Creativity Is the Currency, Nay, Philanthropy of Our Generation

There is something really interesting happening all around us. It's a collision of the unique attributes of rising millennial generation, increasing social impact and our evolving economy. What's resulted is a shift in currency. And, no, it's not the loss of the Canadian penny (RIP, little loonie).

I strongly believe that one thing that sets millennials apart from the generations before us is our creative savvy. Millennials make. We create. Look at the rise of the DIY culture, the creative class, the increasing accessibility of creative technology and resources -- millennials are poised to change the world through their creative talents. And these creative talents are what comprise the currency of this generation, especially as it applies to how and where millennials "spend."

We all know that millennials want to give back to the world in a meaningful way. In 2011, 75 percent of millennials donated to charitable causes. I can only imagine that number will grow as millennials begin rise in their careers to have greater dispensable incomes. But let's, for a moment, reframe how we define "donate." Let's consider that increasing numbers of millennials are lending their skills, not their dollars, to social causes. There's the Dell Social Innovation Challenge for young entrepreneurs, Hack for Change hack-a-thons for web developers and designers, Engineers Without Borders for tomorrow's problem-solvers, and CGI-U for our future world leaders.

Millennials are not just spending their time and money on charitable causes. Millennials are "spending" their skills, and that is what makes them unique. Millennials understand the value of creativity and innovation because these values are what so many of us bring to the table, and we are starting to inject this creative currency into what some people are calling the Cause Economy.

What is creative currency, you ask? Creative currency ranges from cooking and coding to design, filmmaking, photography, or social media skills. The creative currency list is long. And it's only going to get longer with the evolution of technology and media.

The Cause Economy is where people choose to spend money in ways that they are personally connected to. Dollars are a representation of society's values, and, as we've watched the success of TOMs, Warby Parker, and other one-for-one business models, we've witnessed valued placed on social progress.

I feel blessed because for the past 13 years of my career, I have been able to witness this creative exchange among college students on a daily basis -- young creatives who give their art, media, and storytelling talents to the issues and causes about which they care most. It's been a fascinating and inspiring evolution, and one that is morphing into an undeniable cycle of progress.

We've all heard the phrase, "There's no such thing as a truly selfless good deed." People throw this sentiment around because when we volunteer our time or donate money, we feel good about ourselves in return. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Why can't "giving back" be symbiotic? Well, how about this radical idea -- it can.

And when you combine creative currency with a cause economy, it is.

When millennials -- rich with creative talent -- exercise their skills to further a cause they care about, they are not only contributing social impact, but they are developing their own skills and portfolios. It's not selfish. It's philanthropy 2.0.

There are over 80 million millennials in the U.S. who are creatively capable and eager to make a real impact. Imagine these 80 million people creating something for the advancement of society, and simultaneously becoming better, more effective creators because of it.

Now I'd like to make a suggestion. I'll keep it simple. Think about your creative skills, what you love to do, and what talent you want to develop. Got it? These are your shiny coins of currency.

Now, find a cause that inspires you. Found it?

Now, spend.

Give your creative currency and go shine a light the progress that is happening all around us.