WASHINGTON -- On Monday, November 8, Monster.com and the White House collaborated on a Facebook project that allowed unemployed people to communicate their biggest questions and concerns to the Obama administration. Over 200 questions were posted to the Monster Keep America Working Facebook page, and the ones that received the most "likes" and sparked the most engaging discussions will be answered by the White House in a video next week.
Matthew Henson, a spokesperson for Monster.com, said he and his colleagues sent the White House a spreadsheet of the questions, concerns and policy ideas posted on the page, highlighting the most popular themes. The White House is now in the process of taping responses to the five or six questions Monster highlighted, which Henson said revolve mostly around age discrimination and outsourcing.
"Job seekers and employees in their 40s and 50s seemed to have the biggest concerns. I think that's been an age group that has seen more struggles than others, because of this notion that they are potentially 'too old to hire, to young to retire,'" he told HuffPost. "Outsourcing was also a big issue in this discussion, especially in light of the president's trip to Asia."
Henson said other major themes that emerged in the discussions were tax cuts and how they affect one's ability to gain employment, as well as the looming expiration of unemployment benefits for the 99ers.
What surprised the Monster.com team most, he said, was the maturity and productiveness of the Facebook conversation as a whole.
"When you do something like this, you assume the risk that politics will come into play, and the discussion could get heated or emotional," he said. "We knew based on Facebook's guidelines that we'd have to moderate this discussion, so we were surprised to find that politics didn't really come into play in this debate. We didn't have to pull any posts because of attacking the White House. We saw people provide solutions and really really smart policy ideas, and they were just not asking questions, but debating potential solutions. They're engaging with each other and mobilizing around this issue in a really positive way."
The people at Monster.com are so pleased with how the project went, Henson said, that they are hoping to do more collaborations of this kind in the future to facilitate open discussions between jobseekers and policy makers through social media.
"We will continue this conversation with jobseekers in as many ways as possible, and we invite others in an important role at the Labor Department or elsewhere to reach out to us and be a part of this really exciting opportunity," he said.