We have seen a flood of interesting pieces recently that speak to the potential, hopes, views and skepticism that are all broadly defining the millennial generation. We wanted to take a moment to highlight some of what we’ve been reading and reach out to you to hear what you believe are the opportunities and challenges of engaging and collaborating with the millennial generation to reclaim the role of government for our collective future.
The first thing that stuck out to us is their attitudes about government. Poll after poll has found that the millennial generation is less critical of government and prefers a more active role for government in their lives. Earlier this year, Project New America partnered with the Youth Engagement fund to conduct a study of over 2,000 millennial adults that queried the generations views on the their concerns, values and attitudes about government, just to name a few. The project also refers to a NYT piece that shares a new and pretty cool model that illustrates how our birth year influences our political views, stating that the ages between 18 and 24 are the most formative years. A caveat is that this model is best in representing white voters but claims that Black voters have been reliably Democratic. The article concludes with a quote from the model’s creators,
“It is important not to think about a single election or of a single defining political event,” Mr. Ghitza and Mr. Gelman write. “Rather, generations appear to be formed through a prolonged period of presidential excellence.”
We found it interesting to consider how the period that has been the backdrop for the millennial generation has been shaping their attitudes about government and their desires for a better and more inclusive future for themselves and their community. For instance, during their generation we have elected our first African American President, experienced the great recession, legalized gay marriage in 25 states, and major issues like immigration reform and economic inequality have risen to new levels of public concern. Next up among the flood of millennial related content, we came across some efforts that speak to the belief that millennials can and must engage with public systems to ensure that they work for and by the people. The first piece is written by our friends at the National Priorities Project and the Roosevelt Institute. It focuses on millennials and public budgeting. A highlight from the piece states:
Millennials support government services, but can also be skeptical of government’s ability to solve problems. Given the political gridlock and mainstream narratives that highlight the failures of government, young people are increasingly focused on their local communities and innovative collaborations to solve local issues. The participatory budgeting process offers citizens of all ages, including Millennials, the chance to increase their engagement and solve key issues in their local communities.
Another piece we came across talked about how cities are engaging millennials to build a stronger sense of community around urban improvements. The goal is to use new media and crowdsourcing to communicate with community members and provide accessible avenues to shape the city they live in. For example, in Jersey City, the city was able to crowd source enough revenue to install hundreds of bike racks around town. The piece remarks on the success by noting the following:
As importantly, it showed city residents, who previously might not have been involved much in civic affairs, they have a voice that can bring about change. In Jersey City, we will be using crowdsourcing not just to raise funds for future needs but also to learn where and how government resources should best be used — community petitions for stop signs, for resources, for traffic changes. To help build strong cities, residents must feel they have a voice. Crowdsourcing is the next valuable tool government leaders should encourage.
Even the federal government is paying attention to the impact of a millennial workforce can have on improving our public systems. The Director of the Office of Personal Management (OPM) wrote a blog piece earlier this summer specifically reaching out to young people to give public service a chance. Here’s how the director puts it:
I know you want a better hiring process. We’re working hard to make our job announcements easier to understand. We’re expanding our outreach to job seekers by increasing our use of technology to recruit, especially social media. And we’re launching a new applicant website this summer that will make one-stop shopping possible. It will have resources ranging from how to tailor your resume for a job with government to how to apply to the Pathways Program, all in one place.
I know you may not want to commit for the long term. You want to try new things and grow in a variety of jobs. I admire that and I respect that. So I am asking you to give us a try, to give Federal service a few years. We need your energy. We need your knowledge. We need your innovation.
Interestingly, in a related OPM survey more than 60 percent of millennials working for the federal government expressed satisfaction with their jobs and would recommend their organization as a good place to work.
Each of these pieces shines a light on the important work that is being done to respond to changing demographics in our country that have the potential to bolster a new public will to support the systems and structures that are the foundations of all our communities. We’d love to keep tracking these sorts of activities and highlighting them on our website. Please let us know about any other initiatives that are increasing engagement among Millennials and working to make the role of government more relevant and visible to this new generation. We look forward to hearing from you.