Millennials operate inside a networked ecosystem of ideas and people, resulting in deeper passion for solutions and consequential breadth of impact. This generation (my generation) exists in a space driven and inspired by the work of others. Look at some cases, and you'll see how on their own, they're great, but collectively, the impact is incredible.
Liz Copeland is 26 years old and has 8.5 years of experience with one organization. LIFT went from a budget of $1,000,000 eight years ago to 5 times that today. As the most long-standing member of the development team, Liz has personally been involved in raising more than $6 million in grant funds and cultivating several individual donors. She has held 5 different positions within the organization, which makes her undoubtedly more effective in speaking to all aspects of LIFT's programs, operations, and culture. Many millennials are dismissed for not having enough experience, but Liz was the guiding proponent of LIFT's dual generation approach: supporting economic stability of parents and educational achievement of their children. She has also infused more than 150 other millennials with tools for leadership within the organization and their communities.
Laura McNulty is 26. After graduating with a dual degree in Community Health and Spanish from Tufts University, she worked as an AmeriCorps member for a year with a nonprofit, and then decided to start her own. More than 3 years later, there's a staff, a working budget, funders, and measurable impact. Health Horizons International was founded to improve health and healthcare in poor communities in the Dominican Republic. They now lead the only integrated chronic disease management program and community health worker training program on the Dominican Republic's north coast, with impact in four communities. HHI has trained 20 community health workers (30% of whom are millennials) who provide year-round healthcare management to120 individuals. Laura recently joined Alan Khazei in starting the Boston branch of Civic Enterprises, but continues to serve on the Board of Directors for HHI.
Stefani Meltzer, 25, wears crazy neon clothes, showers multiple times a day and works for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel. Doesn't add up? The early 20s are stressful both in adjusting to adulthood and figuring out what to do with it. Stef personally found that working out and experiencing different genres of group fitness made her healthier both physically and emotionally, and in turn, helps her to feel more empowered to tackle problems and create solutions. She wanted to share those endorphins with others, and became certified as a Zumba instructor. To take a quality Zumba class, you often need to be a paying member of a gym. Stef believes strongly that everyone should be afforded the same opportunities when it comes to health, and so she started a lunchtime program at work (that's right, with the IRS), teaches at a foster teen center and leads classes every week through ShapeUp NYC, an Equinox and City partnership that provides high quality, free classes in underserved parts of the community.
Nobody stands alone. Our three cases embrace and embody a teamwork approach. For instance, Laura's initial crowd-sourced funding effort with co-founder Angi (also 26) using dosomething.orgraised $10,000, which not only jumpstarted the new nonprofit but also educated their networks about health and healthcare issues, which cultivated continued engagement. Teamwork is rooted in personal connection and conversation. People keep attending Stef's Zumba classes and taking ownership of their health because she forms genuine relationships with everyone in the room; Liz shapes LIFT's story by the people she has collaborated with over the years. The teamwork approach is based in trust, which empowers synergistic action.
I am proud to call each of these individuals friends. Positive, forward-moving action results from their voice being in the room, and none of them care about getting credit. Many don't even know just how far their voice carries. These friends radiate impact on macro and micro scales by sharing their passions and collectively thinking critically about how to strengthen different approaches. The cases come from different sectors and all have direct impacts; collectively there's a greater cultural impact, too. The millennial mindset, with its eagerly passionate yet humble aura, permeates organizations -- existing and entrepreneurial alike -- to keep reaching higher.
In your schools, workplaces and neighborhoods, millennials like these are passionately employing their skills and interests to improve their community. Connect them with each other; collaborate however you can; communicate their impact and offerings; this is how millennials and communities thrive. You have the tools; join and strengthen our ecosystem of impact.