By Chris Altchek
From climate change to volatile financial markets to unstable political divisions, the generation born between 1980 and 1996, known as Millennials, faces historic challenges over the next few decades.
As the world continues to globalize, these challenges will become broader in scope and complexity. In order to find real solutions, our generation will be required to organize, communicate, innovate and collaborate in far greater numbers, with greater clarity, through multiple channels, and with greater speed.
Social media encompasses these wider scale communications needs. Social media has given our generation the ability to communicate and come together in an unprecedented manner and power amid world-altering changes: President Obama’s 2008 election despite significant odds, the toppling of decades-old dictatorships during the Arab Spring, and a highly organized response during the Hurricane Sandy relief effort. As a digital microphone, how can ‘going social’ drive further engagement to reach and connect previously distributed communities of like-minded Millennials?
The truth is, while social media platforms have proven to be remarkably effective in organizing real-time mobilization and coordinating action, these platforms have not been nearly as effective in developing more sophisticated solutions to address increasingly complex real world challenges. So what do we need?
First, Millennials love to build off each others’ ideas and drive change collaboratively. What we need are platforms that reflect this collaborative energy, empowering Millennials to unite in real-time to exchange thoughts, focus on the best ideas, and create a plan to execute.
The most prominent ideas must also be the most relevant and useful. Imagine a platform where organizations could present a challenge to Millennials such as, “How can we leverage local professionals to bolster our education system?” What if our generation’s most creative and diverse thinkers and designers could then weigh-in to debate and present actionable solutions in a forum designed for this real time engagement.
This platform should allow the best ideas to be tinkered with, improved upon, and refined. Minority voices on social media should not get drowned out or relegated to a sort of algorithmic purgatory. Inclusiveness is the ultimate challenge – ensuring technology helps diverse ideas inform a better outcome.
Once solutions are agreed to, our generation wants to make it happen. The explosive popularity of cloud platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Quirky, Shapeways, and Romotive are examples of “democratized product development.” As incredibly promising as these crowd source platforms may be, they are overwhelmingly dependent on a few individuals executing the projects. Imagine a production process with thousands of people working together using 3D printers to figure out the smartest way to provide cellular service to rural or remote areas or produce solar-powered water purifiers, for instance.
Millennials look for ways to use their individual skills to actively shape the world, not only with ideas or money, but their hands. If we can continue to improve upon some of the fluid structures of the open-source community, on and offline collaborative creation will yield immense benefits for the world.
Lastly, every day, nearly 300 million statuses are posted by 600 million users on Facebook. On Twitter, one billion tweets are shared every five days. In order to empower this crowd-sourced creation of the future, we must have robust Big Data analytics technologies that allow communities to test ideas accurately and iterate quickly. This analytic insight will help create efficient feedback loops to foster productive conversations and prolific co-creation. Imagine tools that allow us to test our ideas in real-time, iterate quickly and find the right path efficiently.
Our generation’s major roadblocks will only be overcome through mass mobilization and collective ingenuity. Companies, governments and organizations should be working to create social platforms for this type of mass collaboration. Truly innovative public policy, commercial products and social contracts will all be crowd-sourced in real time, and the impetus is on us all to make sure that we all are heard.
Creator and consumer are becoming one. Let’s begin to innovate the technology to help Millennials contribute to their fullest potential.