Five years ago, we at the Case Foundation made a bet on Millennials. We believed that this generation would, through their collective actions, represent an epic shift in the way youth engage with others; consume goods; spend their time and money; and share information in a way that no generation before them had done. We looked ahead and declared that within the next decade, they would help to reshape activism, engagement, service, and philanthropy as we knew it. That bet was made in the form of Social Citizens —a new initiative created here at the Foundation to spark dialogue and new forms of engagement that did not yet exist between Millennials and the nonprofit sector. The team embarked upon an exploration to better understand this unique generation, spark lasting solutions to relevant generational challenges, and foster cross-generational partnerships. In 2011, we would broaden our original goals to focus on inspiring, activating, and empowering fearless young changemakers ages 16 to 35.
It is now 2013, and much of what we forecasted has come true. Millennials, now 80 million strong, are changing the way we operate across sectors. Armed with the unique characteristics of their generation such as collaboration, transparency, passion to do good, as well as a revolutionary set of interactive tools and personalized technologies, they have become true “Social Citizens.” I personally, continue to believe that Millennials are destined to follow in the footsteps of their great grandparents to become thenext greatest generation. The first greatest generation was defined by the Great Depression, war, and monumental changes in society—markers that are all too familiar to this generation, which has known decades of war, economic upheaval, and one of the most significant, rapidly progressing technology revolutions of our time.
While we did not know what the outcome of our efforts would be back in 2008, we can now recognize the many ways in which Social Citizens, as an initiative, has helped to define not only our own Foundation’s work, but also cross-sector efforts to explore the impact of the next generation. Our Social Citizens white paper was just the beginning of our own multifaceted effort to explore the potential of this generation — leading to the hundreds of blog posts we’ve written and curated exploring the latest issues on social changemaking; multiple mini-grants and competitions we’ve administered; daily conversations with more than 330,000 followers via the @SocialCitizen Twitter handle; dynamic, innovative ambassadors who exemplified the power and potential of Millennial leadership; and fruitful partnerships promoting the next generation. And we have seen our bet in this generation pay off time and time again.
So, after five years of learning and lifting-up through Social Citizens, we realized that our original goals (of sparking a conversation, championing exemplary innovators and ideas, and inspiring and uplifting a generation and those excited to engage them) have been met and it is time to write a new chapter. But, as we looked in the mirror through our Be Fearless lens, we realized that perhaps there were better authors of the next chapter than us. We like to test new ideas, experiment with new approaches, and celebrate groundbreaking innovators and innovations. After five years, we think Social Citizens is ready for new thinking, new talent, new dreams, new goals, and yes, a new home. The time is right for us to embark upon our next big bet, as we welcome the new steward, curator, and owner of Social Citizens — Collaborative Fund led by Craig Shapiro!
Craig is a renowned business leader and social entrepreneur, having served as a transformational executive at businesses and social enterprises like Proteus, Helio, and GOOD Worldwide. His new endeavor Collaborative Fund, which has invested in hot new startups like Kickstarter and Reddit aims to be the leading source of capital and strategic support for creative entrepreneurs who want to change the world — creative social entrepreneurs like our Social Citizens who have merged social, mobile, tech, activism, and an entrepreneurial spirit to change the way entrepreneurship, advocacy, and engagement is done.
During this next phase of Social Citizens, the platform will expand its social purpose — with the express goal of empowering and increasing the effectiveness of young changemakers (across all of its channels and platforms). Social Citizens will evolve into a testing ground for disruptive and innovative engagement strategies focused on creating opportunities for dynamic discussion and action by Millennials and the next generation of social advocates, entrepreneurs, and innovators, as well as those who support these individuals.
Most importantly, the entire Social Citizens community will be invited to discuss and engage in new and exciting opportunities for social good. Craig and his team envision a new Social Citizens that utilizes two main channels: Twitter (@SocialCitizen) and Reddit — with the potential for additional extensions. Both main platforms will allow for experimentation through dynamic engagement and conversation focused on reaching the next generation. Collaborative Fund will share these learnings and best practices for online engagement to enhance our collective work.
As for us at the Case Foundation, we are just as passionate as ever about championing next generation issues and we’ll be working on a number of related projects in 2013, including: MCON13, the Millennial Impact Report, Fearless Next Gen Forums; posts on CaseFoundation.org; and promotion of Cause for Change.
As makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs at heart, we at the Foundation love to build and experiment with new projects to advance social good and empower citizens in creative and disruptive ways. We are incredibly proud of the contributions that we have been able to make to the sector through Social Citizens and know that it is in terrific hands with Craig’s team at Collaborative Fund. We look forward to seeing Social Citizens evolve in the coming years, and are excited to turn over the keys and join all of you as passengers and participants for what we know will be an incredible journey.