Millennials and meaning: reflections from SOCAP

Martina Buchal is to spend the next 12 months traveling the world as a World Merit global ambassador. She is tasked with the responsibility of seeking social innovation in all corners of the globe in order to collect ideas and pass them on to other young social pioneers such as herself.

One of the first stops on her busy schedule is SOCAP 2014 (Social Capital Markets) – a gathering of global innovators, investors, foundations, governments, institutions and social entrepreneurs all dedicated to increasing the flow of capital toward social good.

We are the millennials. We are the largest population of young people the world has ever known and we are changing the way the world works. We are unlike other generations. We have massive access to technology, and therefore information. So much so that we no longer have the excuse of not knowing that our actions affect the world around us.

We all know that we leave an imprint on the world through the decisions we make daily and these decisions are now getting the attention of major business players and government bodies as the economy and workplace change around us – or more so perhaps, have to change to work with us.

You see, this access to information we have, this decision-making power, it means a lot of things. It means that now, more than ever, young people are more values-oriented and directing their decisions in that direction. We are more likely to take a pay cut to work at a job that fits in with our values. We are more likely to pay a little more to do a little more good for our bodies, our environment, and the world at large. 

In a packed room at SOCAP 2014 (Social Capital Conference) on the coastline of San Francisco, California I sat with 3 other panelists discussing this new purpose-driven, fast paced and massive population that we call the millennials. Why are millennials so different and why is it important for the market and employers to pay attention to them and their ways of thinking? This is what the panel "Millennials and Meaning" was about.

As we discussed, the audience nodded knowingly, understanding that this generation deserves attention and is not like others before in many ways. The world is watching closely to see what the millennials will do. 

But this makes me think – if we, as young people, know we have some serious decision-making power that has the potential to influence the world around us greatly; if market leaders and employers understand that our needs and decisions will transform work and sales as they know it; what are we doing about driving change to create greatest impact, so that when people years down the road ask "What did the millennials ever accomplish?" the answer will be "a heck of a lot!"

This leads me to my point. I feel like we are in a potentially powerful future-altering situation here. We are in a position where we are actively directing the tide – and that's huge. It is the critical time to decide just how to use that power for the purpose of attaining a greater good and building the world we want to see.


You can keep track of Martina's mission and those of her fellow World Merit fellows on the World Merit blog. World Merit was founded in 2012 to give life changing opportunities and support to young people all over the world with a social mission. 

Photo credit: World Merit