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Fireside eChat with NoBully.org’s VP of Strategy Erik Stangvik

We’re right in the thick of Bullying Prevention Month. With 1 in 3 children being impacted by bullying worldwide, Sock Problems set out to design a “Sock Bullying” sock that could give back to an organization finding mindful ways to take on this global issue. In my last life, I had the good fortune of working with Major League Baseball and they were kind enough to introduce me to their partner Erik Stangvik who is NoBully.org’s Vice President of Strategy and Development. Erik, of course, is much more than his title and I’m grateful that he has become a fast friend.  I had the opportunity to run a fireside eChat with Erik to talk about their programs and our current partnership. Enjoy!

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Ryan: First off, we are so excited to partner with you and the team at No Bully. How long has the organization been around and why have you chosen to commit your time to helping with this prevalent issue? 

Erik: No Bully has been building for almost ten years as an organization. This year, we will serve more than 200 schools and 150,000 students with our school-based program. Or anti-cyberbullying campaign is global in reach, and we anticipate it reaching more than 14 million people worldwide.  Bullying impacts 1 in 3 children worldwide. It is epidemic in nature, and we completely believe it can be stopped. No child should suffer the harmful impacts of isolation or harm that result in bullying, either digital or in the real world. Every member of our team has a deep commitment to the eradication of bullying, and to the building of compassion and empathy in future generations.

Ryan: Can you tell us a bit about No Bully? What’s the mission? How have you helped prevent bullying in schools nationwide? 

Erik: Here at No Bully, our best hope to eradicate bullying and cyberbullying among youths worldwide is to ignite compassion in the next generation, and we are working on that mission passionately every day. Our school-based program is designed to help school communities develop and sustain a positive climate and culture. Through deep collaboration and professional development, our data supports that No Bully can help eliminate 90% of bullying instances at a school. Our approach is different in many ways from other bullying programs. We take a non-punitive approach to the work because we believe that empathy and compassion can be modeled and taught to every student.

Ryan: We worked closely with you on the “Sock Bullying” design. Can you share what you like most about this design? The significance of the words on the sock?

Erik: We are so pleased to have worked with Sock Problems on the design. I love that they utilized the quote bubble in the design to highlight messages that are intrinsic to our brand and organization. There are so many things that each person can choose to say each day, and the examples on the sock are great reminders. Imagine sitting in a frustrating meeting or conversation and looking down at your socks. Right there are reminders of all the positive ways that you can respond to a given situation. It’s like wearing a life coach! I love that the messaging is so positive and upbeat, and the design itself is really appealing as well.

Ryan: As you know, October is Bully Prevention Month. What can we do as parents to best help get the word out with our kids?

Erik: Parents are critical partners in all of the bullying prevention efforts. It starts with having great communication with your child, and knowing how to respond if your child is being bullied, or has been identified as behaving like a bully. Either way, parents need to take that opportunity to communicate and direct their child toward positive outcomes. If the bullying is occurring at school, parents need to positively work with the staff and administration to resolve the issue. No Bully has resources that are helpful to schools, but we also have a training for parents called, “How to Bully-Proof Your Child.” That training focuses on the relationships that children have, and how to prevent power imbalances that lead to bullying. It’s a powerful training that we deliver to schools and groups nationally. Parents should also take the time to explore different resources that are available online. There are many great organizations dedicated to this cause, and we are proud to lead the conversation.

Ryan: What tools can we give our kids to help them prevent bullying when they see it?

Erik: Parents who model and support positive advocacy for their children are providing them with a foundation that will benefit them for a lifetime. Children need to know that they have the power to stand up for themselves, but also for others. One critical aspect of bullying is the isolation of the student being targeted. If the student has someone else present, as a friend or advocate, then the likelihood that the bullying will escalate diminishes. Teaching children to “be a friend” and to provide support and safety to other children who are being bullied is incredibly valuable. We also need to remove the stigma around going to adults for help. If there is a safety issue, then adults are needed to rectify the solution. Kids need to feel that they can share concerns with adults, without being judged or implicated.

Ryan: Specifically in schools, why do you think bullying happens? 

Erik: Bullying is a result of power differentials, and often, bias. When someone is seen as different, and that differences are bad, then that judgment is a power differential. If someone perceives themselves as better or more powerful, then they can act on that difference. Sometimes, that results in bullying. Our job is to bring balance to student perceptions and interactions, and to celebrate differences instead of subjectively judging them. This is another piece that is critical when working with parents. We must ask what biases we are passing on to our children, either through our own actions or through what we expose our children to in the media and community. Our children reflect our own predispositions more often than we think, and it is critical that we consider what we are modeling to our youth. Schools have to deal with all four types of bullying. In the last decade, cyber-bullying has impacted schools extensively as well. The growth of bullying behaviors undergirds the necessity for our work, as we look to stem the tide of hate, bullying, and aggression. That is why we work with schools directly, because we can help them provide a safe and respectful environment for about a third of each child’s day.

Ryan: How can readers help you “Sock Bullying”?

Erik:  I love this question! Beyond being a good human and treating others with compassion, empathy, and respect … We encourage everyone to engage in the discussion, either at schools or through social media and our website. We all have something that we can do: provide support to someone struggling, look out for signs of bullying, report bullying when you see it, help enhance the safety of your neighborhood by working with schools, talk with your school about its anti-bullying efforts, and model positive behaviors for young people whenever possible. We are happy to partner with individuals and groups to eradicate bullying, and also take donations directly through our website: Nobully.org Finally, you have heard the term “voting with your feet.” With Sock Problems, you can vote with your feet to eradicate bullying by buying some amazing socks and sharing the message with your friends and family.

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Ryan Berman is the founder of Courageous and the founder of his own Courage Brand called Sock Problems: an altruistic sock company that “socks” problems in the world. He is the author of the soon-to-released book, Return on Courage.

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