This post originally appeared on the UN Foundation’s Global Accelerator Blog
By: Julia C. Hurley
Millennials are tired of being talked about. We are tired of being labeled without being consulted. Everyone seems so eager to define us as a generation, but few seem as eager to understand us or identify our strengths rather than point out assumed weaknesses.
We are the most interconnected generation the world has ever known. We’ve grown up this way and new technologies to us are the same as the telephone was to generations before us – a tool to get things done. We are not a generation of hashtag activists. On the contrary, we are a generation yearning to use our interconnectedness as a force for good. We are innovative and make up a large part of the entrepreneurial world. Silicon Valley: we helped build that into what it is today.
We may be young, but we should be taken seriously. We are not afraid to cross boundaries other generations seem to be caught behind and are willing to compromise politically in ways those in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, aren’t. Perhaps this is part of our interconnectedness and our ability, as a result, to see each other more as human first and any other label second. Half of us define ourselves as politically independent, refusing to be trapped by the two-party system. We see beyond these lines and want to get down to business. The gridlock and bureaucracy of the federal system in the US, and partisan bickering on Capitol Hill are what are driving us away from public service, not apathy. The same can be said elsewhere as well – in democracies around the world and even more so where democracy is absent and the old guard reigns, leaving the vast majority voiceless, not just Millennials. We care. We just don’t see how a broken government is going to fix anything if driven by ego and special interests, forgetting what people actually want and need: compromise.
This is why we’re seeing a surge in Millennial groups trying to find ways to move beyond this. For example,Millennial Action Project (MAP) is pushing a post-partisan agenda by engaging our generation in politics again. They started the Future Caucus with the support of two of the only 60 Members of Congress under the age of 40, Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Aaron Schock (R-IL), with the goal of fostering “a bipartisan community of legislators dedicated to pragmatic, innovative leadership on future-oriented issues and engaging with future leaders across the country on critical policy issues.” Young Invincibles started out advocating on behalf of Millennials who lacked healthcare and have now expanded into a 50 member team advocating and raising awareness on a variety of issues critical to our generation. Youth Voices USA is empowering Millennials by engaging in political participation, trying to get more of us prepared for public office and will be running campaign training events for at least 60 to 100 people over the next few months during their first two events. And the list goes on…
On the international front, Millennials are making waves with organizations engaged not just in development, but the political process as well. Ligues Des Electrices Tunisiennes (LET), the Tunisian League of Women Voters, is getting women – especially Millennial women – deeply involved in the newest democracy in the Middle East by helping them to understand their rights and even run for office, assisting a number of women in the last parliamentary election. In East Africa, activists, such as Kenyan Boniface Mwangi of Pawa254, are leveraging the 50 percent of the population that are considered youths to make social and political changes that reflect the will of the people. From holding parliament members accountable in their spending, to advocating for more youth voices in Parliament, Boniface has led numerous peace protests and is working closely with current lawmakers. Even in countries riddled with conflict, Millennials are self-organizing and self-educating so that they can play a vital role in new governments. They have seized the opportunities to gain seats in democratic institutions, and have called for citizens to keep government officials honest. They have created technological platforms that track aid spending and oil revenues. Despite the personal dangers to themselves and their families, members of groups such as the Kabul-based Young Activists for Reform and Change have continued to have their voices heard and turned into concrete action.
Now Polithon is joining these impressive and inspiring groups of Millennial change-makers around the world. We are applying the tech hackathon model to policy and crowd-sourcing the best ideas Millennials have to offer. We are bringing together diverse groups to ‘hack’ policy and get through the gridlock of the current political process in order to find tangible solutions to critical issues facing our generation. We are committed to seeing a future in which we move beyond partisanship and make policy more inclusive, while focusing on impact with policies that are for the good of the people, not just a select few. We want to play a role in shaping our futures and truly change the way policy is developed and implemented by taking back the process and working through our differences, unlike those entrenched in their politics. We will do it differently. We are doing it differently.
And no matter how uncomfortable this makes our critics, we, Millennials, through collaboration and compromise, locally and globally, will change this world for the better, too.