The Change Generation

Change GenerationThere's always hype about the next great generation, the ones who will fix problems and shake things up. More often than not, the generation in question fails to live up to unreasonable expectations. Now it's the turn of the millennial generation (also known as Gen Y, my generation), to bear the load. The good news is that we're already well on our way to matching those hopes and likely going well beyond.

We elected a president, founded powerhouse social media platforms like Facebook and Foursquare. We're already in high-ranking positions affecting change at the White House, the State Department, the halls of Congress, and major news media organizations. What's more we've started our own business and not for profit organizations with unique ease and passion. We've embraced a new set of social norms and values celebrating diversity and difference—a lot for a generation where most of us haven't even turned 30 yet.

For my own part, I've spent the past three years studying, observing, discussing, and living the millennial generation and found it to be accomplished (yet unwilling to rest on its laurels), pragmatic (yet boundlessly idealistic). There is a growing sense of consensus about the things that have shaped us, from events like the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and the recession to inventions like Facebook and the iPad, the occurrence of these events in the lives of millennials has been well documented and discussed. But what impact has the immense amount of change and activity our world has seen in the past few decades, as this generation has grown up, had on us and what impact will it have in the years to come?

In the months ahead, we'll answer that in this profile series, Change Generation. You'll hear from young leaders in their own words and see how we're changing business, not for profits, and technology. You'll see this generation's accomplishments but also see how members are disrupting traditional models simply because that is what makes sense. This is a generation of change, but we're a product of our world and times.

David D. Burstein is a young entrepreneur himself, having completed his first documentary 18 in '08 for which he was awarded a $10,000 grant from Nancy Lublin's He is the Founder & Executive director of the youth voter engagement not for profit, Generation18. His book about the millennial generation will be published by Beacon Press in fall 2011.

David and Fast Company are producing Change Generation, a new series profiling a young generation of change-seekers. We'll be covering everything from educational activists to champions of political reform, creative entrepreneurs, and outright thrill seekers. We'll be hosting Q&As as well as video profiles with production partner shatterbox.

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  • Jesse

    There is no question that the paradigm has shifted and that our generation is dead set in establishing a new set of norms for how the proverbial game is played. From the Million Dollar Road Trip to Team Rubicon Our generation has taken it upon our selves to provide the support and frameworks from which to effect positive change. I consider myself a professional cultural chameleon and have had the pleasure to live and work internationally for the past five years. The most refreshing part of this movement is that it is international. From the tip of South America to the jungles of Panama and Haiti the millennial generation is on the same page regardless of race, religion, or geographic location.


  • Bryan P

    Yes, you've done a lot (or "we" because I unfortunately fall into this group). The question is: have you done anything GOOD? From the list presented here, I'd say "No". iPad, FaceBook, and Obama? You've unleashed some of the worst things upon America. Shame on you!

  • Aly-Khan Satchu

    The Disjunctive Thing is surely the sheer absolute Number of People [Intellectual Capital] that is now plugged in to the c21st and Information Century. The Entry Ticket was the Mobile Phone and through the Phone the Mobile Internet. If You study that Graph, it is correlated to Mobile Phone Penetration You will notice it is very late cycle. The Pitch was previously a very narrow One but it has just been blown wide Open. I happen to believe that we have entered a period where Intellectual Capital is the most Valuable of all. It is worth much more than 'Clueless' Capital. This is therefore reformatting the existing Architecture in an entirely disruptive and disjunctive way.

    Aly-Khan Satchu

  • Jesse Goldman

    David, this generation has a huge amount of potential. They've got incredible access to information and people - like never before. To get the most from Millennials, however, workplaces have to change. New forms of recognition, more feedback, and a higher premium on "meaning" instead of money (there's research to back that up!) With Millennials making up 50% of the workforce (and growing), we need to adapt quickly. Here are a few great ideas:

  • Bill McCann

    This is dumbest piece of self-gratification that I've seen from Fast Company. The accomplishments of "Gen Y" are no greater than any other. Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? How old were they when then became successful? they changed our world as much or more than Web 2.0. How about baby boomers? Have we heard about Civil Rights? And not to mention the generation that faced WWII.

    It's great to have a series targeted at our young leaders. Many leaders have their greatest accomplishments when they're young (Albert Einstein). But let's not pretend that there's an usual or unique generation that is on a trajectory of extraordinary change.