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Work with Gen Z to change the world

This op-ed was originally published in The Detroit News.

What will the future look like? As young people headed into adulthood, it’s a question we answer through plans and action. And we answer it not just for ourselves but for our collective future.  

There are those who say, “consider what’s within your power to control,” while others say, “consider how to build power.” We’re focused on the latter. We have audacious visions for a more just world of vibrant communities and healthy people. We see the inequities and power imbalances. We see when systems stifle rather than serve. And we’re not daunted, we’re ignited.  

Generation Z, the population of young people born between 1997 and 2012, is made of change-makers and trailblazers. Our generation has led major movements surrounding issues like global warming, public education, immigrant rights and community health. We stand up to threats against our collective well-being and prosperity.

During the summer of 2020, we were the organizers of marches and movements across the country following the murder of George Floyd. It was the largest protest in American history, and it catapulted our nation into a racial reckoning. 

We’re also the first generation to use the investment market as grounds for rebellion. Gen Z was a large contingent of the stock market players who beat big-money hedge funds at their own game when they threatened to bankrupt a beloved company, GameStop. 

We live our values in every way possible. Nearly two-thirds of those in Gen Z of working-age look for employers who share their values. And we don’t fall for corporate window dressing. We call out brands when their social responsibility statements are nothing more than a marketing ploy. We are savvy consumers, spending our dollars with values-driven businesses.

This will have an increasing effect on the global economy as our financial power grows. Currently, the silent generation (born 1928-1945) and baby boomers (born 1946-1964) hold a colossal majority of household wealth. Gen Z’s global economic power is projected to surpass this, rising to $33 trillion by 2030.

We are hopeful. We are powerful. We are ready. 

We want more adults to welcome us into the fold.  

What does this look like? I looks like institutions, corporations and municipalities holding listening sessions with young people. It looks like creating youth advisory councils that offer young people opportunities to learn from mentors, share ideas and grow leadership skills. As we develop our relationships and knowledge, these advisory positions could serve as career pipelines.  

Youth engagement is a two-way exchange of real value. We bring new sensibilities, skills, insights and approaches. We are big thinkers looking to reimagine what’s possible. And that is just what this moment calls for.

From right to left, Jeremiah Steen, Mohammad Muntakim, and Logan Newman presenting at the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference.

On Wednesday, we will be presenting at the Mackinac Policy Conference. It will be the first time that people of our age (19-22 years old) will be present at our state’s most influential gathering of leaders. But it’s not just about being present, it’s about being included in the vision of our state’s future.

Our session, “The Vision of Youth: Engaging Gen Z in Future Building,” sponsored by The Skillman Foundation, will address Gen Z’s unique attributes, what issues we’re most invested in and how youth can be effectively engaged to forge a better future. 

Anyone can join our Mackinac Policy Conference session. It will be livestreamed on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at this link. What’s more, anyone can commit to engaging young people in strategic planning and future building. Corporate, government, civic and social sector leaders who wish to engage young people as consultants and co-designers can start by going to skillman.org/listen.   

We’re ready to work together to ensure youth are prepared, people are prosperous, communities are healthy, and the world is a more just and peaceful place.   

Jeremiah Steen, Logan Newman and Mohammad Muntakim are members of The Skillman Foundation’s Youth Council.

“The Vision of Youth: Engaging Gen Z in Future Building” Mackinac Policy Conference session was hosted on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 by The Skillman Foundation. Watch the full session here.

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