TA KE AC T ION
Connecting Youth, Humanizing Data, Sharing Learning
Kira Christensen & Ben Rimes InGlobal
University of Michigan-Flint ICS
• To engage primary and secondary students in taking small daily actions toward the ac
-complishment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and to connect them with one another in communication about their shared actions.
• To encourage peer discovery and learning through shared experiences. • To lay the foundation for successful youth-driven civic engagement.
• To humanize data provided by DevInfo through shared dialogue, personal connections, and oﬄine civic action.
The Take Action project is a collaboration between the University of Michigan, graduates of
the Global Education Technology Program at the University of Michigan-Flint, and In
-Global, an organization that designs and implements innovative educational technology pro
-jects. Recently 280 participants, 8 classroom teachers, and 2 graduate students were con
-nected in a month-long pilot project that focused on participating in daily actions to help
meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Developed in the Sum
-mer of 2009, Ben Rimes and Kira Christensen, the co-creators, worked under the mentor
-munity. Ben Rimes and Kira Christensen serve as the main points of contact for the partici
-pants, as well as lead designers of the educational curriculum. The Interactive Communica
-tions & Simula-tions Group at the University of Michigan provides the server space and connectivity for the project.
The Take Action project builds upon the idea of committing random acts of kindness, but orchestrates those actions into a coordinated eﬀort, rather than performing them at ran
-dom. The actions are all derived from the MDGs, a set of human development goals which all of the United Nation’s member countries are committed to achieve by the year 2015. The
goals focus on eliminating poverty, providing universal education, promoting gender equal
-ity, improving child and maternal health, combating HIV, and ensuring environmental sta
-bility. The path to achieve these goals are all connected to a strong desire for global partner
-ship, not just among governments and NGOs, but between citizens as well.
Youth, teachers, and their parents, visit the Take Action website to discover the daily action or “deed” that everyone will perform that day. After they have taken action, they login to their account on the website and register that they’ve completed the deed for the day. As participants register their action they will also share the story of completing their action through text, video, or audio, which they post to the site’s forum. Each action has it’s own
discussion thread, so diﬀerent forms of the daily action can be shared and commented on. If
-ter use by 3.5 li-ters for the day, the users have a way to share their specific steps taken to per
-form that action.
The Take Action community members can also assign “karma” to other participants’ com
-ments, videos, or other media. Giving karma to another participant is a way for our users to highlight creative actions and inspiring or higher quality comments. The incentive to ac
-quire karma ultimately promotes actions and comments that have a greater impact in mov
-ing the community towards achiev-ing the MDGs.
During the month-long pilot in February of 2010, the participants successfully took small
daily actions provided by the educational curriculum designers, and then shared their expe
-riences with one another using the commenting system in the project website. The 8 par
-ticipating teachers successfully dialogued with students throughout the pilot, and as an indi
-rect result, produced posters, discussions, and books that addressed several of the MDGs. Three hundred books were written for Books of Hope, a tangential project which has been
successfully managed by the My Class Cares organization for several years. A measured 8%
increase was observed in students’ awareness of achieving the MDGs. In addition our re
-sults suggest that as a result of this program more students felt that when their actions are coordinated with others they can make an important contribution.
Through our pilot of the Take Action project, we found that eﬀective teacher-leaders in pi
-lot classrooms were crucial to successful engagement. Teachers who had more confidence in the impact of the project, had the most actively involved students. Another motivator for participant involvement were the actions themselves. Participants were most likely to take part in small daily actions they could complete oﬀ-line in the real world. These oﬀ-line ac
-tions, actions they could see, touch and hear, were 28% more likely than average to be acted upon than other project actions. The power to act within one’s local community for the greater good is where Take Action’s strength lies. In fact, the sense of having an impact, even though it may be a small diﬀerence, increased by 8% by the end of the project. Our findings made it clear that given strong leadership and oﬀ-line actions, students will participate and engage in global citizenry.
Nation states around the world have been documenting significant declines in civic engage
-ment for several decades. Studies from Cornell1 and Cambridge2 in the past decade have
recognized the decline in civic engagement at the national level in many countries, but have noted the increasing positive impact that local and global communities are having on human
1 Tolbert, Charles M., Lyson, Thomas A., & , Initials. (1998). Local capitalism, civic engagement and socioeconomic well-being. Social Forces, 77(2), Retrieved from http://www.questia.com
2 Stolle, Dietland, & Hooghe, Marc. (2004). Inaccurate, exceptional, one-sided or irrelevant? the debate about the alleged decline of social capital and civic engagement in western societies. British Journal of Political Science, 35(1), Retrieved from http://journals.cambridge.org doi: doi:10.1017/S0007123405000074
development. Robert Putnam, a leading global scholar on social change, documented the importance that being a regular part of an organized group has on an individual’s well being3.
The Take Action project forms a bridge that connects local communities to a larger global network of action takers.
However, the pathway from this social apathy to full civic engagement is a slow process. It is diﬃcult to understand why one should care about global issues, let alone how one is able to take some sort of deliberate action to help the world. Individuals must ask both how and
why they can be most eﬀective in addressing the Millennium Development Goals, before
they can truly bring about significant change within the world. This is daunting in terms of time an individual has to commit, trying to visualize such a large problem, and finding eﬀec
-tive ways to sustain engagement levels without falling back into a sense of apathy.
Our project has been successful in engaging students to make the jump from self-education
and service-learning, the first step on the path leading from apathy, to the more important step of peer-education and discovery. Educating your peers requires careful thought and re
-flection. The Take Action project is successful in allowing its participants to explore the process of not only learning about the Millennium Development Goals, but also sharing and teaching others about why and how they are taking action to achieve the MDGs.
3 Smith, M. K. (2001, 2007) 'Robert Putnam', the encyclopaedia of informal education, www.infed.org/thinkers/putnam.htm. Last update: October 14, 2009.
The simple premise of acting on one small action a day eﬀectively moved, enlightened, in
-spired, engaged our first pilot’s participants. Working with data provided by DevInfo, a da
-tabase which houses United Nations data on human development, several classrooms ex
-plored not just how many impoverished people exist in the world, but they began to explore the very notion of how poverty is defined within their own community:
“I found that [Take Action] gave my students initiative to find out information on their own. The ini
-tial question or action posed sparked curiosity and interest.” Jennie Ho&aday, Lapeer County Education
and Technology Center
Throughout the project pilot, data taken from DevInfo was turned into small and creative daily actions designed to help youth better understand the complex data. The data provided by the DevInfo database is readily available, yet without a basic understanding of statistics the database is eﬀectively inaccessible. The Take Action pilot successfully made unique per
-sonal and humanizing connections between the pilot participants, the data, and the global issues that the data represents:
“I loved how much Take Action be(ed my students to look outside of themselves and to think )om a
new point-of-view. Let's talk about Kayla. This is a girl who would rarely come to class. Her home life
was a wreck, and her attitude was even more disastrous! Even on days when she hadn't been in my class,
showed extreme signs of anger and ignorance, I know she felt empowered by the fact that she was being heard. And then, of course, she felt humbled and redirected by those who would respond to her [som
e-times obnoxious] posts. If I could be involved in something like Take Action again (especia&y as a year
-long commitment), I would certainly want to intermingle the task of the project with the goals and
standards of my curriculum.” Megan Mathison Wynia, Minneapolis Public Schools
• The Take Action project, in conjunction with DevInfo’s goal to reach 20,000,000 users,
will reach 200,000 youth and educate themselves and others about the Millennium De
• The Take Action project will help 120 classrooms become centers of peer education for their schools.
• The Take Action Project will record the number of youths taking daily action to determine the types of actions that participants will act on.
• The Take Action Project will support sharing, conversation, and peer education through the use of it’s commenting system, guided by the educational curriculum designers.
• The Take Action Project will motivate students to use evidence-based decision making
• The Take Action project will help students make personal connections, adding a human element to the data provided in the DevInfo database.
Take Action began as a project through the University of Michigan - Flint’s Education in Technology Global Program. The project’s aim is to reach youth of all ages, K-12, utilizing
the classroom as the means of implementation.From July 2009 to December 2009 the Take
Action Project’s concept was conceived and developed and the Take Action website was built. In February 2010 we completed a month-long pilot including the classes of 8 teachers in elementary and high school classrooms in four U.S. states and we analyzed and evaluated
data from the project during March 2010 - June 2010 collected data and participant pre and
post surveys were used to evaluate the initial pilot.
During the next phase, from July 2010 to June 2011, the educational curriculum designers will revise and redesign the site alongside the project manager, and web development team. The team will also design a structure for integrating the project’s goals with both the core subject areas curriculum (Science, Math, Language Arts, Social Studies) and data provided by DevInfo. The lead educational curriculum designers, and project manager will present at educational conferences the findings from the evaluation of the initial pilot. They will make connections with educators for the second pilot, to expand participation to 20 classrooms in
5 countries. By January of 2011, the lead educational curriculum designers will write and re
-vise video tutorials and training for participating teachers to complete in preparation for the second pilot, which will run in the Spring of 2011. The pilot classrooms will complete a pre
-determined set of survey questions, administered by the Educational Curriculum Designers, before and after the pilot in order to evaluate the site with completion by June 2011.
July 2011 to June 2012, Take Action will integrate with DevInfo through daily actions appear
-ing alongside relevant data within DevInfo and a link on the main page to Take Action. In
-terconnection with The Big Question project will be coordinated and designed by the Edu
-cation Curriculum Designers and the Project Manager in collaboration with The Big Ques
-tion design and curriculum team. Daily ac-tions will be based upon DevInfo data, but influ
-enced by local and global interests as derived from The Big Question’s global “ask the world”
campaign. Interconnection with the Peace Chat project will allow youth who are participat
-ing with Take Action to move past the small daily actions to the development of larger
Concept and site design by the Education Curriculum Designers and the Web Development Team will be completed by December of 2012 with successful integration by March 2012. The third pilot will expand to 40 classrooms in 10 countries. To complete training for all teachers involved teacher-leaders will be trained by the educational curriculum designers to assist with support and guidance in each participating building. Additionally, training for the
technology used and eﬀective teaching strategies for participating classroom teachers in de
-veloping nations will be developed.
Moving forward, the Take Action project will continue to run as a project in classrooms lead by the teachers with access to tutorials, training, and support. It will also expand into an in
-dependent project open to worldwide users and participation.
Using the Ruby on Rails web development platform for creating the Take Action Web com
-munity lends itself well to data collection. Ruby on Rails is a web development language that is database driven, so we will be able to easily document how many users act on a specific action or "deed," what date a deed was featured as the Action of the Day, how many karma points a user receives, how many times karma is given and received between users, and what
Millennium Development Goals link to each Action of the Day. Daily web site traﬃc will be
collected with Google Analytics.
Surveys bookending the project at the start and end will focus on youth attitudes towards
service-learning, awareness of the MDGs, and their thoughts on how much their actions
impact world around them. Data pulled from the web site will include comparisons of users
-ers who gave and received karma, actions completed compared to the number of people who visit the site according to Google Analytics. These measures are necessary to gauge the level of engagement with the project. For example, are the participants visiting the site, but not sharing their daily action, or are they simply registering that they’ve taken action with
-out contributing to the conversation?
The world needs help. Youth especially have an innate sense of commitment to the needs of the world because they will be in charge someday and the world’s problems will be theirs, but how do they do anything about this? Take Action will facilitate the important first steps
from engaging students in service-learning to becoming peer educators. Being educated on
some of the hardest pressing issues on the heart of the world, and then being able to speak in an educated way about this with other youth and adults is a powerful catapult into be
-coming adults who are actively engaged in their world. The Take Action platform prepares students to learn more than just what they can do to make a diﬀerence but how they can
make a diﬀerence. Empowering students in this way engages them and fosters the devel
-opment of actively engaged citizens.
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals are big ideas with big goals that have a short five years left to be accomplished. It will take every bit of eﬀort, creativity and work to make it
happen by 2015, and that’s exactly what Take Action aims to get across to the participating
youth. What you do makes a diﬀerence, no matter how small. We must all do our part.
Not only will Take Action engage students in small daily actions that has them participating in making a small diﬀerence each day, but it will also bring to life the serious data DevInfo and other organizations have compiled in order to show the world what is going on. Not everyone knows how to react to or even read this rich statistical data. However, people do know how they feel when they help others and they do know a genuine “thank you” when they hear it. Individual to individual, human to human, one story to another is how we will start educating the current generation that must prepare to change the world for the better and not for the worse.
4 Year Budget
• Action Creation, Coordination, and Facilitation of Project
• 2 Educational Curriculum Designers (180 hours/year for 4 years @ $50/hour per de
-signer = $18,000 per year, $72,000 - 4 years)
• Conceptual Website Redesign & Thematic Core Content Area Unit Development
• 2 Educational Curriculum Designers (360 hours for 1 year @ $50/hour per designer = $36,000 - one time cost)
• Journaling of Student/Teacher Interaction, Survey Creation and Administration, Google Analytics Analysis
• 2 Educational Curriculum Designers (60 hours/year for 4 years @ $50/hour =
$6,000 per year, $24,000 - 4 years)
• Redesign of Website & Database
• Web Development Team (500 hours for 1 year @ $50/hour = $25,000 - one time
• Continued Maintenance & Management
• Web Development Team (200 hours/year for 4 years @ $50/hour = $10,000 per
year, $40,000 - 4 years)
Outreach • Domestic (U.S.)
• Travel to Partner Locations, Conferences, and Facilitation Meetings with Class
• 2 Educational Curriculum Designers ($1,000/trip for 4 years @ 5 trips a year per designer = $10,000 per year, $40,000 - 4 years)
• Project Development Manager ($1,000/trip for 4 years @ 5 trips a year =
$5,000 per year, $20,000 - 4 years)
• Conference Fees & Registration
• 2 Educational Curriculum Designers ($300/conference for 4 years @ 3 con
-ferences a year per designer = $1,800 per year, $7,200 - 4 years)
• Project Development Manager ($300/conference for 4 years @ 3 conferences
a year = $900 per year, $3,600 - 4 years)
• Printed Materials & Publications ($2,000/year for 4 years = $2,000 per year, $8,000 - 4 years)
• Travel to Partner Locations, Conferences, and Facilitation Meetings with Class
• 2 Educational Curriculum Designers ($2,500/trip for 4 years @ 4 trips a year per designer = $20,000 per year, $80,000 - 4 years)
• Project Development Manager ($2,500/trip for 4 years @ 3 trips a year =
$10,000 per year, $40,000 - 4 years)
• Printed Materials & Publications ($1,000/year for 4 years = $1,000 per year, $4,000 - 4 years)
• Web Outreach ($10,000/year for 4 years = $10,000 per year, $40,000 - 4 years)
• Continued Development of Resources for Project & Coordination of Eﬀorts between
Educational Curriculum Designers and Web Development Team
• Project Development Manager (1000 hours/year for 4 years @ $50/hour = $50,000
per year, $200,000 - 4 years)
• Software ($2,000 - one time cost)
• Hardware ($10,000 - one time cost)
• Paper, Data Storage, Misc Oﬃce ($500/year for 4 years = $500 per year, $2000 - 4 years) Indirect • (9% of Total Cost) TOTAL • Year One -$240,000 • Year Two -$160,000 • Year Three -$160,000 • Year Four -$160,000
• Four Year Grand Total -$720,000
Take Action amplifies the simple idea that the small things we do matter and when coordi
-nated together they make a big diﬀerence. By involving youth from around the globe, using
curriculum tailored for eﬀective classroom use and real data from DevInfo, Take Action will create a community of educated, informed and engaged global citizens, ready to take the lead in caring for the world and the people in it. Thank you for reviewing and thoughtfully considering our grant proposal. We appreciate the time, eﬀort and resources that you put toward enhancing the general welfare in our world.