Gen Y notoriously rallies for movements and startups they love. Here’s how to get on their radar and stay there for good,
from Fuck Cancer founder Yael Cohen, one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business.
I’m kind of obsessed with my friends. Not in the “You always tell me my hair looks nice” kind of way, but in
the “Holy shit, you’re going to change the world and I can’t wait to watch you do it,” kind of way.
It’s safe to say I’m passionate about today’s youth. We’re revolutionary in a way never before imaginable. I know,
every generation thinks they’re going to change the world–and they do. They change their world.
But my generation is changing the world. For the first time in history, we can spread a message around the
world in a matter of minutes, with a few clicks of a mouse. We have instant access to information and the
each to share it. It’s remarkable how the youth today are uniquely positioned to change the world. There, I said it.
Yes, every kid thinks they know more than their parents, but for the first time in history, we just might.
We are at an interesting place in history where the traditional roles of parent and child have been blurred.
Traditionally, parents care for their children, and later in life when parents are unable to care for themselves,
the roles reverse. But now that switch is happening decades earlier. My generation teaches their parents more
than any generation ever has.
Thanks to Twitter, I can tell my mom that there was an earthquake six minutes ago in another country, whereas
she would have had to wait for the 6 o’clock news. We teach our parents how to use their BlackBerrys
(maybe iPhones, if they’re cool), how to program their TVs, and what a Kardashian is–so why don’t we
teach them something that can actually save their lives?
I’m particularly interested in youth engagement and cancer. Too few conversations are had with
youth about cancer, because we’re not in the highest-risk demographic and we’re certainly not the
largest donors. To me, this is a huge mistake. No one asks for our help here, but because of our relationship
to information and the digital space, we’re the only ones who can create a real change in the cancer space.
We can create a paradigm shift, and change cancer from something that we wait to get and pray there’s a
cure for, to something we’re actively looking for so we can find it in stage one.
Generation Y has an unprecedented sense of responsibility to teach our parents because we think we know more.
And in all honesty, due to the exponential growth in technology, education, and sharing via social media that’s
occurred in our lifetimes, we just might. Fuck Cancer harnesses that sense of arrogance and responsibility to
galvanize positive change by inspiring Gen Y to educate our parents, and teach them how to look for cancer instead
of just find it. That’s my goal–personally and professionally.
You too can engage today’s youth to change the world. Whether you’re a charity or startup, what you do should make
people’s lives easier, better, and more enjoyable. Here’s how to recruit Gen Y to your side:
1. Define your space: You’re never going to please everyone, so don’t waste your time and resources trying. Build
for a specific demographic and build remarkably for them. When you try to please the masses, you risk diluting
your message or mission to the point that you’re unable to please anyone. Be proud of what you do, and it’ll show.
2. Be completely authentic: I’m often asked how we were able to build a “youth brand” so well. The answer is
simple: We’re committed to authenticity. We build and create to fill needs and help people. As long as you’re being
onest and truthful, the demographic that you resonate with will find you. Besides, our generation knows how to find a
fraudulent needle in a digital haystack, so stay true to your space and the audience you intend to serve.
3. Ask for action: Having people see what you do is cool, but it won’t get you far enough. Particularly in the pro-social
world, what you really want is action. So how do you go from online impressions to real-life action? Ask! If your campaign,
movement, or organization doesn’t have a call to action, how can you expect a response? Impressions are wasted without a
call to action. Even if it’s a simple “Read More” or “Go Here,” you need to have a goal with every interaction.
To those who say we’re the lazy generation, the entitled generation, the arrogant generation, you’re right. We’re “lazy” because
we work smarter. We’re entitled because this is the world that we’re changing, the world that’s being left to us. We’re the
arrogant “kids” who will change the world for the better, who will start fixing the world instead of just breaking it, who will
streamline banalities, and who will exploit joy.