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How social media changed the game for 40acts

Harnessing social media, Stewardship's 40acts has mobilised a global community to give

40acts began as a simple idea: daily inspiration to live a life of radical, biblical generosity, sent directly to your email inbox for the 40 days of Lent. Participants were set a daily challenge to do something generous, and as they carried out the acts the word spread and more and more people joined in.

Living generously in our society is counter-cultural. Even the tradition of giving up something for Lent had become slightly self-righteous. 40acts, which was founded by Christian charity Stewardship, is about more than just taking part in a challenge to say, we did it!”. It’s about changing a culture that can often be so inward-looking, to one that reflects the generous nature of God. 

Culture is defined as the collective behaviour of a community. As our numbers grew, we realised that our efforts to change a cultural-norm had created just that, a community, and communities are a powerful force for change.

But it’s hard to find a sense of community within a mailing list. There were thousands of participants taking on the challenge each year, but we needed some way to bring them together – empowering to make an impact on culture wherever they lived. 

This is where social media came in. It was clear that the best place to bring everyone together was online. In the same way that people use social media to connect with family and friends abroad, we brought together a community of givers, all sharing in the same experience – a bit like a family reunion.

Social media became a way for challengers from all across the world to inspire, encourage and uplift one another on their journey through the 40acts challenge. People were sharing their failures as well as their successes: the times where they didn’t manage to complete the challenges, as well as new ways to tackle the tasks. Some participants even began to document their journey year on year with personal blogs and weekly updates. 

By simply allowing our community to be a community, we saw churches, schools, neighbourhoods and families changed by people coming together who were keen to make a difference. All of a sudden, the challenge grew in a way we couldn’t have predicted. Generosity was spreading; it made its way to more than 172 countries across the world.

As the stories rolled in we started documenting what we were hearing. From giving away a chocolate bar to someone giving away their car, the more we heard the more we were inspired. So, we started making short films to tell these stories. 

One teacher who had adapted the challenge for her class was actually the inspiration for our schools’ resource, and from there we created a total of six different resources to go alongside the challenge. 

Initially our aim was to change a narrative, and now we’re eagerly awaiting the next chapter in this story. We’ve been able to interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds in all walks of life and we know there’s more to come. We’re excited to see what will happen when the next generation of world leaders, influencers and business people take hold of a culture of radical, biblical generosity.

The door is open and anyone is welcome. We’re shifting our way of living from inward-looking to outward-focused. If you want to be part of a culture shift, fuelled by community, then why not join us for next year’s challenge – we can’t wait to see you.

Kezia Owusu-Yianoma, social media and digital content executive at Stewardship.

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