This month, I’d like to tell you about the nonprofit dedicated to providing support and advice to youth under the age of 25 in the UK, The Mix. While this blog series aims to discuss powerful nonprofits who use community to achieve their vision, mission and goals, this blog in particular will be a bit different. That’s because we actually got the opportunity to sit down and chat with the Engagement and Support Manager (now former), James Pickstone.
James provided us with an in-depth and frontline perspective of the incredible value delivered not only by the organization, but also by their online community.
The Mix works to provide integral information, support and advice for young people under the age of 25, on a range of issues. These include, but are not limited to mental health, money, homelessness, finding a job, relationship and drugs. They deliver this often life saving assistance primarily through four key channels: chat, community forums, helplines and e-counselling.
The community forum, in particular, delivers so much value since it contains millions of posts and has been up and running for nearly twenty years.
The Mix Mission, Vision and Values
The Mix aims to be the first point of contact for youth looking to ask about “embarrassing problems, weird questions, and please-don’t-make-me-say-it-out-loud thoughts.” Their vision is that all young people should be able to make informed choices about their physical and mental wellbeing so that they can live better lives.
Their mission supports their vision as they aim to become the first point of contact for any young person seeking help or information on any subject wherever and whenever they need it.
The Mix also lives, breathes and operates by six key values:
Empowering: we lead, we train & support, we respect, we give space to grow, we give power to choose
Brave: we innovate, we pioneer, we take risks, we tell it how it is
Supportive: we listen, we encourage, we care, we’re understanding, we are empathetic
Collaborative: we are open & transparent, we co-create, we respect experience & expertise
Proactive: we create situations, we make things happen, we get things done
Non-judgemental: we do not judge, we do not criticise, we do not blame
Now that you have a good understanding of The Mix and what they aim to achieve, let’s dive into their online community and how it supports their goals.
The Mix Community Forum
The Mix Community is described by James as a place where people visit to get peer-to-peer support and advice from others who have been in the very same situation. While staff are present in the community, members feel a true connection getting feedback and advice from others who have once walked in their shoes.
As James says, “Community support at The Mix is unique because it comes from other young people with authentic experiences. Youth who have gone through similar situations before can talk from a position of authority to those who are going through it right now.” He continues, “For example, let’s say you’re going to University for the first time. You’re moving away from home and feeling sad and lonely—it’s a bit scary. You can talk to others who’ve already done it a couple of years ago [and] they can talk you through it and give you tips.”
Essentially, the community is so powerful because their members see it as a trustworthy source of advice.
Moreover, as an open community, The Mix is truly able to deliver on its mission, vision and values. Both visitors and members are able to see and access the close to 125K different community categories and also browse by tags. To give you a sense of the range of topics within the community, here’s a list of the 10 most popular tags:
Anxiety, OCD and Phobias
Body Image and Self-Esteem
Gender & Sexuality
One of the best parts about the community is the fact that it’s available 24/7 for anyone who needs support, and there are always peers who are there to help. Even with the community gamification that The Mix has implemented to reward participation and encourage engagement, members are compelled to provide support because it means so much to them on a deeper level.
The Mix Community Impacts
In its close to 20 years of operation, The Mix has helped thousands of people, not only in the UK, but across the world. What makes The Mix so impactful is that it’s successful in creating strong and lasting bonds, so strong in fact, that what may begin as a one time visit could turn into a positive and fulfilling lifetime event.
As James explains, “A lot of people initially come to The Mix with an acute situation or a one-off issue, and they just want to talk about it. The community gives them the help or useful advice they need, and they feel better about the situation. What happens next is special: they stay connected because of the relationships they’ve made and next thing they know, they’re presented with the opportunity to return the favour, and help others.”
“Being part of a community like this can be a transformative experience. It turns a negative situation in your life into something positive.”
James shared one man’s life-changing journey to illustrate the difference that an authentic connection can make through The Mix Community:
“One day a guy arrived in the community because he was worried his girlfriend was pregnant,” says James. “The community chipped in to show him support and give practical advice on what he could do next. Because of the help he received, that guy stuck around and became an integral part of the community. He began helping other people and eventually became a moderator. Shortly thereafter, he became an apprentice in our office and now he’s a permanent staff member. He made quite a journey through the community, but he also made a real life journey as a result—he came from a small town and is now living in London to work with us.”
This story speaks volumes. People come to the community to get support and advice and build connections so strong that they usually stick around to ‘pay-it-forward.’
Further, James speaks to the support that a 24/7 online community can offer compared to other options that a person may have. He states:
“The wonderful thing about our community is that it’s there anytime you need it. If you see a counselor or therapist, you’re usually limited to a certain length of time, and you need substantial financial resources to sustain your counseling for longer. The cool thing about our community is although it’s a qualitatively different experience, it’s there for as long as you need it and doesn’t disappear when therapy ends. This means we have a lot of users who’ve been talking about their mental health for years within this forum, which is something you simply couldn’t do without a community space.”
Ultimately, The Mix has used their community to help reinforce and forward their vision, mission and values, and in doing so, has provided life-altering assistance for youth. If you want to learn more about The Mix and the invaluable work they do, I’d encourage you to check out their website and donate.