One student at an event at Stirling University I spoke at last week mentioned that his generation has been described as the lazy generation. I quickly rejected this description as both ‘lazy’ and wildly inaccurate.
I have had the privilege to speak to and meet hundreds of young people in our universities, colleges and schools and can say with confidence that the Y Generation is the most exciting to emerge in my lifetime.
In my view, a world in their hands will be a better and safer place. They are already leading social change across the world and tackling some seemingly intractable issues with confidence and zeal – from fresh water scarcity to educational disparity
Here are just some of the characteristics I have identified in Generation Y.
- They accept people regardless of their religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. In fact, they celebrate diversity in a way that no previous generation has. They also regard men and women as equal and have totally eschewed the silly sexual stereotyping of the past.
- They are the generation of the Social Entrepreneur – creating enterprises that work for social benefit and using a business model to do well by doing good. How far we have come from the hideous caricature of the 80s entrepreneur who would sell his granny for a fast buck? This generation is unafraid to go and make it happen and have the savvy to scale up their ideas and widen impacts.
- They are better connected nationally and internationally and likely to belong to global networks that promote a fairer and safer world. That is because they care, are technically savvy and absolutely on the button with digital technology. The future will see an explosion of opportunities to use technology to improve the human condition and this generation will use them wisely.
- They are less concerned about conventional measures of success and money and more likely to follow a dream that pays less and rewards more. Companies that aren’t doing right by the world are increasingly finding it hard to recruit. That is because the status quo is not safe in Generation Y’s hands – they challenge that which doesn’t deliver a better world.
- They understand the threat of Climate Change and are more likely to create and act on solutions. Around the world there are extraordinarily imaginative enterprises designed to preserve our environment – from Billboards in Peru that turn the moisture in the atmosphere into fresh drinking water to confetti in Holland that plants wildflower seeds in the ground.
- They are the learning generation that uses Google to find answers to their questions and learn at their pace and in their own time. The rise in Micro-learning across the world is evidence of thirst for new knowledge while Futurologists predict that the largest internet site will be a learning one – not yet established.
- They have a global perspective and are more likely to understand the nuances of a complex and troubled world. They reject traditional media as driven by corporate interests and prefer to learn from people’s first hand experience. Social media allows them instant access to real time incidents and perspectives from all corners of the world.
I am very optimistic about the future because the young people I meet are energised by possibility and driven to make things happen. They are not cynical because, cynicism is lazy and unthinking. But they will challenge tired assumptions. They are entrepreneurial and able to gather support and implement ideas quickly. Above all, they reject absolutely the inevitability of poverty and inequality and I trust them to tackle it.
This is a remarkable generation and I for one will walk with them into a Brave New World.