August 26, 2021

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Born This Way Foundation’s #BeKind21 Campaign

#BeKind21 is an annual campaign by Born This Way Foundation, developed as an invitation to practice kindness toward yourself and others each day. Happening each September, the initiative aims to build kinder, more connected communities that foster mental wellness. Read our Q&A with Mitu Yilma, Born This Way’s Digital Director, on a movement of over 200 partners, 7 million participants, and 160 million pledges of kindness, on a mission to build a kinder, braver world that affirms and celebrates everyone for who they are.

Born This Way Foundation has hosted #BeKind21 annually since 2018. What inspired this three-week long action to practice kindness towards yourself and others? 

Our executive director Maya (she/her) was about to send her son Hunter (he/him) to school for the first time ever and wanted to invite his classroom to begin the school year encouraging kindness toward self, others, and their school community. We like to call #BeKind21, Hunter’s challenge, at Born This Way Foundation because the beginning of the campaign is true to the essence of the initiative. Each of us has the power to transform the world with our kindness. 

Maya and Hunter brought the campaign to the Foundation and challenged us to launch it globally so young people and the young-at-heart could build kinder, more connected communities that foster mental wellness as we enter the fall. As of our launch in 2018, from Hunter’s school to classrooms and organizations across the country, we have recruited over 200 partners and 117 million pledged acts of kindness. 

How does the #BeKind21 campaign connect and amplify the mission of Born This Way Foundation to support the mental health of young people?

The structure of #BeKind21 is rooted in the work we do alongside and for young people. Through our work, thousands of conversations, and research, we have learned repeatedly from young people that when they can describe their environments as kind, they are more likely to be mentally healthy. That is true across where young people live, work, and play. We also know from young people that these kind acts don’t have to be huge gestures. In our Kindness Is Action report released earlier this year, young people shared the acts of kindness that could most help to improve their mental health are someone listening when they have a problem, someone believing in them and encouraging them to do their best, and someone checking in on how they’re doing. 

Intentionally practicing kindness toward ourselves and others is not only important for our own mental health and the mental health of our loved ones but also for our collective community wellbeing. 

With #BeKind21 officially kicking off on September 1st, what actions will the Born This Way Foundation team take to push its mission to “build a kinder, braver world that affirms and celebrates everyone for who they are?”

At Born This Way Foundation, we know kindness is more than being polite. Kindness is action. Kindness has the power to change the status quo, help us move forward through crises, strengthen our own mental wellness, and connect communities globally. 

Acts of kindness our team, including the amazing youth advocates we work with and our global Advisory Board, will take many forms such as making time for naps, donating to mutual aids in our communities, ensuring our virtual and in-person spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible, buying fresh flowers, volunteering at local organizations, gratitude journaling, practicing mindfulness, hosting dance parties, buying coffee for the person next to us in line, and more. Kindness is endless. 

If you’re searching for ideas for how you can participate in #BeKind21, check out our sign up page where you can join our kindness movement and build your own #BeKind21 Kindness Calendar today. When you sign up for our email list, you’ll also receive daily messages from September 1 to 21 with ideas from our partners, too!

The world has changed in many ways since #BeKind21 was first launched in 2018. How has your team tailored this year’s campaign and actions to reflect this current moment we are in?

#BeKind21 was purposefully designed to meet the needs of the present day to promote kindness across global environments heading into the fall season, including in classrooms, schools, workplaces, houses, the public sector, and beyond. 

As I shared earlier, kindness is action. Kindness is meeting unmet needs in your community, kindness is taking a social media break if and when everything becomes overwhelming, kindness is registering to vote, kindness is engaging in advocacy. Kindness is showing up for yourself and our collective community. 

What tools or practices are you equipping participants with to continue practicing intentional acts of kindness, and showing up for kindness, and showing up for their community in meaningful ways?

When you visit our website and pledge to #BeKind21, you’re met with evidence-based self-care tips to practice kindness toward yourself, a Kindness Calendar full of suggestions for how you can show up for yourself and others, social media posts and graphics you can use to help spread the word online, and more. 

We also invite you to find and share stories of how you’re engaging in #BeKind21 by following the hashtag across social media and by visiting our storytelling platform Channel Kindness. Within each Channel Kindness story, we include suggestions for how you can take action immediately following the story you read. 

Born This Way Foundation’s action is rooted in uplifting and celebrating everyone for who they are. As brands and organizations focus more on social impact, how can they take the #BeKind21 mission and apply it across their policies to show up in impactful ways for young people?

Born This Way Foundation’s #BeKind21 partners represent classrooms, schools, school districts, the public sector, for-profit companies, nonprofit and community organizations, individual advocates, and more. There are so many ways we have witnessed how they promote kindness toward others and within their own organizations. Check out these #BeKind21 messages from Shannon Barry on writing yourself a love letter, from Safe Places for Youth on showing compassion for your unhoused neighbors, from Active Minds on building kinder mental health cultures, from Black Girls Vote on leaning into kindness for your community, and from Find Your Anchor on being an anchor.

For internal policies, we learned from our Kind Communities – A Bridge to Youth Mental Wellness and our Kindness Is Action reports that offices can encourage kindness by modeling introducing yourself using your pronouns, having bosses check in with their team members on how they’re really doing, offering resources and community groups for employees from backgrounds that are marginalized, and providing mentorship programs for young employees. 

What lessons has your team at Born This Way Foundation gleaned from running #BeKind21 throughout the years?

When we first launched the challenge, a young person reached out to us online and shared the kindest thing they could do for 21 days is pledge to not harm themselves each day for #BeKind21. That is a profound act of kindness that person pledged to themselves and to our global kindness community. 

Every day, we learn new shapes kindness can take and the power kindness holds. 

Join our kindness movement at bornthisway.foundation/bekind21.