Between the years of 1978 and 2000, approximately 95 million Americans were born, and the largest generation to date was formed -- the generation better known as the Millennials.
There has been much written about this generation, and rightfully so. Largely responsible for being the catalysts of pushing the boundaries of innovation in businesses, governments, and communities, we have only begun to see this generation's impact on our country.
Gen Y has already started paving the way for civic engagement in a way we've never experienced before. The Millennials Civic Health Index found that not only does this generation vote in large numbers, but their volunteering and community service rates are much higher than those in the 1970s and '80s. Civic involvement has steadily increased as the Millennial generation has grown older; the national volunteer rate actually reached a five-year high in 2012.
The catalyst for all of this? New technologies, like mobile apps and social media, are making getting involved fun, relevant and accessible to Millennials.
Millennials lead the country in the civic use of social media. And according to a Pew Study on Civic Engagement in the Digital Age, 48 percent of 18-to-29 year olds decide to learn more about political or social issues because of what they read on social networking sites and 57 percent engage in political activity on social networking sites and nowhere else.
So, what exactly are government agencies doing right to engage this eager young generation?
The ability to offer mobile and online apps to citizens is vital to engaging this generation. Numerous governments now have their own app stores, and companies like mine have devoted an entire product offering to apps that make purchase and use of apps easy and accessible.
Let's take a closer look at some specific examples of technological civic engagement efforts:
Speak Up, Austin
Austin, Texas introduced the SpeakUpAustin online platform to its community in 2008, which allowed its local government to offer a user-centric and intuitive tool accessible to anyone with access to the Internet. Idea forums enabled ideas like bike share hubs to become a reality as it quickly became one of the highest rated ideas by citizens. This is a great example of how one idea by a concerned citizen can turn into a catalyst for meaningful action.
Citizens have also been able to play a role in policy or service initiatives, including drafting the plastic bag ordinance, which received more than 100 responses -- many of which were taken into consideration when the ordinance was drafted.
To date, more than 3,000 citizens have engaged with the platform and more than 65 community ideas were put into action.
New Orleans' Open Government
The 2005 disaster that ravaged New Orleans did a lot of harm, but also demonstrated just how far government agencies have come with using new technology to respond to emergencies and communicate with those affected. Before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, social media was used by government agencies throughout the Northeast to communicate with the public and response partners. The public turned to social media for updates and assistance, and response agencies, organizations and community groups used social media to organize and direct resources where needed.
After the storm, New Orleans opened its government to enable the citizens to play a larger role in rebuilding the city. It started with on-demand access to public meetings by deploying streaming media technology with automated minutes and votes recording. Residents were able to hear first-hand the decisions impacting their reviving community and, within a 30-day period, New Orleans grossed more than 12,000 live views to its city council meetings.
The White House Social Hub
On a much larger scale, the White House has come leaps and bounds in social media use and citizen engagement. Offering citizens a one-stop shop to all of the White House's social media activity, the White House Social Hub furthers its commitment "to making this the most open and participatory administration in history."
Citizens also have the opportunity to participate in fireside hangouts on Google Plus. Hangouts have included President Obama following his delivery of the State of the Union, The First Lady, Vice President Biden, and many other notable figures.
The Millennial generation will continue to push the boundaries and force those within government leadership positions to continue to find new ways to engage and appeal to them. Although the future may come with its challenges and setbacks, these game-changing advancements are just another stepping stone in what makes America a leader in innovation and inspiration.
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