While some wonder if millennials can even survive in the real world, Steven Olikara, president of the Millennial Action Project (MAP), believes that millennials are actually the best-equipped to overcome the current polarization in Washington, and spur positive social change worldwide.
The millennial generation, which consists of those born roughly between 1977 and 1997, make up about 77 million Americans -- that's larger than the Baby Boomer generation, and three times the size of Generation X.
Why are millennials better-suited than previous generations to bring about positive social change? Two reasons, says Olikara, who co-founded the MAP in 2013 to fight partisan gridlock through empowering millennials in Congress.
First, Olikara says that it has always been young people who have led America's great social movements. "Historically in our country, young people have been at the forefront of making change," Olikara explains. "That starts from the founders, to Dr. King and his movement, to those who put a man on the moon. It was young people in their twenties and thirties." For this reason, millennials' age should be viewed as an asset, not a hindrance.
Second, millennials are a highly collaborative, innovative generation. This, in turn, makes them uniquely well-positioned to work across party lines to reach outside-the-box bipartisan solutions. "The millennial generation, having grown up in a time of historic connectedness, historic diversity and historic polarization politically, are poised to make a new political paradigm," says Olikara. "And the data shows that Millennials are more collaborative than previous generations."
A number of studies back Olikara's assertion. In their book Why Nations Fail, authors Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson contend that millennials are especially well-positioned to create game-changing innovation. When an exclusive, closed club of elites run the show, they say, the flow of information is stunted and, consequently, innovation suffers. In contrast, innovation flourishes when information is unrestricted, when individuals can collaborate unimpeded, and when decision-making is transparent.
In September 2013, MAP partnered with Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) to launch the Congressional Future Caucus (CFC), the nation's first Congressional caucus led by millennials. Focused on developing long-term solutions to issues facing America's next generation, the CFC aspires to foster a bipartisan community of members "dedicated to pragmatic, innovative leadership on future-oriented issues, and engaging with future leaders across the country on critical policy issues."
Creating generationally-specific congressional caucuses is not a common practice in the United States. As of May 2013, no other generationally-focused caucuses were included in a prominent list of new congressional groupings (though it did include a Bourbon Caucus, a Caucus on Wild Salmon and a Caucus on Cement). In existence for less than one year, MAP already plans to expand their CFC concept internationally. "The problems facing millennials are increasingly global, because our generation is increasingly interdependent," Olikara explains. "Millennial Action Project plans to take the Future Caucus concept to other countries and parliaments around the world... to address issues ranging from climate change to poverty and global health."
It's an ambitious goal that perhaps only a millennial could conceive. And achieve.
Video produced by Monica Gray, and was originally published by the Diplomatic Courier magazine, and has been republished with permission. Copyright 2006-2013: The Diplomatic Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.