MCON12 Live Blog: Building a Millennial Movement

Submitted by Sarah on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 8:07am

Throughout the day, I'll be living blogging sessions from MCON12; A virtual conference to help leaders engage the Millennial generation. For my next session, I'm covering the Luncheon Keynote Building a Millennnial Movement with Grant Garrison from GOOD/Corps.

You know a session will be interesting when the speaker starts by acknowledging that he wasn't aware of the title of his talk until five minutes before the session. But Grant jumped right in with the honesty, and pointed out that he thinks building a movement starts with actually recognizing it.

"Institutions will try to preserve the problem for which they are the solution." - Clay Shirky

According to Grant, the guardians of the Millennial movement have not yet recognized it is happening. The impression that there is no such thing as a Milliennial movement has persisted longer than makes sense, because the movement is dispersed. This generation cares about lots of issues. Similarly, it is geographically dispersed, which makes it harder to recognize.

We haven't recognized it because it doesn't look like previous generational movements, like those of the 1960s or the anti-globalization movements of the 1990s. And when we don't understand things, we start to ignore or criticize them.

Through Garrison's work, he's realized that companies are beginning to tune in to the fact that the values of Millennials are driving key trends of society. There are four main ways Garrison sees this happening:

  1. Providence & authenticity. Garrison sees this as a reaction to mass-production. The focus is on what is local, what is real; we're suddenly talking about where and how things are made. This then transfers to how the products travel to the consumer, and also in the way that consumers are perceived by their peers.
  2. The Internet's effect on how we organize. The new tools we have allow us to form around activities in ways that we couldn't before. Previously we had to pay someone to organize groups, now we can cut that step out. You want to think about what the expectations are on both ends: what can people who are joining a group expect from the group, and what do you expect from them?
  3. The rise of the citizen consumer. Garrison references the Edelman Good Purpose Study to point out that more than fifty percent of Millennials believe that businesses are going to have more effect on social change than government or NGOs.
  4. Focus on creative solutions. Millennials are not a waiting generation. They are not waiting to find systemic solutions, but instead are attempting to create their own solutions. The instinct to act is strong in Millennials, and the inspiration is coming from the solutions instead of the problems.

What we need to think about, and what Garrison is doing at GOOD Corps, is ensuring that we're engaging Millennials across these issues. How do we connect the trends that we're seeing socially to our missions and causes to create a space that is open to Millennial engagement?

We'd love to hear your experiences with ways you've done this at your organization, or ideas that you have, below in the comments.