Gen Z’s Commitment to Activism

Now more than ever, all eyes are on our world leaders. And many of these eyes belong to the younger generation, known as Gen Z. (Born in the mid-1990s to early-2000s.) With the issue of climate change becoming a global crisis, Trump’s border control policies impacting immigrant children, plus the rise of school shootings, these issues can no longer be ignored.

This post will mostly focus on two of those major topics: climate change and gun violence.

The Global Climate Strikes

Last week, Global Climate Strikes took place all over the world, a protest to demand action regarding climate change. According to Wikipedia, “the strikes’ key dates include 20 September, which was three days before the United Nations Climate Summit, and 27 September, together with the full week from 20 to 27 September proposed for a worldwide general climate strike, the Earth Strike.” The event was part of the school strike for climate movement, led and inspired by Swedish climate activist, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg. It was the largest climate strike in world history.

Over 4 million people participated in these strikes worldwide, the majority of them being young students. The L.A. Times comments on Gen Z activism: “How fortunate we are that members of Gen Z are devoting their adolescences to correcting our country’s painful course, the conditions of which elder generations created or enabled by our inaction.”

Greta Thunberg

Greta, a 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden, has become the face of Gen Z activism. In May of this year, TIME magazine named her a “next generation role model,” and the media has even dubbed her influence across the world as the “Greta Thunberg effect.” Greta has used social media as a tool to spread her message of urgency about climate change, all starting when she posted pictures of her solo strike outside of the Swedish Parliament. The purpose of her strike was to demand that the Swedish government work to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

Greta’s Impact:

  • “August 2019: a doubling in the number of children’s books being published which address the climate crisis was reported, with a similar increase in the sales of such books—all aimed at empowering young people to save the planet.
  • Inspired by Thunberg, wealthy philanthropists and investors from the United States have donated almost half a million pounds to support Extinction Rebellion and school strike groups to establish the Climate Emergency Fund.
  • February 2019: Thunberg shared a stage with the then President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Climate issues also played a significant role in European elections in May 2019, as Green parties nearly doubled their vote, boosting their MEP numbers to a projected 71. Many of the gains came from northern European countries where young people have taken to the streets inspired by Thunberg.
  • June 2019: Swedish Railways (SJ) reported that the number of Swedes taking the train for domestic journeys had risen by 8% from the previous year, reflecting growing public concern about the impact of flying on CO2 emissions that is highlighted by Thunberg’s refusal to fly to international conferences.
  • Being embarrassed or ashamed to take a plane because of its environmental impact has been described on social media as ‘Flygskam’ or “Shame of flying”, along with the hashtag #jagstannarpåmarken, which translates as #istayontheground.” –Wikipedia

March For Our Lives

Gun violence in schools is a deadly trend.“Since April 17, 2007, 320 people have been shot on college and university campuses in the U.S.,” according to the Collegiate Times. And it’s no secret that gun violence in the U.S. has significantly increased in the last decade. “2018 was the highest year for the number of victims killed, including the shooter, with 51 killed,” with California, Texas and Florida being the states that have experienced the most school shootings, according to Campus Safety Magazine.

In March of last year, an estimate of 2 million people across the U.S. participated in “March For Our Lives” to end gun violence in schools, making it one of the largest protests in American history. This march occurred after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in February of last year.

Gen Z faces an entirely knew set of problems. As school shootings continue to occur across the U.S., sitting and waiting for someone to do something is no longer an option – so students are standing up for themselves. This recent video produced by Sandy Hook Promise depicts that – students are now taking on adult roles in an attempt to preserve their futures.

New Ways of Activism

Social media is the number one tool for young activists to connect with each other, share opinions, and set up events/gatherings. With access to instantaneous sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, activism has gone digital. According to PEW, “around half of Americans have engaged in some form of political or social-minded activity on social media in the past year.”

“White Gen-Zers are more willing to explore and understand racial politics and issues, in part because POC Gen-Z have the ability to be more vocal through social media.” –KultureHub

Paralleling activism in the ’60s/’70s, music is still a popular way to protest. Popular U.K. alternative band, The 1975, recently released a self-titled single, “The 1975,” which features a powerful 4 minutes of Greta Thunberg urging people to “wake up” and get involved. This was an incredibly effective way to reach Gen Z activists and beyond, as the band’s target audience tends to fall in that category. Listen here:

Why Do Gen Z Kids Care?

School shootings. Climate change. #BlackLivesMatter. #MeToo. Child immigrants. All these issues impact younger generations and their lives directly. In addition, with more and more of these issues becoming popular points of conversation, a trend is on the rise. Abby Leedy, an 18-year-old co-coordinator of the Sunrise Movement’s Philadelphia hub, spoke with The Intercept on why people her age are so in-tune with world issues:

“She first got interested in activism her freshman year, and in the time since — marked by Donald Trump’s election, and the upswing in youth activism following the Parkland school shooting (an inspiration to Thunberg) — has seen it go more mainstream, reaching beyond the usual suspects. ‘There’s just a lot more people, and it seems a lot more socially acceptable,’ she said. ‘It’s cooler to care about political stuff, which is really exciting.'”


Gen Z and young activists refuse to stay silent any longer. What will you speak up about?


All photos are free from Pixabay.

Generation Z Protestors


Millennials are now fully integrated into society as adults and the culture has come to a better understanding of what makes the tech-savvy, diverse generation tick. We’re only just beginning to learn about Generation Z – the oldest of which is joining the workforce this year. Early research reports are helping to paint a picture of what this generation values, what motivates them, what they expect of employers and how they are decidedly different from Millennials.

What Defines Generation Z

Born between 1996-2012, members of this generation are true digital natives. They’ve never been without access to the internet or smart phones. They’ve never known a world where social media wasn’t fully integrated into their lives or unrestricted access to information wasn’t readily available.

Beyond technology – environmental issues, terrorism, global refugee crises, and corporate greed have all been part of Gen Z’s formative landscape. 

They are brand-savvy and socially conscious and are set to be the most racially and ethnically diverse population in U.S. history. 

They understand the impact of their decisions; they will make choices that serve their needs, while still contributing to the greater good. This will be a generation that will make a difference.

Generation Z’s Top 3 Priorities:

  1. Enjoying Life
  2. Finding a great job
  3. Becoming a better person 

Millennials vs. Gen Z

generation z vs millennials


  • Millennials emerged alongside technology advancements, but Gen Z was born with internet access.

As a Millennial myself, I remember fighting with my parents because someone was on the phone and I couldn’t use the dialup internet. Motorola Razors were the common cell phone used “only in emergencies” and the internet was charged by the minute. While Millennials adapted to the rapidly evolving technology of smart phones, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment, for Gen Z these innovations are largely assumed. 

  • Millennials own their social media addictions, but Gen Z is detoxing.

While Millennials know they’re addicted to social media and sharing everything online, mostly, they can’t be bothered to unplug. Gen Z, on the other hand, has witnessed the negative affects of social media on the older generation and trying to combat it at an early age. Nearly 34% of Gen Z have deleted their accounts and another 58% are actively trying to take a time-out from the feelings of stress and anxiety that social media is perpetuating. 

What does this mean for marketers? Invest in relevance over reach. The landscape has changed. Organic reach has fallen so low for social platforms that it has become less viable as a tool to reaching Gen Z. However, it has become one of the best ways to deliver one-to-many or one-to-one branded content. Today’s approach on social should be focused on engagement and conversation.

  • Millennials want original content, while Gen Z responds to authentic and ethically sound content.

In a world where negative content and fake news seem to be flooding our timelines, Gen Z wants posts from brands to be factual and ethical. Millennials respond to original and catchy branding, but Gen Z’ers have higher expectations and a carefully tuned radar for being sold to. Corporations and brands need to take a stand on social issues to earn their trust. Social values are very important to this young generation and they want to support companies who believe in a bigger picture beyond a bottom dollar profit.

Shifting the message and how its delivered in response to Gen Z values will be key to marketing success.  While influencers have been effective with Millennials, Gen Z has started to see through them. Friends and family have the most impact on Gen Z’s purchase decisions. Successful brands will engage the new generation and earn loyalty through authenticity and the right messengers. 

  • Millennials brought tech-savvy and fluid lifestyles to the workforce and Gen Z is expected to combine those traits with the work ethic of Baby Boomers and independence of Gen Xers.

Generation Z as a whole is full of enthusiasm and optimism. They are wise beyond their years, because they have learned from previous generations’ mistakes. They know what they need to do to get ahead, and they aren’t afraid to do the work. They are well-rounded, with their feet on the ground, while still being able to dream about a great future. They have many traditional goals such as secure employment, long term loyalty, a house, a car, and money for retirement, but they also say they plan to strike out on their own and build a future that aligns with their values. 

As Gen Z enters the workforce, they want:

  • A great boss; 
  • Stability;
  • Flexibility to work where and when they want; 
  • An invitation to be part of a team; and 
  • A diverse and inclusive workplace. 

Looking Ahead

Overall, we as a society, have never had a generation born into a technology boom like today’s. We don’t yet know the impact this will have, nor the impact of Donald Trump as the first president most Gen Zers know as they turn 18.  

Though we don’t yet know how this generation will shift our society, their ability to be heard and fearlessness in standing up for what they believe in hint they are a generation to look up to.

stick stock kids

Young millennial pros teaching new tricks to old marketers

izzy lucaI confess that I’m obsessive about how millennials are changing how we all communicate.

In an interesting Advertising Age article last week, MTV senior VP of strategic consumer insights and research Nick Shore outlined lessons marketers can learn from the “digilife” of Gen Y (born 1977-1997).

millennial graphGeneration Y grew up in a digital world. Their older Gen X siblings (born 1965-1976) make up the small bridge generation between Boomers and Gen Y. As Shore notes, “Many Gen-Xers were already in their 20s before email became part of everyday life – and maybe into their 30s before the BlackBerry did.”

My cohort, the Silent Generation, is already out of the workforce (though I have refused to act my age and retire). Email was something revolutionary when it emerged in the 90s. Today, Gen Y considers email the new snail mail, preferring texting and tweeting rather than sending messages to wait in someone’s inbox next to Netflix ads and pleas from Nigerian bankers.

Gen Y adults came of age comfortable with the full array of digital tools. And their use of these tools is reshaping our world and how we communicate.

Their most significant influence is evident as young adults all over the world are using digital tools and social platforms to empower their generation, boost their self-confidence and push innovation even faster.

The Gen Z cohort (born 1998-present) is even more fluent in the digital world. Two weeks ago, one of our grandchildren used an office phone to call her mother. When she was done, she studied the handset and finally asked how she was supposed to end the call. She’d never seen a phone with a cord before and had no idea that putting the handset in the cradle would end the call.

Who knows what the next communication innovation will be? All we know for sure is that what we rely on today will seem as quaint next year as that corded phone.