14 February 2006
by Patrick Barkham
It has been written off as wristband idealism, but last year's Make Poverty History campaign
mobilized a generation of politically active young people, according to a survey for Oxfam
Eighty-four percent of 16- to 25-year-olds said the campaign and the Live8 concerts had had the biggest impact on them last year, ahead of London's Olympic bid victory and the general election.
Two-thirds of respondents said they had worn the white bands last year and a similar percentage intended to support charities this year by signing petitions or joining email campaigns. Nearly half said they would attend rallies or events this year, and 45% said they would donate money or goods to charity.
But the survey of 1,400 16- to 25-year-olds for Oxfam's website, Generation Why, also indicated that charities needed to work hard this year to maintain the impetus. More than half (54%) of those surveyed said they were uncertain about what should happen next.
Young people were not turned off by the celebrity-driven nature of Make Poverty History. More than three-quarters (78%) said celebrity endorsements got "the message to people who might not otherwise care", and 63% said actors and music stars could raise awareness of important issues. Just 6% said the involvement of celebrities trivialised the issues.
Oxfam has launched a campaign, I'm In, aimed at signing up a million young people to get involved in its work this year. The Generation Why website was set up in 2004 to help young people engage directly in its campaigns by blogging, writing articles, taking up e-card campaigns or volunteering to help out at festivals. The website had five times more visitors this January than last.
"These results show that Make Poverty History put important issues in front of many young people perhaps for the first time, and showed them how they could be a part of it," said Liz Leaver, Oxfam's youth coordinator. "More young people than ever want to take action, and are now looking for the best way to get involved. It is now up to charities like us to help translate that desire into positive action. Oxfam is committed to keeping young people engaged."