Siblings Kassidy and Ryan Brown (25 and 30, respectively) wanted to tell the remarkable stories of the members of this generation who are making an impact on our world. So in 2009 they conceived the idea for Journey of Action, a trip across the Americas that would highlight active citizens and their work. After their start in September 2010 in Alaska, they’re on the road for six months. They’ll end their journey in Argentina, at which point they will have been to 14 countries and traveled over 15,000 miles. Ryan and Kassidy are filming as they travel, posting regular webisodes to share the stories of all the change-makers they meet with the world. Kassidy and Ryan took a moment on the road to tell us why they are so passionate about this change generation, what it was like signing Timberland as a sponsor for the project, and much more.
What’s your big idea?
We believe our generation, Generation Y, is aware of the social and environmental challenges we face on a local and global level, but they lack daily tools for action. At the same time, there are so many members of our generation that are making change a reality and who are changing the traditional systems of business, non-profits, and education for the better, but they receive little to no media attention. So, our mission is to entertain, educate, and inspire our generation through short form videos that highlight the culture of social activism.
What was the inspiration behind your idea? What problem or issue did you first try to answer?
We received our real education from traveling. Between the two of us, we have traveled to over 20 countries, covering six continents by means of back packing, studying abroad, and volunteering. On our travels we were exposed to different cultures as well as many forms of inequality and injustice, which made us ask questions, like, “Why is there perpetual poverty? Why is most of the Southern Hemisphere third world?” As we sought to answer these questions, we discovered and met so many amazing people who had created solutions to these problems on a local and global level. We always wondered, and still do, why does the media only focus on our problems and challenges and never on the solutions? On our journey, we seek to highlight solutions.
What was the first milestone you reached when you knew that it was going to work?
Our first milestone was achieving funding from Timberland. Not only was it a milestone because it enabled us to do the journey, but also because we were able to partner with a company that shared our values.
Where did you grow up?
We were raised in Nashville, Tennessee.
What college did you go to? What was your major and minor?
We both graduated from Belmont University. Kassidy majored in Communications and doubled minored in Spanish and Film Production. Ryan double majored in Communications and Spanish.
What’s your favorite specific class or teacher? What was memorable about them?
Kassidy: The class that impacted me the most in college was World Religions. We were able to speak with various religious leaders and visit their religious centers. I think when you study the various religions you gain a global perspective of geography, history, value systems, cultural factors such as language, art, music, and contemporary issues.
Ryan: The class that stands out the most was a Current Events class in college that I took while studying abroad in Spain. It was vastly different than any other class that I had because we learned about relevant issues that had the potential to impact everyone of one us instead of learning via lecture or from an out-dated textbook. We debated, learned about our classmate’s personal beliefs, and became humbled as we discussed various issues.
Who do you most admire? Whose leadership model do you follow?
We admire and are very grateful to have Jesse Dylan and Eric Schlosser as our mentors. They have taught us the importance of being bold. You cannot rely on others to make your dreams come true.
Whom do you seek out for advice?
We often seek advice from our peers and our mentors, but we consistently seek advice and guidance from our parents. Without our father’s support, both emotionally and financially, we would not be where we are today.
How is your life different now than it was before you started this project?
Before beginning the project we were constantly searching for what we truly were meant to do. Though we had worthwhile experience prior to the project, we have never felt so fulfilled and happy about where we are in life, what we are doing, and the people we are surrounded by.
What excites you about your generation?
We are a generation of doers, who do not care about the status quo. We are less concerned with how much money we earn and more with how much positive impact we can have. Our generation is bold, innovative, and understands the benefits of collaboration.
If you had 60 seconds with President Obama what would you tell him or ask him?
Please, reengage with our generation and mobilize us once more. We voted for you because your campaign platform represented the interest of the people. We voted for you because we supported your progressive vision to reform health care, create a green economy, greatly reduce troops in combat, increase transparency within government and reduce the power of lobbyist- Not because we liked your ability to compromise. Keep the courage of your convictions and we’ll be there for you, not just at the voting booth, but every day we will work to execute your vision of having a government that is “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
How has technology and social media affected your work?
Technology and social media has enabled our work. We chose to do a web series because our generation goes online to get their news and entertainment.
What was or what is your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge was securing funding in a time where marketing dollars were scarce. It was easy to pitch the concept of Journey of Action, but difficult to ensure an exact ROI because we were entering unchartered territory on a personal level and lacked evidence of similar endeavors. We were rejected by several companies, but never lost confidence in our idea nor the need for this form of media.
What assets or challenges do you have or face because you’re young?
There is no better time to take chances and pursue one’s dreams than when you are young and have few responsibilities.
How would the world be different in 10 years if you had your way?
We are focusing on America, because it is here that we have the ability to make the most impact. We believe the following ideas would help create a more sustainable world. So if we had our way, there would be more transparency in government including campaign finance reform and online voting. The Green Revolution would be in full effect and America would be the leader in clean-technology breakthroughs and we would be energy independent. The majority of our 700 plus military bases abroad would be transformed into community gathering places, where the local community would benefit from America’s presence, from schools to culture centers to housing. All businesses, small and large, would become “social businesses”- businesses that care about the triple bottom line- people, planet, and profit. The Gap Year, would be institutionalized and every student will have the opportunity to volunteer abroad or in the U.S. prior to going to college or the year after graduation.
If you weren’t doing this, you’d be …
Ryan: I would be working for a socially responsible company or trying to start my own business.
Kassidy: Traveling abroad and working on documentaries.
Follow Kassidy, Ryan, and their journey on twitter, @journeyofaction.
David D. Burstein is a young entrepreneur himself, having completed his first documentary 18 in ’08 for which he was awarded a $10,000 grant from Nancy Lublin’s DoSomething.org. He is the Founder & Executive director of the youth voter engagement not for profit, Generation18. His book about the millennial generation will be published by Beacon Press in fall 2011.
David and Fast Company are producing Change Generation, a new series profiling a young generation of change-seekers. We’ll be covering everything from educational activists to champions of political reform, creative entrepreneurs, and outright thrill seekers. We’ll be hosting Q&As as well as video profiles with production partner shatterbox.