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The Top 25 Newsmaker of 2006 – Number 5: TakingITGlobal Jennifer Corriero

At 26, this co-founder and executive director of TakingITGlobal was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum for helping empower young people through technology

Back in 1999, while most 19-year-olds were nervously preparing for their journeys into post-secondary education, Jennifer Corriero had an idea to start an organization that would empower youth through technology.

Seven years later, Corriero’s TakingITGlobal.org is an international, youth-led organization built around an interactive Web site that allows young people around the world to collaborate on various online projects, targeting local, regional and global issues.

“I felt there were different needs – environmental, community, social and political – to be addressed and for people to be more actively involved in creating a better world,” said Corriero. “And I felt technology and online communities could be a tool for that.”

Today, TakingITGlobal (TIG), which is headquartered in Toronto, has over 130,000 members from more than 200 countries.

“We receive about one million hits a day,” she said, adding that currently the organization has around 30 people on staff, most of whom are project-based.

For 2006, TIG’s budget was just over $1 million.

Corriero said only a percentage of that comes from the Canadian government.

“A lot of non-profit organizations give us funding, as well as foundations and corporations – we don’t have one major source,” she said.

As part of its coalition with various non-profits, TIG has created Web sites for different groups like the Canadian Coalition for HIV/AIDS and Youth in Africa, which was funded

by CARE.

“Technology is the common thread throughout everything we do, from delivering programs to how we outreach to youth using social networking tools as a platform for youth to become more educated and aware of global issues,” said Corriero.

She added that technology also serves as the basis for collaborating on projects, sharing skills and knowledge and developing community based initiatives.

Building bridges

In August the organization leveraged its online network, which can be accessed in 11 languages, to increase youth participation at the 16th annual international AIDS conference, which took place in Toronto.

“We did work to support online e-courses on developing skills around peer education, advocacy and preventative initiatives in partnership with the global youth coalition on HIV/AIDS,” she said.

In addition, at the conference TakingITGlobal built a platform for youth delegates to post blogs and podcasts as an electronic way to report their experiences and what they learned, added Corriero.

The organization, she said, is continuously on the lookout for new technologies that could further its cause.

The job of keeping a watchful eye on upcoming innovations belongs to TIG’s co-founder and director of technology, Michael Furdyk, an advisor to numerous groups including Microsoft and Pollution Probe.

“It’s one thing to follow what’s out there,” said Corriero in explaining Furdyk’s role, “and another to try to secure a relationship where we can get support in using it.”

Social responsibility

Already TIG has received support from companies like Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.

“HP was a major supporter of ours and provided a lot of the desktops in our office, as well as printers and they also provided prizes for art contests we ran on the site,” she said.

Microsoft, Corriero added, has been a big supporter of the organization’s educational programs.

Last year TIG, with support from Microsoft, created a Web portal called “Online Safety and Security” as a way to educate youth on such Internet concerns as protection and abuse of intellectual property, “cyber bullies” and predators, identity theft, online security and cyber citizenship.

According to Corriero, an increased number of companies are making an effort to be part of socially responsible movements.

“There are more companies now producing social impact reports that highlight their own responsibility,” she said.

But though progress is being made, she added, there is still a lot to be done.

In addition to her work at TakingITGlobal, Corriero completed a Masters degree in June in environmental studies at Toronto’s York University.

She doesn’t intend to further specialize in that field. In fact her next goal is to learn French.

But for TIG, the goals are even bigger.

“We have a 2010 vision to help build leadership capacity among five million youth as a way to contribute to local and global communities,” she said.

Bridging the continuity gap and enhancing effectiveness of youth action is another key goal, added Corriero.

“We want to better connect all the different activities, events, programs and initiatives in our global network.”

Improvements to the Website will also continue, she said, including new functionalities with a theme of greater personalization.

“There’s a growing awareness that young people have a lot to contribute,” she said. |