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Opinion: 'Me' generation aims to change the world
A recent Telefónica-Financial Times Global Millennial Survey looks at how technology shapes Millennials lives and outlook.
June 7th, 2013
05:54 PM ET

Opinion: 'Me' generation aims to change the world

Editor's note: Erica Williams is a social impact strategist and World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper. She is the CEO of EWS Strategies, a social impact consulting firm that works with high-impact businesses and next generation leaders.

By Erica Williams, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Millennials have gotten a bad rap lately.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, we are seen as selfish and entitled, with little regard for the actual values that we espouse and the socio-economic context in which we live.

But a recent Telefónica-Financial Times Global Millennial Survey - which spoke to more than 12,000 adult millennials, including 1,000 Americans - adds insight to not only what millennials believe, but also what they are doing as a result of their beliefs.

In a world with unrepresentative governments, rising economic gaps in a fluctuating economy, and persistent gender gaps, millennials are blending new ideas about work with their desire to change the world to confidently face harsh societal realities and realize their vision for a brighter future.

As a millennial woman who works to help businesses and young leaders do good and implement innovative social change projects, I have spent the better part of my career working with ambitious, mission-driven millennials.

I know all too well the economic, societal and environmental pressures that this generation faces.

For almost a decade, I worked as an advocate and young nonprofit leader, tackling these and other issues and had begun to achieve professional success

But a year ago, I began to feel an itch. I started to ask myself a series of questions that became louder day by day: Am I fighting these obstacles and pursuing justice as creatively as I know how? Are there new – better and faster – ways to change the world? Am I really making a difference – and doing so in a way that allows me to live a full, financially stable life?

These questions – about money, creativity, work-life balance, and innovation – are often regarded as entitled and self-centered.

But they are far from it. They are a logical and empowered response to a world in which amazing tools are at our fingertips and unprecedented pressures are on our shoulders. FULL POST

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Filed under: Age • How we live • What we think
Opinion: How youth are shaping our world
February 6th, 2012
06:51 PM ET

Opinion: How youth are shaping our world

Editor's note: Erica Williams is a senior strategist at Citizen Engagement Lab, an incubator for projects that use digital media, technology and culture to engage communities in people-powered campaigns. Previously, she was co-founder of Progress 2050, a project of the Center for American Progress, that develops new ideas for an increasingly diverse America.

By Erica Williams, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Each year, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, brings together leaders to discuss the most pressing global challenges with a commitment to "improving the state of the world ."

This year, I attended as part of the Forum’s first ever delegation of Global Shapers, a global group of youth under 30.

The group included a 24-year-old mayor from the Philippines, a fashion designer from Tanzania, the CEO of one of the biggest e-commerce sites in Turkey, a South African technologist, and a Swiss social entrepreneur. In all, seventy of us traveled from thirty-six countries and represented numerous sectors.

The work I do in the United States focuses on underrepresented communities, and often challenges the notion of traditional power: heads of state, elected official and CEOs.

Initially, I was very concerned about how my ideas around generational accountability, transparency and equity would be received by very elite decision-makers.

I was pleasantly surprised that they wanted to hear what we had to say: they recognized there are unprecedented challenges and demographic shifts happening, and were ready to listen.

During full days of conversations and meetings with CEOs, elected officials, and even monarchs, youth were visible and vocal.

FULL POST

November 18th, 2011
08:33 AM ET

Opinion: Seeing 'hope' and 'change' among the 99%

Editor’s Note: Erica Williams is a senior strategist at Citizen Engagement Lab, an incubator for projects that use digital media, technology and culture to engage communities in people-powered campaigns. Previously, she  was co-founder of Progress 2050, a project of the Center for American Progress, that develops new ideas for an increasingly diverse America.

By Erica Williams, Special to CNN

I am a millennial who has been working to engage people in civic life and politics for six years.

As part of that work, I have been particularly focused on ensuring that young people are not only active participants and leaders in changing their communities, but that their participation is recognized, respected and impactful.

The year 2008 was dubbed “the year of the youth vote” by mainstream media, and it felt like the first time that this generation’s engagement was heralded by the establishment. Youth participation flew in the face of the dominant narrative of a disengaged, apathetic generation. That engagement contributed to a clear political outcome: the election of President Obama.

Now, as the Obama campaign prepares for the 2012 election, the state of young America is radically different than it was in 2008. Millennials, more than anyone, latched on to the idea that the country could be better, and while we remain optimistic, hope and change seem far away.

The energy of most young people who I know looks far less like the Obama campaign, and more like Occupy Wall Street and the 99% movement.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Age • Politics • What we think