‘Of course, she went down to Guatemala with my wife, to help out with that non-profit, Safe Passages.’ A friend was describing his daughter’s experience with philanthropy and community work. I was struck by his nonchalance as he talked about his teenager from New England flying down to volunteer for a few weeks in Central America, as if it happened all of the time. It turns out these days it does!
Then a NPR (National Public Radio) piece hit the nail on the head for me. The subject was the new, global nature of the American Dream, informed the experiences of those in their twenties and thirties travelling, working and, yes, volunteering around their world; and by an internet culture that enable them to stay in daily touch with acquaintances who are a hemisphere away.
According to the International Institute of Education, more than 270,000 US students studied abroad in the last year, triple the number 20 years ago. More than two-thirds of US young people have passports; international travel is no longer limited to the very wealthy. These young people are aware of the world beyond their country’s borders in a very real way, and have a sense that their fate is somehow linked to the fate of communities on the other side of the earth. According to the pollster author who coined the term ‘First Globals’, John Zogby, this generation identifies as ‘Citizens of Planet Earth’.
And this is not just an American phenomenon. For instance, the numbers of international trips taken by Spaniards has doubled take in the last ten years. Spanish youth, in particular, now set off across the world for pleasure and volunteer work. Españoles por el Mundo, a TV show that chronicles the lives of Spaniards who live and work abroad, averages 3 million viewers per episode.
What does being a ‘Citizen of Planet Earth’ mean for personal ambitions? NPR interviewed La Mikia Castilla, a recent graduate from USC’s Graduate School of Public Policy. Her family hails from both the US and Panama and she has travelled in Central America. Her American dream, she says: ‘Is not really about me and what I have as an individual. My American dream is for other people to be able to achieve what they want to achieve.’ A fellow USC classmate explains to NPR: ‘The larger world beyond LA, beyond Chicago and my immediate experiences is an extension of me’, and argues that her generation will be more fulfilled because they can go anyway to realize their dreams. They are no longer tied down by having to own a house, a car and other traditional trappings of the American dream.
In previous posts my business partner and I have written about the entrepreneurial spirit of the younger generation and their desire to get involved immediately, instead of observing from the sidelines. We all know they are connected 24/7 and that many have become citizen activists. According to Zogby, it’s all consistent. Our job is to make sure our foundations and our impact investing and giving platforms are ready to help these First Globals realize their potential to be the planet’s leading citizens.
Kristin Majeska is partner at Philanthropic Intelligence
Further articles from Alliance magazine related to these topics:
- Investing for your own and the greater good by Paul Woolley
- Social transformation through football? by Andrés Thompson