It is a real honor to share this next story. Bassim Eledath was OMUN’s Press and Publications Officer in 2014-2015. This talented young writer also proved to be a fantastic MUN delegate. I met Bassim personally when he came to THIMUN Qatar in 2014, and the success of his online publication and community, Maverick Youth, comes as no surprise to me. Personally it gives me tremendous pleasure to see how OMUN contributed to the connected network that helped fuel Bassim’s team of talented writers. As an educator it gives me even greater pleasure to see organic communities of shared interest forming around international topics that mean something to young adults. MY epitomizes the best in today’s online initiatives.
~Lisa Martin, Head of THIMUN Qatar/Founder Online Model United Nations
Interview with Bassim Eledath, with contributions from MY staff writer, Alia El Kattan
When was MY founded
Maverick Youth was founded on September 18th, 2014
Are you the sole founder
Yes, but we have a large team that manages the website.
Why did you decide to launch Maverik Youth?
The idea came to me in the summer of 2014. I was the Press & Publications Officer at O-MUN and I was in charge of the website’s blog. Seeing as there were so many young people from around the world who wanted to submit their writing, I saw it is an opportunity to start a publication dedicated to voicing the opinions of the youth. I wanted to create a publication that valued the writers as much as the readers (in other words, not a click-bait). Over the many months we’ve been in operation, we’ve had articles on social issues like gender inequality, economic problems like the plummeting of oil prices, impact stories like the one on Farhad (the story of an individual who fled Afghanistan) and topics that were simply out of the blue, like the article on Mean Girls. That’s the beauty of MY—you can express your opinions on absolutely anything at all. Every article offers the reader a fresh perspective—the young perspective.
Are there any costs associated with MY and how do you fund that?
Yes there are minor costs such as web hosting. As we receive more and more website traffic, the cost increases. As of now, I am using my pocket money to finance these costs. However, owing to the recent success of our merchandise sale for charity, the marketing team of MY is planning to sell more merchandise items and a portion of the profits will be used for future expenses.
How many writers did you start with and how many do you have now?
We started with only 6 writers. Like most startups, we had a shaky start. I was told MY would not hold strong and that “teenagers only click a link if it’s from Buzzfeed”. In fact, a strong critic of the website posted 10 reasons why MY would fail on his Facebook timeline. But looking back, those disheartening comments are what pushed our team and we are now stronger than ever. We are an official publication on Apple News with nine regional branches spanning 6 continents and we have 100+ writers.
How large is your readership? If you know, how do you know?
According to Google Analytics, we have viewers from more than 150 countries. According to WordPress, we receive on average 100-300 page-views a day. There is a lot of variation in this data. On some days we receive as little as 50 page-views, and on others, we receive more than 2,000 page-views (when a popular article is published).
How did the OMUN network contribute to the global scale of MY?
Alia – O-MUN has successfully established a global community of youth from different backgrounds who are opinionated and proactive leaders in their own different ways. That way, the O-MUN community was what Maverick Youth was looking for–the brightest minds around the world who have their distinct perspectives. Thus a lot of our members are a part of the O-MUN community too.
What observations can you make on the degree of comfort/acceptance that young people find in online communities, and in building their own organic communities?
Alia – In online communities like O-MUN or Maverick Youth, there’s usually a common understanding that people want to communicate, make new friends, and connect with different people. As a result, you find that students are a lot more comfortable adding people on Facebook and starting conversations with people they’ve never met. The online community we’re a part of already acts as a common interest and as assurance that other members of the community would be accepting and welcoming, thus allowing young people to get out of their comfort zones and interact with new people, building many overseas friendships.
What are educators missing about the power of connected youth communities?
Alia’s answer – There’s definitely undeniable educational benefits that come from the exposure being in an online youth community provides. Aside from the opportunity to create friendships and meet new people, being connected to diverse youth from all around the world opens your mind towards new perspectives and expands your knowledge. It also provides great opportunities for leadership, especially with communities which are primarily youth-led such as MY or O-MUN.
How can we get more authentic student writing out of individuals? How does MY play into that discussion?
I would change the undue importance given to objectiveness over creativity. It’s not about the curriculum being impractical or not. That doesn’t matter. Whether it’s history, biology or chemistry–you will eventually forget the facts and figures. Testing, as a result, should be focused more on thinking and not rote learning. When students are made to answer questions that don’t solely rely on what they already know, it exercises their minds to push their mental boundaries. A school that focuses on ‘how’ they teach rather than ‘what’ they teach is an institution that fosters true learning.
At MY we have a saying–‘We give you the platform and you make the difference’. The reason why we have so many writers who write for free is because of our global reach. They have something to say and they want to be heard. This invariably promotes authentic writing. By giving a platform bereft of any limitations on expression, I believe we play a powerful role in that regard.
For more information on Maverick Youth, please visit their website at http://www.maverickyouth.com/.
One of MY’s top stories in 2015 is A Story of One, the recounting of an Afghan’s recent journey to Europe.