Millennials as Social Citizens

The Millennials are coming!!

Millennials (or Generation Y), the generation coming of age in the new millennium, have been derided as having “helicopter parents” being “boomerang kids”, having an excessive sense of self-worth and generally being a pain in the butt in the corporate world.

But they are also volunteering like mad.

USA Today reports that they volunteer more than any previous generation and the Wall Street Journal reports today that corporations are finding that one of the best ways to attract them as employees is to offer them paid time off to volunteer.

The Millennials are the children of the Baby Boomers, the generation that I argue is fueling a Second Great Wave of Philanthropy. They don’t have the assets yet to be a force in philanthropy on the donation side (although Resource Generation is already organizing those that do), but the way that they will interact with and view the nonprofit sector is being defined right now.

You can read about this group on the excellent Future Leaders in Philanthropy blog (co-founded by my sister who no longer writes for it). And now you can follow the role of Millennials as “social citizens” at the aptly named Social Citizens blog.

Authored by Kari Dunn of the Case Foundation and Allison Fine, an author and experienced blogger, Social Citizens is a blog discussion focused around the Social Citizens paper that Fine wrote for the Case Foundation. In a recent blog post Fine talks about the blog:

The release of Social Citizens BETA today is very exciting for what it isn’t – and what it is. Late last year, Kari Dunn and Ben Binswanger of The Case Foundation asked me to write a paper for the Foundation about the emergence of Millennials, 15-29 year olds, as activists. They wanted to know more about how these young people are using all of their widgets and gadgets for causes.

And that’s when we talked about what the paper isn’t.

We decided to go beyond a simply litany of the ways that young people are using blogs, social networks, and videos to share information about their favorite causes. We wanted to go a step further and ask harder “so what” questions. What does it mean to Millennials to have the ability to become an advocate for their cause instantly, broadly, inexpensively, and what does their ability to do so mean for the rest of us?

The Foundation provided me with an opportunity to cast a wide net across the real of Millennial activism; from Facebook to the Red Campaign, from the presidential campaign trail to the human devastation in Darfur, from Gossip Girls to Invisible Children, a documentary about the difficult lives of the children of Uganda. I followed the trail of email, blogs, YouTube videos, websites, donations, Tweets, and IMs around the country and even across the globe. I interviewed over thirty people, read many articles, papers, books, and websites, and examined the data on who is doing what for causes. And what I found was astounding for its scope, scale, and idealistic intentions.

Marnie Webb, a key informant in the paper, asked, “What, if anything, does all of the clicking, blogging, and “friending” add up to in the end?” And my answer is, “Far more than I imagined, far greater than I had hoped.”

Millennials are doing more than pinging and poking and sharing information about causes. They are radically altering the very notion of what it means to be an active citizen in the process, and that’s why we’re calling them Social Citizens.

This is definitely going to be a blog to watch.