THE BLOG

Philanthro-Teens on the March

04/12/2011 05:10 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2011

On April 14, I'm moderating a panel at the Global Philanthropy Forum on the rise of the next wave of makers and doers. Unlike previous generations, today's "Philanthro-Teens" are characterized not by apathy or entropy, but by a sense of purpose and possibility in tackling challenges from water scarcity and malaria eradication to ending child marriage.

These digital denizens are used to controlling and curating their own relationships to information, resources and possibilities. They have grown up accustomed to collaborating with (rather than responding to) power structures, such as media outlets and corporate brands. They yelp the truth, co-create content and answer their own questions, with ideas that often amaze the rest of us by their sheer creativity and influence.

This is certainly true in the realm of social action. Teenagers may be inspired by leaders like Ted Turner and Bill Gates, but they respond like Mark Zuckerberg. They build fundraising campaigns, make grants, spread awareness and drive results in novel, compelling and authentic ways, according to a map patterned only with these self-affirmed directions: make it real, make it matter.

The youth action pioneers presenting at my panel are MTV correspondent SuChin Pak, Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg, and high school senior and Girl Up teen adviser Lily Kaplan. Each plays a critical role in inspiring and enabling teens to change their world for the better. Their collective efforts not only mobilize impact, they amplify and publicize possibilities, drawing ever more teens into a more conscious and confident approach to the future.

To me, this is the biggest news in philanthropy since Warren Buffet pledged to give his fortune away to charity. Traditional foundations and global brands will ignore the rise of Philanthro-Teens to their peril. Research confirms what we already know -- moms and dads will give more to charity and purchase more consciously when encouraged to do so by their daughters and sons. This stuff matters. Our round blue world is struggling with so many problems and we cannot afford to squander the greatest resource we have. A young imagination -- twinned with leadership and organizational skills, amplified by media and social networks, and boosted by private sector and community support -- can be an unparalleled engine of change.

And just imagine this: these and other activists are committed to giving kids everywhere -- girls, in particular -- a fair chance at education, health care and freedom from poverty and violence. Picture the possibilities of all the entrepreneurial energy pouring forth from today's American Philanthro-Teens flowing just as freely in Liberia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and beyond. Those kids have the same hunger for change and now it's their brothers and sisters thousands of miles away who are stepping up to help feed it. They deserve much more than our thanks and applause. They've earned our backing in every way.

My hope for the future: that there will be many conference panels full of social activists from countries targeted by these Philanthro-Teens talking about how together, as a generation, they are transforming our world right before our eyes.