Building and Sustaining a Global Community of Millennial Changemakers

By Bonnie Chiu

It has been over four years since Lensational started, aiming to elevate marginalised women’s voices on a global stage. One of the most remarkable developments was that so many people found out about us online and wanted to participate, and we grew into a global movement powered by 100 volunteers/changemakers across 25 countries.

There are many characteristics that bind our team together, but most of them are actually Millennials — the median age of our team is 25 years old.

For our team members that fall out of the age bracket, they identify themselves as Millennials in the sense that they constantly want to learn and explore.

A collage of a selection of our teams in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, London and Pakistan back in 2015.

What is also interesting about our group of team members is that they stay with us, and for them, volunteering with Lensational is a long-term commitment. Of course, reality means that people’s commitment does fluctuate from time to time, but in principle, this is a movement they want to support continuously. This may be counter-intuitive to Deloitte’s finding that two in three Millennials expect to leave their company by 2020, what they call the “remarkable absence of loyalty”.

So, how can Lensational command loyalty from a global community of Millennial changemakers? As a Millennial myself, I want to share some thoughts.

Being values-oriented

In our internal Code of Conduct, I talk about the values we have as an organisation, which resonate with all of our changemakers:

  • Global vision: Lensational believes in photography being a universal language that transcends language and geographical barriers. All of us, wherever we are from, are committed to creating a world where women, as well as men, can achieve their fullest potentials.
  • Diversity: Lensational takes pride in building a diverse team, in terms of gender, ethnicity, class, religion, sexuality, age and disability. Diversity allows us to have a variety of perspectives that encourages innovation, and a stimulating work environment that resembles the globalised world we live in today.
  • Entrepreneurship: All of you are at Lensational because you took the initiative to reach out and join our ambitious movement. We believe that all of you have an entrepreneurial mindset — and this means that you will be creative in coming up with solutions to problems you come across and be proactive in bringing forth your own initiatives for Lensational’s future.
  • Passion: Lensational has driven widespread impact through force of will, intention, and passion. We value the same attributes in our team members.
Our Hong Kong team lead Sunnie sharing her experience having launched Lensational in Bangladesh.

Facilitating flexibility and learning

Even though Lensational is 4 years old, we want to keep the startup spirit of being young and innovative. While we are organised in teams and various job roles, we see ourselves as a holacracy — which empowers individuals, encourages an ownership mentality, and promotes intrapreneurship. Many of our team members assume more than one job role, and they change their job roles too from time to time. This may be one of the reasons why our most committed team members stay with us.

Fostering community spirit

Last month, we made the shift from “Volunteer Management” to “Community Management”. The change in description was that we increasingly recognise the value of our team actually lies in building a community spirit. While I haven’t met most of our team members in person, when we do meet, it does feel that we have known each other for a long time.

We are building a global community of changemakers who are passionate about photography and gender equality — beyond simply volunteering.

They take initiatives and share ideas on how Lensational can grow. They serve as role models to each other and they exchange ideas and inspirations. This may echo the finding that 83% of Millennials are actively engaged when they believe their organisation fosters an inclusive culture, compared to only 60% Millennials who are actively engaged when their organisation does not foster such a culture.

Three top tips to build and sustain a global community of Millennial changemakers: being value-oriented, facilitating flexibility and learning, and fostering community spirit.

There are so many untapped potentials among Millennials, especially in engaging them to solve pressing social issues.

This post is a series as part of Millennial Bloggers.