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Louise Hodgson Headshot

Gen Z Wants to Make a Difference, Not a Profit

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What does it take to change the world? Governments? Businesses? Communities?

Here's a confession I don't often admit to myself let alone a reading public: I'm not sure I believe our world has the ability to live peacefully and equally.

Humanity is complex. Wonderfully, admirably and uniquely so.

We live in a world with endless beauty, where simple gestures can bring sudden tears and individuals change each others' lives through everyday actions, often without realizing it.

But there is also undeniable evil. To choose the most obvious: Wars rage in every corner of the earth. Some have continued for years, others were born recently; none are easily resolved.

Landfill. Slavery. Rape. Pollution. Genocide. It simply doesn't do the heart any good to consider the enormity of the human race.

But I think something's happening. There's a shift -- a very definite shift. We're fully operational in the age of information and we've heard enough.

Recently, the Undergraduate Awards conducted a survey of students -- the majority of which will graduate within a year -- based in Ireland. Among the 20 or so questions posed was: "What will motivate you most in choosing a career path upon graduation?"

Now, about four years ago, the same survey would have shown a large leaning towards the first option provided: "salary." Back then, you see, Ireland was riding high on a property bubble and graduate employment was as sure as a pint of Guinness is black.

Last month, however, 62 percent of respondents answered: "ethical values and the potential to make a social impact."

Ireland is a different place now. The boom left a sour taste in a lot of mouths and to the future grads who were just finishing school when the recession first hit, there was never potential to be high-earners straight out of college anyway. There is a lot of frustration, a lot of people wanting to see a change. Young people are faced with the options of leaving the country or staying and trying to make a damn difference. They're blogging. They're tweeting. They're connected. They're inspiring each other and those around them.

I was part of Generation X. I believe Pepsi created an advert featuring the Spice Girls for us. (Man, we were the worst.) Hot on our heels was Generation Y, a rather more philosophical bunch, it has to be said.

But over the horizon, comes Generation (you guessed it) Z. This lot is informed and resourceful. I believe they'll not only disapprove of the actions of those before them, but they've resolved to set things right -- and they'll have the (mostly online) tools to do so.

Importantly, they're not motivated by money. They may be motivated by fame, recognition and increased Twitter followers -- and that's OK. Because they want to be known for making a difference, not a profit.

So, what exactly does it take to change the world? I think we're about to find out.