Nations around the world are grappling with high youth unemployment, a cause that Italian fashion brand United Colors of Benetton took up last year in a global campaign. “Unemployee of the Year” aimed to not only draw the public’s attention to the issue but present “a practical response to the problems we’re raising,” as chairman Alessandro Benetton told The New York Times.
The campaign revolved around a contest for unemployed people between 18 and 30 run by Benetton’s Unhate Foundation, which is devoted to promoting diversity in local communities. Contestants submitted ideas for projects that could create concrete social impact in their community, and these were voted on by the online community. The foundation promised 5,000 euros to each of the top 100 projects. In line with the company’s history of raising awareness around socially delicate and controversial issues, Benetton offered an “unfiltered” view of so-called NEETs (young people who are not in education, employment, or training) in a manifesto video. Celebrating the ability of young people to find new, intelligent and creative ways of facing unemployment and to come up with their own unique solutions, the video ends with the line, “A job doesn’t define me—what I fight for does.”
Some questioned whether the company should apportion more resources toward effecting change and fewer into the marketing element, a valid point—but supporting some solutions to social problems rather than simply pointing them out is a good start.