June 22, 2021


Meet Mitu Yilma, Digital Director, Born This Way Foundation

Born This Way Foundation is using innovative campaigns and programming to help young people learn about mental health and connect with the vital resources they need. Mitu Yilma, Digital Director at Born This Way Foundation and an Anthem Awards judge, is a crucial part of that mission: She oversees the organization’s entire online strategy. Learn more about her and her inspiring work in our newest feature.

For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about your background.

My name is Mitu, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I serve as Digital Director for Born This Way Foundation where I manage our online communications. I came to Born This Way Foundation from a background in advocacy, working on civil rights and labor campaigns. Throughout my career and especially in my current role, I have had the opportunity to explore the power of social media and how young people are using it to build community, shift culture, share helpful, often life-saving information, and spread humor and joy. 


What are you most looking forward to about reviewing Anthem Awards entries?

I am most looking forward to learning how organizations are authentically implementing projects and campaigns rooted in love and kindness, especially those that support our most vulnerable populations. For example, Born This Way Foundation has an annual campaign called #BeKind21, which is an invitation for the public to practice intentional kindness toward themselves and others each day from September 1-21. #BeKind21 is back for its fourth year, marking this unusual and historic back-to-school season and fall with kindness and compassion, and you can sign up for it here. Our goal, in partnership with our over 200 partners, is to expand the definition of kindness beyond being polite. Kindness is sharing your story, kindness is building a world where all Black lives matter, kindness is advocacy, kindness is protecting your mental health, kindness is taking naps. 

There’s countless ways to support people on a local, national, or even global scale, and it’ll be an honor to witness how organizations are showing up for communities.


What does it take for a project or campaign to cause real-world change?

One thing I value deeply about Born This Way Foundation is the approach our leadership takes in understanding what grassroots organizations are doing and how we can help their efforts rather than duplicating their work. Context is so important for any community-based change and my favorites are projects that put the communities they serve at the forefront of every part of bringing the idea to life. The real-world change happens when there isn’t just community-buy in, but also when these ideas are community-led. 


How does your work at the Born This Way Foundation support your mission?

Our research shows it’s important to openly and honestly talk about mental health, kindness, and the undeniable link between them. With that, our digital associate, Josh Hollin (he/him/his), and I get to amplify the stories, perspectives, and ideas of youth advocates with whom we collaborate including our Advisory Board members, CHANNEL KINDNESS authors, and more. Born This Way Foundation’s social media is also a great listening tool. The DMs, comments, and emails we receive help shape our work, especially with our digital-first initiatives like ChannelKindness.org, PleaseStay.us, #TeaWithMrsG, and #BeKind21. Our community is never uncomfortable sharing where we need to expand and do better, and it’s my job to receive their feedback and report it to our team so we can figure out how we can be responsive and proactive. 


Bonus: What’s your favorite purpose-driven project or mission-driven campaign right now, and why?

I am firmly a member of the notOK App hive. As teenagers, Hannah (she/her/hers) and Charlie (he/him/his), with their mom Robin (she/her/hers), launched notOK App, a free phone app that serves as a digital panic button. You can alert your trusted contacts with the push of a button to let them know you are not ok and in need of support. It’s an app I have loaded with a few friends as my trusted contacts, and I highly recommend it. In talking to your loved ones about the app and why you’d like them to download it, you’re opening up urgently needed conversations about mental health, how you need your people to support you, and how you can support your people. Beyond that, Hannah and Charlie speak so powerfully about their own mental health and as a Black woman, I can’t overstate how moving it is to see Black youth raising the topic of mental health in such a smart way. You can get to know them better in a virtual panel Born This Way Foundation hosted on Black mental health here.