I was at a conference recently where a young leader declared, "Pass the baton to us, or we're going to take it." After this comment, much of the room erupted defensively. But one of the more senior activists stood up in the back. She pleaded, "We want to pass the baton, but you need to teach us how."
We've probably been having these generational conflicts since the dawn of time, but I was struck by her response. Teach us how. Such a humble and reflective answer.
Recently, this hit home for me at a pro bono marathon event that Taproot held in October during Pro Bono Week. We had gathered several Baltimore nonprofits at the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School. Around 30 volunteers from Constellation Energy, T. Rowe Price, and students from JHU's Carey Net Impact club streamed in and took their seats at the assorted tables, ready to help with the challenges faced by the nonprofits.
I love Taproot marathons. You get that rare chance to see pro bono service in action. There's a determined energy in the air as teams unwind structural challenges and blaze paths forward. It's like watching rockets lift off from launch pads. The vibe is especially pronounced when you have MBA students in the room, learning from more senior professionals and contributing their own bold ideas. Batons were being passed back and forth.
I felt the same way in June of 2015 at our marathon with PwC. We did an event with 30 organizations operating in the My Brother's Keeper space. Along with the veteran consultants, we had a huge batch of summer associates who were interning at PwC. The same palpable energy filled the room as summer associates worked with nonprofits to scope out action plans in key strategic areas.
As the consultant teams worked together, you could watch ideas being shared and collaboration happening in real time. Summer associate or veteran consultant, all sat equally around the table and put their heads together to solve problems for social change.
To me, these events demonstrate "passing the baton" in action. Generational conflicts will persist, but having the grace to ask how, and the drive to sit down and work on solving issues collaboratively, will ultimately move our sector forward.