their every day lives that they might miss the point of the initiative if they are not given some hints – bread crumbs – to lead them to the next step of action.
- Try to minimize criticism: “Why are they all men? Why the waste of money on phones?” These questions and more could be well avoided by being transparent and clear about every step you take while designing your initiative or campaign.
- Be more active: I can understand why the accounts of the homeless men have a low number of followers but the main account and the Facebook page should have more likes and followers in order for the initiative to be successful.
Finally, what do you think of the initiative? Did you hear about it before? Would you follow any of the homeless men? If not, why?
Looking forward to your comments and insights down below…