MTV has just launched a new social-networking community for youth activism, ThinkMTV, which is designed to network members both online and offline around causes ranging from climate change to HIV/AIDS. While as a standalone network it's not particularly momentous or innovative (although few names come to mind in the "social networking with a social conscience" space that specifically target the MTV demographic), ThinkMTV is worth noting because it's the first major operation to be unveiled as part of MTV parent company Viacom's new Flux social networking initiative.
MTV representatives told CNET News.com in an interview that ThinkMTV had largely been created as a result of the "Just Cause" study that the company had enacted about a year ago, in which 80 percent of young people surveyed said that community and social action was important, but that only 19 percent said they were already very involved.
Some brief and recent history: last week, after some rumor buzz, Viacom unveiled Flux's framework without a high-profile debut. It's a distributed platform, created out of what was once the social networking start-up Tagworld (which Viacom invested in), that will ultimately bring community features to many of the media giant's pop-culture brands as well as external partners. Prior to Thursday's official beta debut of ThinkMTV, the Flux functionality had already been integrated into some smaller niche sites.
Sign-ups for the beta of the Flux community on ThinkMTV had been open for some time now, and a bare-bones Think site was accessible (sans social networking features). The full site includes information resources, multimedia content, and means for members to network both as socialization and as a way to rally for the various causes involved. ThinkMTV has bolstered its community with some big-name nonprofits: The "founding partners" at the launch are the Case Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Goldhirsh Foundation, and MCJ Foundation. The site will also (naturally) be celebrity-heavy, with usual suspects like Leonardo DiCaprio, John Mayer and Bono connected in one capacity or another.
One of the more unique aspects of ThinkMTV promises to be the "Action Badges," which could be considered the digital-age version of scouting merit badges. They aren't part of the initial launch, but will be rolled out in coming months; users can earn them for real-world actions like volunteerism or blood donation, or by submitting video or photo content to the site.
The new community will additionally be a platform for existing MTV activism campaigns, ranging from the company's ongoing partnership with the Gates Foundation to the "campaign dialogue" series that it's organized in conjunction with MySpace in advance of the 2008 presidential elections.