This experiment saw CharityVillage® and three article coordinators reach out to their Millennial networks to collaborate on a series of key questions about engaged citizenship, work, social media, and stereotypes. More than 30 respondents contributed thousands of words, which the coordinators distilled down to key messages. What did they have to say?
What does being an engaged citizen mean to you?
Being an engaged citizen, to us, is about taking action. While it's important to know what's happening around you, both locally and globally, the addition of that action piece helps elevate a simply informed citizen to an engaged one. The size of the action is not particularly relevant — conversations with other community members, volunteering or voting all constitute engaged citizenship in our eyes. Simply stated, when someone knows what's important to them, feels passionately about making a difference in that area, and acts on that passion, they are an engaged citizen.
How are you involved in community? What sorts of opportunities are attractive to you?
We are attracted to opportunities that connect us with the cause, to individuals who are being helped, to people that we'd like to meet or friends. We are attracted to creative opportunities, to virtual opportunities that we can fit into our random schedules and to opportunities that allow us to apply what we have learned or provide great professional experience. We're often involved in more than one activity at a time, involved in community in both paid and volunteer capacities and sometimes involved in projects that we have initiated ourselves. We wouldn't want it any other way.
This article is being published around the time of a federal election. Are you voting?
Despite popular opinion, yes, we are voting. We think we're lucky to have that right.
However, that doesn't mean we are not disillusioned with the state of politics in Canada. Political parties pay too much attention to health care and pensions without addressing issues that matter to us. Campaign messages are filled with promises and catchy phrases but we understand they are used to gather hype and support, not to inform the public. Because of this, we are likely to vote for someone we respect and trust, even if it means voting for a different party than last time.
Do you donate money to charity? If so, what compels you to give?
We donate when the cause is connected to people we know — friends ask us to donate or because of people in our lives with illness. We also donate to causes we feel a personal affinity towards — organizations that we've been involved with as volunteers or those working toward the solutions to the problems we see. Annual donations to general organizations are less likely to attract us because we're interested instead in specific causes or projects and are sometimes skeptical about where the money really goes. And FYI, celebrity endorsements don't do it for us!
What will the community-engaged workplace change over the next 10 years?
Our generation is handy with a set of tools that will allow us to create a framework, connect with supporters and collaborate to accomplish projects in non-traditional ways. Our desire for flexibility and collaboration to work on new challenges can eliminate the need for bureaucratic systems. We look for opportunities to learn, be challenged and contribute. If that's not happening, we'll leave to find it elsewhere. We hope organizations will become more flexible, impact-oriented and non-hierarchical over time so that the best and brightest stick around.
Social media seems to be all the rage. How do you use social media?
We're generally moderate to heavy users — tools like Facebook and Twitter are a part of our daily lives. We use it to network with others who share similar interests and to stay connected with friends, family and things that are happening in this world. Many of us have jobs that involve social media. However, the more time we spend on the computer at work, the less time we want to be spending on it at home when we could be socializing in person.
Many people who use social media, though, don?t "get it" — they see it as an outlet for marketing rather than a tool for collaborative expression. There's no such thing as a "social media expert", as there are constant changes and new things to learn.
Relationships through social media are stereotyped as inauthentic. But are they?
In general we find value in social media as a way to enrich our lives and complement our interactions but don't see it as a full-time replacement for real life. It can almost enhance authenticity because it's harder and harder for people and organizations to say one thing and act differently. Our generation will be part of the dialogue on how this information sharing creates a new level of community responsibility around what was once private information.
How do you feel about being labeled a "Millennial"?
We feel generational labels are less relevant than they once were, as the world changes at a much more rapid pace. We have been given a title, however, to tie us to this place in history, and it's not always positive. Many of the stereotypes about the "millennial generation" depict us as lazy and unmotivated, or as disloyal and spoiled. These stereotypes make us so mad! In reality, most of us are innovative, well educated, creative, ambitious and eager to do something meaningful. We care about the same things our predecessors did but we approach these causes in new and different ways.
What are the unique strengths of Millennials? Alternatively, what barriers or weaknesses do you face?
Our biggest challenge won't be embracing new technology — we're digital natives, which can make us a bit spoiled when it comes to expectations of getting things now.
We're optimistic, which will motivate us to act on the multitude of challenges that our world is facing, rather than give up. However, it can all get a bit overwhelming and we can sometimes find ourselves unsatisfied with our success or lack thereof.
Money and following the usual school-work-marriage-babies narrative is truly not the commanding interest of this generation, but we're still worried about paying the bills. There will be some trial and error in figuring new ways to compensate this generation and hopefully it will lead to some techniques that will enrich and balance us all.
About The Article Coordinators:
Jessica Doherty (@jl_d) is a communicator working in the nonprofit sector in Vancouver, BC. She is an avid volunteer, and passionate about youth and civic engagement. Oh yes, and she is a "millennial".
Jules Andre-Brown is very well connected community connector who works with the Spectrum Society For Community Living.
Trina Isakson (@telleni) is a nonprofit and education consultant in Vancouver, BC. She helps organizations tap into the passion within the next generation of engaged citizens.
Brad Winter (Vancouver, BC), Candy Ho (Burnaby, BC), Casey Leung (Vancouver, BC), Catherine Lee (Kingston, ON), Chad Clippingdale (Vancouver, BC), Chelsea Watt (Vancouver, BC), Erin Brown-John (Vancouver, BC), Jenette Martens (Winnipeg, MB), Jennifer Chan (Toronto, ON), Jessica Doherty (Vancouver, BC), Jules Andre-Brown (Vancouver, BC), Kaylea Hamaguchi (Vancouver, BC), Kelvin Claveria (Vancouver, BC), Kelsey Newsham (Vancouver, BC), Kirk Schmidt (Calgary, AB), Michaela Montaner (Vancouver, BC), Mike Duerksen (Winnipeg, MB), Robert W. White (Delta, BC), Romke Hoogwaerts (New York City, NY), Sarah Wight (Toronto, ON), Sipreano (Vancouver, BC), Trina Isakson (Vancouver, BC), Trish Liao (Vancouver, BC), plus numerous anonymous contributors.