Rural communities need to stop talking ABOUT Millennials and try talking TO them

I’m talking to you Snowflake!

The media says you wait for things to be handed to you…that you believe you simply deserve good things in life…that you’re educated, entitled and lazy.

You make up 24% of the population so I guess we have to pay attention to you.

We keep talking about you like you’re still children and we’re trying to make sure the “big gift” is under the tree for Christmas morning.

Don’t worry…I’m an early Gen X’er. We were the LOSER generation! No one expected anything from us. But it didn’t matter because we were the smallest ever cohort (thanks in part to the introduction of the birth control pill in the 60’s.)

I’ve met some millennial snowflakes for sure. But, I’ve also met the leaders, the givers, the go-getters and creatives from your generation. According to a social values study of Canadian Millennials, your generation can be divided into 6 distinctly different segments.

Engaged Idealists represent 17% of you and are Millennials on steroids:

engaged, sociable, energetic, experience seeking and idealistic. They believe in contributing as much as possible to their relationships, careers and communities and the reward for their efforts is personal growth and development. These Millennials believe that their actions matter, shaping their lives and the world around them. They recognize that their environment is complex, but feel confident in their ability to navigate it.

Now you guys are something special and are going to make a difference.

My question is — are you going to make a difference to Rural?

You left just like young people have been doing for decades — and just as you were supposed to. It’s called growth. In a study of Canadian migration trends from 1966–1996 young adults were the most mobile during the study period. Those aged 20–24 had the highest rates of RST (rural and small town) out-migration.

I grew up in a digitally disconnected rural time and I couldn’t wait to leave. Later on I came back. Why? Because it was my home and because belonging is a basic human need. So is contribution and purpose. It’s also what we’ve been doing for decades. In the same study those aged 25–29 had the highest rates of RST (rural and small town) in-migration.

So far so good; these are all natural lifespan migration patterns.

In 2008, the demographic replacement of the non-metro workforce in Canada fell below 100% and it’s been getting worse since. Not enough of you are moving back to rural areas in your late 20’s and early 30’s. The Baby Boomers want to retire. I say “want” to retire because they can’t unless more of you return. Gen X is already at capacity. Other consequences include anchor institutions like schools and banks closing, businesses leaving, infrastructure decay, desolate downtowns and the list goes on.

Imagine the iconic movie scene where the battle has been raging on for days and the small, depleted army is about to be overtaken when the formerly aloof, uncommitted allies find their raison d’etre, appear over the hill, and ride in to save the day. That could be you!

(Forgive the dramatic movie scene reference but it’s part of MY generation.)

Seriously…

We need you. If we don’t have what you want or need, roll up your sleeves and come and build it. We’ll help. What’s your vision? What can you contribute? Are you really concerned about the environment? Do you really care about supporting local? Is the health and welfare of the planet important to you? Do you want to sink your teeth into big social issues? Do you want to create new ways of doing business? What support do you need from us?

From the same study I cited earlier Millennials as a whole are more likely than the two previous generations to lack life goals and to feel alienated from society. That explains a lot. Purpose and belonging are basic human needs.

If you’re looking for an environment where there is a landscape of hope and possibility — it’s your own Rural communities.

I’m talking to those of you who want to make a mark, who have ideas and want to start things — don’t get caught up in the rhetoric of “there is nothing for you in Rural.” If you are truly about making a difference — there is everything for you in Rural.

I’m not trying to insult, praise or placate you. I’m flat out challenging you. You’re all grown up now and we need you. Will you be the ones to re-energize Rural? And if you’re already doing it — from the bottom of my heart “thank you.”

So Snowflake, (says the Loser,) what is your legacy going to be?

Are you living Rural on purpose?