Engaging Millennials through Movements for Social Impact

Much attention has been paid in recent years to social movements, particularly those led by millennials in response to the 2008 financial crisis. But a new breed of movement has been established in recent years, consciously created by institutions and individuals in power. Conscious movements have adapted the enthusiasm and organizing principles of traditional social movements. This new type of movement funnels the energy of young people and leverages the gravitas of established institutions to bring about positive social impact.

Conscious movements are unique in the way that they amalgamate old and new power, online and offline interactions and global reach with local impact.

Combining old and new power

Heimans and Timms described the rise of new power, which is "open, participatory and peer-driven" as a contrast to the old power of established institutions, which is "closed, inaccessible and leader-driven." The tension inherent in these two types of power makes them seem binary and incompatible.

Conscious movements are able to manage this tension in a way that brings about the best of both power structures. The Global Shapers Community, part of the World Economic Forum, turns this tension into an opportunity. It facilitates interactions between new-power leaders and old power executives during its Annual Meeting at Davos-Klosters. Shapers take part in cross-mentorship schemes where old and new power leaders learn from one another. And, the Global Shapers Community leverages the resources of old power giants (such as Coca-Cola) to scale social impact initiatives launched by Shapers.

Connecting on and offline

Conscious movements recognise the importance of integrated online and in-person interactions to galvanise impact. In a world that emphasises online interactions over in-person gatherings, conscious movements flip this logic on its head.

Lean In, a conscious movement spurred by Sheryl Sandberg's bestselling book, encourages women to launch Lean In Circles- small, in-person gatherings where women discuss their professional challenges, seek advice and share resources. Lean In's website provides Circles with the tools they need to manage meetings, access expert videos (for professional development during meetings) and interact with other Circles nearby. Lean In uses the power of technology to enable face-to-face interaction, placing the emphasis on connections that build trust and affinity.

Bridging Global and Local

Although the world is more global than ever before, most of our contact continues to take place locally. Of all the telephone calling minutes in the world last year, only 2% were cross-border calls. The average person consumes just 1-2% of their news on foreign sites. And only 2% of university students study in countries where they are not citizens. At the same time, cities are becoming a more powerful force. Over half of the world's population lives in urban areas currently, which projected to increase to 66% by 2050.

Conscious movements make the most of this global-local dichotomy. They rely on globally connected influencers to share ideas, create experiences and adapt movements to resonate with local communities. TED, whose mission is to share "ideas worth spreading," noticed that its content primarily reached an English-speaking, middle class audience. To expand its reach, TED launched TEDx, a conscious movement that spark conversations around the world through TED-like experiences. These events provide elements of the broader TED experience- utilising an 18-minute video format, making all talks publicly available and featuring a diversity of speakers. However, the content, context and language are all adapted to a local audience. TED specifically selects TEDx Ambassadors who can navigate on both a global and local level.

Conscious movements provide institutions with an opportunity to engage young people around "moonshot ideas" that drive lasting social change. They are not appropriate for all organisations and all social challenges. But, with a thorough plan, institutions can create conscious movements that engage millennials in a meaningful way that drives social change and create lasting impact.

This post is an excerpt from a University of Cambridge practitioner briefing. You can find the full report here: http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/fileadmin/user_upload/research/centres/social-innovation/downloads/practictioner-briefing_gafni2.pdf

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