In most cases, when a 17 year old girl wants to attempt to galvanize her generation against global warming, the end product tends to be basically nothing. Things change a bit when that girl’s father is Kleiner Perkins’ chief rainmaker, John Doerr.
The VC, who led early investments in Google, Intuit and Sun Microsystems and lured Al Gore to join the firm, credits his daughter, Mary, with pushing him to go green. Now, with backing from her father and guidance from his friends, the incoming high school senior and heiress has just launched a non-profit called Inconvenient Youth. The organization’s goal is to use an online social network built on Ning and combine it with occasional conferences and training sessions designed to teach teenagers to become effective activists and community leaders. The first of these training sessions, which brought together 80 teenagers from around the world, happened this weekend at Stanford.
The first push towards this project apparently came in mid-2007, when the non-profit group Climate Project trained Mary to give the “Inconvenient Truth” presentation from which her non-profit spins its name. She says that while she found the presentation compelling, she didn’t think it would speak to her peers. Inconvenient Youth wants to remedy the problem. Its site will include a teen-friendly version of the presentation and spice it up with multimedia educational content, including templates for letters to politicians, training videos and relevant news. Everyone who participates in the training programs gets at Flip camcorder to record their moments of activism.
The inconvenient thing about Inconvenient Youth is two-fold. First, it centers around its own social network, and convincing teenagers to visit another social network is a tough, tough game. Second, mobilizing teenagers to do anything political is far tougher. I wonder how many of today’s teenagers are going go be galvanized by the efforts of an incredibly well-off peer, no matter how sharp and focused she is?
In most cases, I would just write the whole thing off as an idealistic teenager’s dream. Mary is entering her senior year in high school, when the quest for college admission — to say nothing of standard high school concerns — could dominate her life. But in this case, it’s hard to know. It’s never a safe call to bet against a Doerr.