This time last year we were reading drafts of the Social Citizens paper and wondering whether it was sea worthy, meaning would the findings and assumptions hold up over the course of a few stormy tosses and turns. And now we know the answer: mostly yes. Of course, we missed one big thing coming on the horizon, more than a storm, an economic tsunami really, but, then again, so did everone else!
In preparation for the WeMedia conference taking place this week in Miami, I wrote a short reflection piece on the Social Citizens paper a year later. Here is a quick summary of that paper.
Certainly the intensity of interest in social causes, and the rapdity of growth of individual causes and cause events, has continued and perhaps even quickened because of social media. Twitter, the fastest growing social networking site, has spawned events like Tweetsgiving and Twestival, raising thousands of dollars to build schools in Africa and buy drinking wells and filters for clean water worldwide.
But the construct of Social Citizens has also changed throughout the year. One issue in particular that we wrestled with throughout the year was whether Social Citizens are by definition Millennials (ages 15-29). And I think that the answer is, naturally, more complicated at second glance than at first. Not all Millennials are Social Citizens, and not all Social Citizens are Millennials. But there is more movement on the later idea than the former, particularly when you see the data that the Pew Foundation recently released showing that older people are coming online faster than any other segment of the population. And old in this instance isn't me (regardless of what my kids say) it means over 75! Your grandparents are on email, your parents are on Facebook, and you're on Twitter, and we're all pinging and poking and tweeting about causes. Increasingly, we're all social citizens.
That's the good news. Unfortunately the bad news is really bad, the fast sinking economy is the first economic crisis young people have ever faced. Sagging beneath a pile of credit card and student loan debt, unable to find jobs, unwilling to live at home, the patina of effortessness that had clung to Millennials all their lives is beginning to wear off. How this will affect causes is uncertain at this point, but it's difficult to imagine that the cup of coffee grown on an organize farm by an entrepreneurial native family will do as well today as it would have last year against the less expensive one.
One very interesting issue to watch moving forward this year is the growth of the public sector as the stimulus money begins to move through the system. Certainly the early signals are that Millennials who were very involved in the presidential campaign are not as drawn to the messy reality of governing. However, if the only growth area for jobs in the next year or two is the public sector, that may change the wariness and distance that young people have had from the public sector as a whole.
We'll continue to watch from our perch here on the blog and on Facebook and Twitter and whatever the new Twitter is and continue to learn how people engage with one another for causes and how those causes affect our relationships and our communities.