Be the change you want to see in the world
I was born on 7 January 1991. It was the year that would see the collapse of the Soviet Union and would be heralded by the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama as the ‘End of History’, the triumph of the liberal-democratic consensus. My journey from infancy to adulthood would be marked by the dawn of a new millennium, the birth of the internet, a technological and sociological revolution, and, until the recent global financial crisis, an age of unprecedented prosperity.
All of this makes me a so-called ‘Millennial’, a member of the generation that Time Magazine infamously labelled as the ‘Me, Me, Me’ generation.
According to prevailing wisdom, my peers and I are narcissistic, impatient, entitled, overconfident, accustomed to having things the way we want them and dependent on instant gratification. We are, allegedly, less likely to give to charity and to volunteer our time to support good causes, but rather spend our time taking selfies and browsing each other’s Instagram and Twitter feeds.
Never was there a more damning indictment of a whole demographic segment.
But, these are not attributes that I recognise in myself, or others around me. Ever since I was young I have looked at the world and thought: ‘This should be better’.
As a child and an adolescent, it made no sense to me that millions of people in developing parts of the world were trapped in a condition of extreme poverty, malnutrition and very low life expectancy.
As a university student, a growing awareness of the structural social and economic injustices in my own country led me to further question: ‘How can this change?’
How can this change?
My personal answer to that question has changed a lot over the years. The naïve and firebrand Marxism of my fourteen year old self has been replaced by a more balanced and accepting view of liberal market economics and capitalism, which has done a great deal to improve the quality of life of millions of people around the world. But it is not an uncritical acceptance.
The ‘End of History’ did usher in a great utopia. Capitalism may, on average, help the majority, but it also leaves people behind. And I cannot accept a world where 12.7% of the world’s population still live at or below $1.90 per day, or a society in my own, highly developed country, where one of the most important factors in determining your academic achievement at school, and consequently your life opportunities, is the wealth of your parents, as simply the ‘cost of doing business’. This is not good enough.
So, what is to be done? How can things change when we are supposedly living in an age of never before seen levels of selfishness?
The BeyondMe Bootcamp that I attended on Saturday (7th November 2015) showed me how.
I, along with 80 other young professionals working in law, consulting, accounting and other prestigious jobs, gathered to hear a series of inspirational talks about how to create a ‘Generous Generation’.
We heard from social entrepreneurs like Baillie Aaron whose organisation ‘Spark Inside’ is working with young prison inmates to help them develop the necessary skills and confidence to escape the cycle of reoffending. We challenged our current thinking of the social sector and learned how we could leverage our skills, networks and resources as well as those of our employers to make significant social impact.
My next step in this journey is to build a team of seven like-minded millennials and together select a charity who we want to support for 12 months to deliver projects that will make meaningful change. There are some amazing charities on BeyondMe’s portfolio and I look forward to partnering with a cause my team and I are passionate about.
Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
I, alongside 80 other millennials, am embarking on a journey to be that change. It is an exciting (and scary) prospect. Wish me luck.
About BeyondMe: www.BeyondMe.Org
BeyondMe is a growing movement in which professionals, businesses and charities join together to make a meaningful impact on the world beyond them.