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Joi Sears headshot

Viacom Turns Up For Good

By Joi Sears

Viacom is a massive media company that has positioned itself as a powerful force for change. Viacommunity, the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) branch, is all about leveraging the power of Viacom’s brands to drive action on the issues that matter.

By partnering with local and national organizations, schools, community groups, foundations, and corporations, Viacommunity addresses a spectrum of issues and causes, from sustainability to HIV/AIDS and gender equality. The company is leading its industry peers in tackling difficult issues and turning moments into movements.

Each year, the company organizes an international day of service which invites employees to give back to the communities in which they work and live. This year's theme was "Turn Up For Good." From offering job training to refugees, to feeding the hungry, this initiative engaged thousands of volunteers around the world.

However, what's most impressive is the company’s commitment to fostering social and environmental justice year round through dynamic programming, inclusive actions and promoting ongoing community service.

Building inclusive societies

Viacom’s networks attract diverse audiences of all ages, backgrounds, races, sexual orientations and genders. It is for this reason that the company is dedicated to celebrating diversity and advocating for inclusion and recognition to ensure that every person has a voice.

Look Different helps teens and young adults challenge bias in their daily lives. It addresses the subject of discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation in an effort to help the network’s audience create a world without prejudice.

The MTV network built a coalition of partners, including the Anti-Defamation League, GLAAD, the NAACP and the Trevor Project, to help tackle the issues on-air and online via public service announcements, celebrity messages, programming, social media and digital tools.

The company also takes part is special activities and events each year -- both on and off the air -- in support of GLAAD’s Spirit Day, which raises awareness of bullying against the LGBTQ community.

In partnership with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, volunteers from the company are trained to help conduct transgender intake screenings as a part of the organization’s Name Change Project. The project provides free legal name-change services to transgender people through partnerships with some of the nation’s most prestigious law firms and corporate law departments.

Pioneering social change

Holding the belief that social change happens when awareness meets action, Viacom has long been at the vital intersection of social, political and environmental causes.  By leveraging the company’s massive influence and the ability to use powerful brand voices as loudspeakers for certain causes, the company has been able to amplify its reach.

The company stepped up to raise awareness and action to end domestic violence and sexual assault through a partnership with the Joyful Heart Foundation and the NO MORE campaign, led by actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay. The campaign aims to dispel the myths and excuses that perpetuate sexual assault and domestic violence and get people talking openly about the issues.

Get Dirty is Nickelodeon’s rallying cry to kids to go outside and “dig in” to help the environment year-round. The initiative educates kids about issues like wildlife conservation and protecting the environment, and challenges them to do their part.

In Latin America, Agentes de Cambio (Agents of Change) is a Nickelodeon initiative which spotlights young people and celebrities making a difference in education, employment, environmentalism, health and wellness, and youth engagement.

Promoting healthy living

Viacom is dedicated to using its networks and resources to not only promote physical and sexual health, but to also break down barriers to discussing mental health. The mission is to promote good health and wellbeing for all of the audiences the company serves.

MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation is now the world’s largest youth-focused HIV initiative, helping millions of young people get smarter about their sexual health and welfare. The foundation works in two ways: distributing hard-hitting and thought-provoking original programming and providing four-year grants to young activists who run HIV-prevention projects in their local communities, armed with effective tools and training.

The company believes that one of the best ways kids can help themselves is by getting out and getting active. So, once a year, all Nickelodeon channels and websites go dark from noon to 3 p.m. on the network's Worldwide Day of Play (WWDoP). On-air programming before and after the "digital detox" features health and wellness messages and, in 2014, WWDoP and 16 partner organizations hosted 4,000 events in all 50 states.

Inspiring future generations

Viacom believes that fueling the next generation through education is vital to a healthy society. The company uses its various media platforms, content and resources to help audiences get the best education they can and inspire them to learn at every age.

Through BET’s Next Level campaign, the network encourages its core audience of 16- to 25-year-olds to stay in school, attain higher education and avoid dropping out. The initiative helps viewers do three things: choose the right school, whether it’s a university or community college; set out a personal career plan; and find ways to finance their education.

With the assistance of Nickelodeon’s beloved preschool characters, Beyond the Backpack helps parents and caregivers get children ready for kindergarten by developing language, literacy, math, science and creative arts skills, as well as social, emotional and physical health.

Whether it be by educating stakeholders, igniting action in the public arena, philanthropic investment, engaging employees through community service or leveraging the power of brands to engage on social issues, Viacom is striving to make a difference in the communities in which it serves.

Image credit: Viacom

Joi Sears headshot

Joi M. Sears is the Founder and Creative Director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world's biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, design thinking and social innovation.

Read more stories by Joi Sears