Two of the world’s largest social media platforms have invested $1 million into Australian anti-bullying social enterprise Project Rockit to help combat cyberbullying in schools across the country.
Announced last week, Project Rockit has cemented a $1 million partnership with Facebook and Instagram to help establish its landmark Digital Ambassadors network in over 600 schools across 40 different regions in Australia.
Project Rockit, which was founded by sisters Rosie and Lucy Thomas in 2006, is a social enterprise run by young people for young people, aiming to change the conversation on bullying in Australia and encourage youths to stand up for themselves.
The startup’s new Digital Ambassadors program will see over 10,000 young people in schools across Australia be provided with the skills and strategies to better deal with bullying issues in their schools, and each will be connected through an online hub to help further “pollinate” their social impact amongst themselves and their peers.
Speaking to StartupSmart, Rosie Thomas says while the program will initially be focused on the issue of cyberbullying, the skills taught through the program will be applicable to all facets of life.
“It makes sense to focus on cyberbullying considering we’re working with the biggest social media platforms in the world, but as I see it, the social issues of cyberbullying playing out online also exist offline,” she says.
“It’s all about helping young people identify what they stand for and drive cultural change about what’s cool and not cool.”
Running for over 12 years, Thomas says using technology to amplify the impact of what Project Rockit does has always been a focus of the startup’s, and the partnership with the social platforms will help further this goal.
In a statement, Antigone Davis, director and head of global safety at Facebook said the company was “thrilled” to continue its ongoing commitment to help young people stay safe online and offline.
“Project Rockit’s Digital Ambassadors program aims to bring young Aussies together to explore online safety issues in the real world in a safe, supportive environment. We look forward to getting feedback and input from students that can add even more peer-led ideas and initiatives in the future,” Davis said.
$1 million goes a long way
Though Project Rockit has been partnering with Facebook since the company established its local headquarters Down Under five years ago, this partnership is not only the biggest one yet, but marks the first time the social giant has invested directly into a Project Rockit initiative.
Thomas says not only is the massive partnership a huge mark of validation for her business, its a big deal for her “for profit and for purpose” social enterprise.
“Ten years ago we relied on schools paying for our programs, and there was virtually no social change landscape or ecosystem to support us. A lot of organisations didn’t understand what we were doing,” she says.
“It’s really awesome for us to create something that’s still valuable 12 years on, and these partnerships allow us to take it to the next level, and make sure schools across the country are on a level playing field.”
As big business goes, Facebook and Instagram are some of the biggest, and Thomas says the key to dealing with big players such as Facebook when running a small startup boils down to the relationship you build.
“It’s such a long game, but the relationship needs to be really personal and you need to take time to get to know the people you’re working with,” she says.
“As you grow the relationship over time, you get the chance to listen to feedback and demonstrate you’re really committed to what you’re doing and that you’re in it for the long game.”
“Make sure you have a really clear sense of mission and purpose and don’t let anyone sway you from that. If a partner ever challenges your integrity or wants to change what you’re doing, that should be a big alarm bell.”