We are experiencing a values revolution. Increasingly, people want to make the world a better place through their lifestyle, their careers and the products they buy. And it’s young people who are driving this revolution.
According to the National Careers Service, 70% of young people want to find a career that changes the world for the better. Meanwhile, ethics as a motivation for buying things has risen 26% since 2008 (Edelman), and 84% of Millennials consider it their duty to improve the world, says a report from Deloitte.
Millennials are not alone in their desire to change the world. However, I believe there are three ways in which this change in values differs today from the youthful optimism of previous generations.
First, it is pragmatic. Millennials want to work within existing systems to change the world; over 90% of them – according to Deloitte – believe that business is the answer to problems like unemployment and three-quarters think it is government that must address society’s challenges. Even though Millennials want to push business and government to do more, there is a strong belief in the power of these systems to make a positive impact.
This past February, following the worst floods in over a generation, the London tech community partnered with 10 Downing Street, the UK Environment Agency and Google in an emergency hackathon. Over 200 participants spent the weekend coding and combing through big data to provide emergency relief services, from automated SMS help services to maps predicting water levels. Though the hackathon was a volunteer-led effort, its organizers recognized that government and corporate support would create a ripple effect which would increase its impact.
Second, young people feel empowered. In a digitally connected and open world, Millennials have more tools to drive change than ever before. We can access, share and distribute information around the world for free, providing ample opportunities to promote social causes and hold institutions to account.
The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of Millennial empowerment. The campaign has not just raised awareness (with 2.2 million Twitter mentions and 1.2 million Facebook videos of individuals pouring buckets of ice water over themselves), but it also raised – at the time of writing – over $100 million. The campaign attracted worldwide attention with leaders such as Lei Jun and Victor Koo taking part along with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
Finally, there is a feeling among young people that doing good should be integrated into everything to do with their daily lives, from the companies they work for to the products they purchase and the organizations they donate time, money or clicks to.
Young people are also comfortable with the concept of “doing well while doing good”. Another finding from that Deloitte study was that almost all Millennials think it is acceptable for business to make a profit from innovations that benefit society.
Nexus, for example, is a network whose mission is to galvanize Millennials from the world’s most influential families to increase their philanthropic efforts. At the recent Nexus Global Youth Summit, the focus of sessions moved beyond traditional philanthropy to discussing social enterprise and impact investing. The summit also included sessions on professional development, networking and opportunities to socialize. The organizers understand the need to integrate sharing and learning with a holistic social and professional experience.
This type of thinking impacts all aspects of society, from governments to corporations to not-for-profits. Forward-looking organizations will harness these expectations and place social purpose, transparency and authenticity at their core. Navigating this changing consciousness will enable organizations to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.
Author: Noa Gafni is Co-Managing Director of Global Tolerance and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, London hub
Image: A participant holds up a sky lantern to be released during the “Kapulica & Lanterns” event in Zagreb December 23, 2013. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic