Originally published by our Founder and CEO Christine Gould on Medium on April 7th, 2020.
I focus a lot of my work at TFF on trying to understand the next generations who are shaping our future. Over the years, I have observed distinctive attitudes in Millennial and GenZ leaders which equip them to be inimitable changemakers.
Now, I am looking towards the emerging generation — dubbed Generation Alpha, or some are even saying Gen-C in the wake of the Covid crisis. It’s too soon to tell what is going to happen, but there is no doubt that this global pandemic experience will shape how today’s young people think and act for the rest of their lives.
Every generation’s mindsets, values and attitudes is defined by the world they are born into, as well as by the external events (wars, recessions, social movements, global emergencies) that happen during their formative years, when their identities and world views are still in flux.
In the case of millennials, many of their generational attributes are the result of the fact that they were born into a digital world where the internet brought about unprecedented global connectedness. Moreover, life-shifting events that they went through – like 9/11, wars in the Middle East, the 2008 financial crisis, and repeated inaction by world leaders to tackle climate change – led to their strong distrust in governments and existing institutions. This has helped to fuel their interest in non-traditional career paths like entrepreneurship, and their involvement in decentralised, digitally-enabled protest movements such as Anonymous, LulzSec, and Extinction Rebellion.
Global events like what we are now experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic affects all age groups simultaneously, but the degree of impact differs according to where people are located in their lifecycles. While this situation is emotionally challenging for every single one of us, for today’s teenagers and young adults, it comes at a time while they are still developing their core values and outlooks on the world. It will leave a lasting imprint that may influence the trajectory of their entire lives ahead.
What kind of effects could COVID-19 and the accompanying social distancing and economic recession have on today’s kids and teenagers?
With half of the world’s population being called upon to stay at home, the coronavirus pandemic heralds a new era of what’s possible when it comes to human behaviour change. Here are some of the emerging tendencies that which could be embraced by today’s young adults:
Science wins: People are standing up for science and heeding the advice of experts, instead of relying on political or religious ideologies. An obvious example next to COVID-19 is witnessed in the youth movements related to climate change, which also justify their activism on science. GenC may bring science to the forefront of policymaking and solution-building.
Global cooperation works: People from around the world are coordinating actions to protect one another. When faced with an imminent common threat, it seems that we humans are able to think in systems and act accordingly. By working together, we we can be greater than the sum of our individual parts. GenC may be the first true global citizens.
Food systems to the fore: This global pandemic calls on us to face the vulnerability and instability of our global food supply chains, and on the critical role that healthy diets play for our immune systems. Food security, food safety, and nutrition may be of paramount concern to GenC.
Government deserves our best and brightest: In matters of life or death, we can’t rely on the markets to save us. Robust public services and strong government leadership is vitally important, and should be invested in. GenC may find their calling in public service, and may focus their efforts on re-building trust in our public institutions.
Real relationships matter: Life in quarantine makes us reflect more on the time we spend with others — and who we spend that time with. It awakens us to the fact that we naturally strive for intact relationships with our family members and loved ones. GenC may invest more efforts in building deeper relationships with people they can always count on.
Of course, we are right in the middle of things, and no outcome is certain. But one thing is sure: the choices we all make in the coming days, weeks, and months will have reverberating impacts on an entire generation to come.
Let’s take this opportunity to show today’s young people the possibilities of what our world could be. As they grow up and develop their own unique generational attributes, let’s learn from them, and help support their positive visions for a better society.