28 November 2017 - 11:06 am

Millennials are killing social enterprise… Oh, wait…

Dear reader, you might be familiar with the classification of generations, or, at least, you might vaguely be aware of the existence of a Generation X, called the Baby Boomers, and their children, Generation Y or the Millennials – those born between the 1980s and the 2000s. We’re closely going into Generation Z – the post Millennials. But, since these latter ones are still in schools, and Generation Y is not yet obsolete, we are going to focus in this blog on the Millennials and the intriguing aspect of their ‘killings’.

Millennials have been accused in too many articles of killing something, being art, brunch, the career ladder, restaurant chains, politics, beer, food etc. They have also been accused of being too self centred, too lazy, too privileged with their avocados and Eggs Benedict . Too technology focused, too entitled, too DIFFERENT. And truth to be told, we are different. But the question is: different compared to what?

Most parents and children who have conflicting opinions blame them on something called the generation gap. A difference between generations. Children believe their parents to be narrow minded and obsolete. Parents believe their children to be rebels and disrespectful to authority and experience. Who is right? All generations create their set of norms that they respect, all generations should have the freedom to enact on their adopted norms. These norms are susceptible to change with a new generation. Change is positive for society! But older generations might not want to accept these changes. Conflict is created. Judgement is created. Accusations are created.

Screenshot of my search starting with ‘Millennials are…’

Millennials are blamed for an array of things, but I guess, their biggest fault is being different than the generation that preceded them. My parents grew up in a society where your choice of education or non education would also dictate your lifetime job. I grew up in a generation that wanted to choose and make mistakes and choose again. My parents accepted that with difficulty. But for most young people out there, the judgemental label is ‘job hopper’, ‘lazy’, ‘undedicated’.

Millenials are judged for wanting to discover what they are truly passionate about and what connects with their inner values.

My parents see cooking at home as a burden, and going out as a sign of privilege, because you can afford to pay higher prices. My parents grew up in a society where having meat for holidays was a sign of wealth. My parents grew up in a community where religion associates a vegan lifestyle with abstination and restraint in order to atone for your sins. Our generation cares about the environmental impact that big chains produce, about their lack of sustainability, about their food waste, about animal welfare.

Yes, we are privileged! Because our food style is based on choice instead of survival. It’s based on values, instead of necessity.

My parents grew up in a world where exploring your sexuality was a taboo and talking about your mental health was an even greater taboo. In a world where discrimination had deep roots. But a world that didn’t have time to concern itself with guilt or reflection, because survival and terror surfaced the agenda of the day. And, yet, despite these awful conditions, my parents brought me up valuing artistic pursuits, going to the theatre, reading, listening to music and having a Higher Education. My parents ultimately understood that our world needs to be better. That it needed to be different. But what is frightening for them is that it is changing so fast they do not know how to keep up.

Yes, I am privileged because I had access to education, to a multicultural environment where I got to meet people from all around the world. I am privileged because I can choose to earn money and fight for a social cause, for bettering the world I live in. I am privileged because for five weeks I’ve helped running a programme called Social Innovation Lab and I got to meet brilliant students with brilliant social enterprise ideas.

Which leads me to another essential point: Millennials want to better the world. They want to engage in social enterprises. They want to connect business with values and social causes. They choose to earn less if need be, but be satisfied in their purpose. They create communities. And there is no better proof than yearly seeing students engage in charities, social enterprises or starting their own. According to The Millennial Impact (an organisation that releases annual reports), Millennials perceive a personal responsibility to enact social change.

I think it’s sometimes hard for my parents to understand everything I do, or the reasons I do them. But I think, if I take the time to explain, they ultimately get it. They get that the world needs changing.

Thus, despite our labels and our accusations and our ‘killings’, the way we as a generation set our norms and our priorities is shifting and changing the world. It’s setting the stage for Generation Z. It’s bringing the social agenda at the forefront of our lives. And isn’t that an absolutely revolutionary thing?

Millennials are not killing anything.

Millennials are re inventing.

Millennials are revolutionising.

*Social Innovation Lab is a five weeks programme run by the University of Sheffield’ Enterprise Zone meant to help our students discover social causes they are passionate about and ways to create viable businesses that can tackle social issues. It is a free and fun programme and no prior knowledge of social enterprises is required. It is HEAR accreditated and can be done in any year of your studies. You can develop a project independently or in a team. If you have no personal idea but you would like to help with someone else’s idea, you can join another project team, which makes the programme highly flexible. If you are interested, either drop us a line at enterprise@sheffield.ac.uk or follow us on Social Media and/or our Upcoming Events section on our website.*

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  • About the author

    Ana-Gabriela Popa

    Ana-Gabriela Popa

    MSc Leadership and Management student at The University of Sheffield. Enterprise Intern. Global Citizen. Feminist. Avid reader. Series binge-watcher.

    Formerly International Students’ Officer at Sheffield Students’ Union, Chair of International Students’ Committee, Vice-President Marketing at AIESEC Sheffield, Widening Participation Intern at USE.
    BA International Relations and Politics graduate.