How Will Millennials Save the World?

Are youth tired of being told things like Find Your Passion, Have an Impact, and Be the Change? That’s what Adora Svitak says, as a 15-year-old author, teacher, speaker and activist who delivered a great speech at the Social Good Summit in New York City. (You can read my Interview with Adora here).

Really, youth don’t want to be told what they should do for social good. “We want our world to have confidence in us,” Adora explains.

What can a 15-year old girl do, sitting in Language class at school? She can do something – or her dream will go to waste. Like the poem, A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore–And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over–like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?

Youth Empowerment is not a #FirstWorldProblem (a great twitter reference by Adora – that hashtag drives me crazy and is always so ignorant). We want to transcend our boundaries, and do things not only for a college admissions reviewer, Adora says.

For the last 3 years (since giving her TED talk on What Adults Can Learn from Kids), Adora has organized TEDxRedmond with about 20 other teens (every speaker is under age 20). I’ve seen her mention this on Twitter, and watched her talk on YouTube. The best part of this – which Microsoft has provided them their Conference Centre – is that it is all about a message, not just a conference. It allows youth to realize that they have power to give a voice to ideas for social good.

The future: “We’re connected, reasonably informed, and leap towards opportunities to make a difference.”

How can a generation consumed by our smartphones and “narcissistic blogs” make a difference? Adora says we’re not hopeless – our devotion to creating individuality may not be a weakness. She explains that when younger, children did good things (fundraiser at school, for example) because everyone did them – but now, teenagers see doing social good as a part of their overall self image.

“I’m seeing teens that are not waiting for the go-ahead from their parents,” Adora stated. But are we just doing this for our image? “No, it’s part of our identity – we’ve seen posters telling us to recycle and save trees for years, for example. We choose to define ourselves by the social good that we do.”

Image and Identity are the two components. Online, for example, ideas spread. People share, like, comment, react. But, youth are also taking concrete action to make a difference.

For non-profits, governments and causes, reaching an audience where they are – and not making them come to you – is a necessity. There are many websites that look like crap, are un-engaging, or fail to connect to the young demographic online (which is why I did my thesis on this).

Adora mentioned that her speech was “a privilege I would like more millennials to have”, and I can relate. It’s inspiring and motivating to get involved in a cause where you can have a positive impact; and engage millennials in doing social good.

Ultimately, for youth to “save the world” they need to feel ownership, discover the issues on their own, and be empowered to do so. Youth need to be given 3 things, Adora defines;

“Give youth a stage, a role, and a voice.”

Read Activism at Any Age: Interview with Adora