We are at a unique moment in time where I believe that the future of humanity lies at the intersection of social innovation and exponential technologies.
How our future pans out, lies in the hands of youth.
Therefore, our greatest gift and greatest responsibility to this generation is to provide them with the inspiration, tools, and autonomy to make the best decisions for their world.
I was born in 1968. Protest, social movements, social change, technological innovation and questioning the default is in my DNA. Then, as now, young people across the globe rose up and changed their realities to reflect what they believed was right. The themes were similar: equality, gender rights, a focus on education, decency, respect and openness to diversity.
“The protests of 1968 comprised a worldwide escalation of social conflicts… In capitalist countries, these protests marked a turning point for the civil rights movement in the United States, which produced revolutionary movements like the Black Panther Party. In reaction to the Tet Offensive, protests also sparked a broad movement in opposition to the Vietnam War all over the United States and even into London, Paris, Berlin and Rome.
Mass socialist movements grew not only in the United States but also in most European countries. The most spectacular manifestation of this were the May 1968 protests in France, in which students linked up with wildcat strikes of up to ten million workers, and for a few days the movement seemed capable of overthrowing the government.
In the socialist countries there were also protests against lack of freedom of speech and violation of other civil rights by the Communist bureaucratic and military elites. In Central and Eastern Europe there were widespread protests that escalated, particularly in the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia, in Warsaw in Poland and in Yugoslavia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protests_of_1968
I have spent the last 25 years working with, being inspired by, and listening to young people.
I speak from a place of knowledge when I say that we have found ourselves in a special time. Unlike when I graduated from college in 1991, this generation cares passionately about issues. We had Michael Douglas’ iconic character, Gordon Gekko:
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good….that captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
This speech which inspired a generation of my peers simply wouldn’t resonate with today’s youth.
While Gen X (my generation) grew up with Gordon Gekko, Gen Z (my kid’s generation) grew up with Occupy Wall Street. (#occupywallstreet).
Ironically, I sometimes think that the more things change, the more they stay the same. If my generation was influenced by a Hollywood script, this generation is equally energized by politicians across the spectrum and across the planet who seem to be acting out a frighteningly Hollywood-esque script: think Manchurain Candidate meets Monty Python directed by Michael Bay.
So, what does Gen Z care about? They have spoken through the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Shaper’s Survey. http://www.shaperssurvey2017.org/ The Shaper’s Survey was designed to highlight youth perceptions on the state of the world and action-oriented recommendations in five areas: Global Outlook, Governance, Values, Technology, and the Workplace.
Read the survey. http://www.shaperssurvey2017.org/ For anyone who is interested in the future of humanity, it provides invaluable, clear insight into what young people care about and what they intend to do about it. You will be inspired.
50% of the world’s population is under the age of 30. That’s roughly over 3.5 billion young people who are in the process of learning what we are teaching, or about to enter the workforce.
With the largest youth population in history, there is an unprecedented opportunity for young people to take an active role in shaping our future. -World Economic Forum
Here are a few of the key takeaways:
Young people believe that the top three issues facing humanity are:
- Climate change and the degradation of the environment
- Large scale conflict (war)
- Inequality (economic, ethnic, gender)
They insightfully believe that corruption is the key driver in inequality.
They are motivated doers: close to 80% answered emphatically yes to the question: “would you be willing to change your lifestyle to protect nature and the environment?”
55% of young people take an active role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
When asked how we can empower young people, they succinctly gave three ways:
- Start-ecosystem and entrepreneurship
- Access to the internet
- Free media/social media
“And now that young people have spoken, the greatest response we can provide is to demonstrate that we are listening. And the best way to do this is to ensure that their insights influence our decisions and actions as leaders.” Klaus Schwab, WEF Founder. I say, good, but not enough. We need to do two more things.
First, we need to bring youth into the power circles around the world and place them into positions of influence and decision making. They will hold us accountable. The will bring their creativity. They bring energy innovation and most importantly they will make the best decisions because they will be the ones living the consequences of their actions.
Second, we need to teach them how to build their own systems and organisational structures to shape the world. Why should they be asked to fit into the antiquated, pre-21st-century structures that exist today? By doing both of the above, they will truly learn how current systems work (what works well and what doesn’t) and then they can build upon strengths, adjust and improve current systems, or totally create anew.
An example of a structural change for good is the emergence of the BCorp. “2018 is the year for businesses with purpose…where we think consumers and businesses will strive to use their power to create positive impact. Businesses which have a purpose and social value at the heart of their strategy and ideology are setting the standard for what future generations will expect from businesses.” – https://thesocialchangeagency.org/movements-watch-2018/
This is what gets this motivates this generation to get up and move. To get up and act. To get up and change the world around them.
So, I go back to my original point: We are at a unique moment in time that leads me to believe that the future of humanity lies at the intersection social innovation and exponential technologies.
After reading the survey, Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director of Transparency International stated, “Young people articulate a clear vision of the world they want to live in: a world where values of fairness, equality, integrity, and accountability are at the basis of a universal social contract of inclusive development.”
When asked about technology, they were clear about their expectation that education, medicine, and every industry would not see simple incremental improvement but rather radical transformations by technology. In particular, they spoke to Artificial Intelligence, Bio Technology, and Robotics. They also identified the top three areas of their lives that would be changed by these emerging technologies: their careers, how they learned, and their mobility.
Therefore, it is clear to me that we need to enable young people to live in, influence, and have agency in their world in the manner in which they want so they can focus on the things that matter to them most.
Social Innovation + Emerging Technologies = Empowered, Engaged Youth.
“Well you can bump and grind
If it’s good for your mind
Well you can twist and shout
Let it all hang out
But you won’t fool the
Children of the revolution
No you won’t fool the
Children of the revolution.”
Three pertinent articles: