2018 graduation keynote speaker Jessica Murrey has a mission for you
This year’s graduation keynote speaker is Jessica Murrey, and she hopes that her mission becomes everyone’s mission. It’s not the type of life mission that you may ponder as you enter the “real world” after graduation, it’s little, everyday missions that fight violence, hate, and discrimination in real-life.
Murrey is the co-founder of Battle for Humanity (B4H), a social movement and mobile game that turns virtual interaction into real-world action. The game’s ‘missions’ happen on and offline and users gain points by uploading photos of themselves completing the missions into the mobile app.
These Missions are as simple as sharing a video on Facebook or leaving an anonymous note of encouragement for someone who is being bullied or marginalized. Some could require more effort like starting a clothing drive for refugees at your house of worship or launching an awareness campaign about sexual violence at your university.
The idea is to not see people as barriers or obstacles, but to see how they can help. “Our goal is to take young people on a hero-journey that equips them with the confidence to deal with conflict, embrace difference, and make real transformative change in their communities,” said Murrey, who has made a career out of fighting conflict.
Murrey isn’t your typical startup tech entrepreneur. She has no coding experience and never worked at a tech company. She just had an idea that she wanted to see come to life, and she knew the best way to deliver the message was through technology.
She has spent the last five years working at Search for Common Ground, an international non-profit organization operating in 36 countries whose mission is to transform the way the world deals with conflict. She now manages global communications there and has developed communication strategies and awareness campaigns for projects from Kyrgyzstan to Nigeria to Myanmar, and major international events like the Global Forum on Youth Peace and Security.
Search for Common Ground is based in Washington DC and was founded in 1982 by former US diplomat John Marks to transform the way humanity deals with conflict and build safer, healthier, more just societies. It is the world’s largest dedicated peacebuilding organization with more than 700 staff and volunteers, 1200 partners and programs in more than 40 countries.
Working with Search for Common Ground has been a dream job for Murrey, who is a northwest native and now based in Medford Oregon. She graduated from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with a journalism degree. Her first opportunity to report from abroad was while in college, reporting back to her local TV news station about the work a group of local engineers were doing in orphanages in Ghana.
“It completely opened my eyes to the situations people face and their perseverance and spirit. I knew then that I wanted to be an international journalist. I wanted to share the voices of people we may not interact with or understand,” she said, looking back at that early experience.
As she learned more about peace building, she realized and believed that this generation would be the generation that would give such a cause the impact it needed, but there was something missing. The only people who seemed to care about peace building were those that were already interested in it. At the same time, she saw how youth can be extremely impressionable and often feel powerless – perfect targets for extremist groups to recruit.
Her conclusion was that peace building wasn’t being marketed right. “It’s about moving society forward,” she said. “Our inability to overcome differences is stopping change. We have to attack the problem, not the person.”
So the question was, how do you give youth power to peace build in quick, tangible ways? You get them addicted to positivity by giving them a sense of well-being.
But simply gamifying something to build interest wasn’t going to work. Murrey and her team worked with psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center to incorporate knowledge about human behavior and the effects of positivity to inform the strategy for Battle for Humanity. The research was led by Battle for Humanity’s co-founder Alicia Clifton. They also have a former neo-nazi, white supremacist on their steering committee who had promoted violence in the past. He had started to turn his own life around after consistently experiencing small, random acts of kindness from minorities. “These encounters disrupted his narrative and world view,” said Murrey.
Finding out what to build, and how to build it was the first challenge. The second challenge would be finding who could build something like Battle for Humanity.
At first, her team had hired contract coders to build the app but made the mistake of choosing contractors that weren’t as passionate about the mission of the project as they were. Therefore, they were unable to think holistically about what they were building and how they would build it with a sustainable approach. This caused them to lose a lot of money and go back to the drawing board. “I learned really quick about the ups and downs of being a product manager,” said Murrey.
It just took a like-minded group to help make Murrey and her team’s vision come true. That group turned out to be Human Design, a creative agency that finished the development of Battle for Humanity, and also invested some of their own funds to get the game to launch.
Battle for Humanity is currently in beta with over 500 downloads.
“Our hope is that it is youth-lead. Game will continue to evolve. Give them the power to implement with their peers,” said Murrey. She is currently in the process of building partnerships to scale their user base. “I strongly believe that change will happen through people the app is just the tool or the sword,” she said.
Jessica is looking forward to connecting with everyone at graduation after her keynote speech. Please accept today’s mission and download Battle for Humanity here: https://www.battle4humanity.com. She’d love the support and feedback from everyone.