Fandom and activism – Rethinking Harry Potter in real life

I was an executive for the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit with chapters across Canada, the USA and internationally. The organization combines Harry Potter fandom with social activism and includes mottos such as “the weapon we have is love” and discusses “fighting real life horcruxes”.


The Harry Potter Alliance turns fans into heroes. We’re changing the world by making activism accessible through the power of story. Since 2005, we’ve engaged millions of fans through our work for equality, human rights, and literacy. – The Harry Potter Alliance

The Harry Potter Alliance combines themes and messages from the Harry Potter series, as well as other popular series like the Hunger Games, to fight for social justice causes. Campaigns include Accio Books, an ongoing campaign to make literacy and books more accessible, and Odds In Our Favor, a campaign that works toward income equality and ending poverty. The Harry Potter Alliance is one of my favourite non-profits and it inspired me to find long-term ways to contribute to society through avenues that I am passionate about, such as Harry Potter.

My experience with The Harry Potter Alliance got me to thinking about how often people use their favourite fandom to engage in social change. My digging around the web actually revealed that fandom has amazing potential. This isn’t news to me, as a former executive and continued supporter of  The Harry Potter Alliance, I’ve been in the centre of fandoms power to unite and mobilize fans for a collective purpose of fighting for social justice. There are a few other organizations that do similar work, including The Box Scene Project.

The Box Scene Project began as an amateur fundraiser between two friends attempting to win a charity auction for a TV script that held an advertised but unaired scene between an influential gay teen couple on prime time television. The scene was referred to as “The Box Scene,” hence The Box Scene Project. – The Box Scene Project 

The scene that is mentioned here comes from Glee, a show that has always done very well to discuss sexuality, bullying, marginalization, and those sorts of topics; when they failed, clearly fans were going to speak up. The Box Scene Project grew into a larger organization. As a fan of Glee, it is my pride and joy to discover another fan influenced organization. In fact, as a massive fan of popular culture in general and a person who is working in communications AND as a person with a background in sociology, The Box Scene Projects mission statement practically makes me jump for joy:

Our Mission

​Our mission is to reach equal media representation for the LGBT* community, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and those that live at the intersection of those identities.

We work to facilitate the entrance of underrepresented groups into the media arts and encourage and promote diverse media, characters, and actors.  – The Box Scene Project

And, considering that Glee targets teenagers, I have to admit I am impressed with the success of the initial campaign and the continuation of The Box Scene Project.

Supernatural is a third series, which doesn’t have the fan base that Harry Potter does, that inspired another charity called Random Acts.

On December 3, 2009, Misha Collins, the angel Castiel on The CW’s Supernatural, used Twitter to ask his followers (affectionately known as his “minions”) to come up with ideas for a “minion stimulus” project. – Random Acts

Not all fandoms inspired their own charities, but many groups will gather and do something in the name of the source of their fandom OR inspired by their fandom.

There are other groups that incorporate fandom but are not as directly linked to one particular fandom. Take Nerdfighteria as the example, started by John and Hank Green in 2007, the fandom exploded. Nerdfighters and the Green brothers have close ties to the Hunger Games, but John, himself, is the author of The Fault in Our Stars, and other fandoms have come up, including batman, in various vlogs. I should also mention that I would totally consider myself a Nerdfighter. Nerdfighters have participated in many projects over the years, the largest being the Project for Awesome (or P4A). Project for Awesome works by having people make videos to promote a charity of choice, and then participants (including non-video makers) vote on them and the winning charities have money donated to them. For 2 days in December people donate money and vote on videos. In 2014, they raised over $1.27 MILLION!! Around $770,000 of that was raised on Indiegogo and the rest was raised through the Project for Awesome website.

Basically fandom isn’t just about showing up to conventions and discussing a fandom on the internet or drooling over (or plain ol’ admiring) your favourite celebrity. Fan activism isn’t just about petitioning to get to keep your favourite show on the air. Fandom and fan activism has allowed for people to be able to engage in dialogues and relate real world issues through their fandom. Fandom has demonstrated an amazing capacity to unite people for social causes through a common interest and open avenues for communication. People can still engage with their fandom’s on a fun social level though – this is just a whole new component. I am so glad to know about how other shows have produced this kind of activism as well.

Ok, so now that I have said my bit, I will leave you with some videos and articles to read more, if you so wish to do so. (DFTBA!)

From My Amazing Friend, Anastasia…

Until The Very End

Credit to Anastasia Coles

Broom Dreams: The University of Waterloo Ridgebacks

Credit to Anastasia Coles

From the Harry Potter Alliance…

Become a Friend of the Apparating Library

Credit to The Harry Potter Alliance

WE WON! Harry Potter Chocolate Will Be Fair Trade

Harry Potter Alliance battles income inequality with #MyHungerGames

Other Sources

Up, up, and away!: The power and potential of fan activism

The Box Scene Project

The Harry Potter Alliance

Random Acts

A Fans Guide to Fan Activism 

Decreasing World Suck

Fandivism: How fandom and activism intersect in awesome ways

Fandom meets activism: Rethinking civic and political participation

Project For Awesome 2014


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