Today’s post comes from Bonnie Koenig, and it is a twin post about age and service (check out our EA post on her website, by Kate Otto, here). Bonnie is a consultant working with non-governmental organizations on developing their strategic thinking and international programs. She is founder and head of Going International, a resource for any individual or organization aiming to engage more effectively with international partners.
One of the things I’ve loved about being on social media over the past few years (especially ‘open spaces’ like Twitter) is the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people younger than myself who are bringing new energy and ideas to the cause of changing the world in positive ways.
In conversations with young leaders like Kate, I have come to realize that although these cross-generational conversations happen informally all the time, as a sector we actually put limited effort into more formal opportunities for cross-generational learning. We should reconsider this as so much can be gained and learned from effective cross-generational communications and exchanges.
I believe that this ‘new generation’ of leaders may be the most influential in changing the landscape since the (soon to retire) baby boomers (my ‘generation’). This generation that grew up with technology has been exposed to information on a broad scale and processes it quickly. They want to be hands-on and see results, having less patience for traditional structures and systems than previous generations. As one example, according to a new study from NextGenDonors.org, “affluent young donors say they are more focused than their parents and grandparents on producing a measurable impact with their giving.”
As these young adults settle into the work world and come into decision-making positions (increasingly by creating their own enterprises) they will be a force to be reckoned with.
There are already some organizational efforts to integrate youth. * The Global Shapers program, for example, was started by the World Economic Forum, and looks for ways to integrate youth into conversations about global challenges and potential solutions. CIVICUS (an international coalition of NGOs) has another model. CIVICUS started a Youth Assembly a number of years ago that brought young activists together before the organization’s annual conference for peer-to- peer exchange and also to orient them to attending the conference that followed. This led to some excellent cross-generational communication during the annual conference. CIVICUS is now moving towards making youth more integral to the organization through an advisory process. Cross-generational ‘integration’ is hard work, and shouldn’t be done in just token ways.
I see Everyday Ambassador – an initiative that normally serves to ‘cross borders’, whether national, ethnic or socio-economic- as particularly well suited to help bridge generations, and our different ways of looking at the world.
So thank you Kate and Everyday Ambassadors for the opportunity to guest post, and bring attention to the need for generational bridging. As a representative of the baby boomer generation, I am very glad to have your generation on board as an important partner in our quest to build a better world.
*‘Youth’ in an international context can be up to the age of 25 so these initiatives can include individuals who have already started careers, often on a ‘fast track.’