Generations of Global Tech Activists Talk: Comment on the Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog

On the Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog, a dialog has begun in response to TechSoup Global co-CEO Daniel Ben-Horin’s “Tension and Possibility: The New Dynamics of Change.” 

The post

Ben-Horin reviews his conversations at Ashoka’s Change Nation Summit in Dublin, with U.S. Ambassadors in Eastern Europe, with the Aga Khan Development Network’s Nick McKinlay and with grassroots technology activists in Serbia, Bosnia, and Romania.  He writes that “…an overarching theme emerged from my trip, a theme of possibility and tension … The new constituency of “change makers” (to use Ashoka’s term) doesn’t feel like it needs the previous generation …they will insist on autonomy, and they are impatient. If we lose them, the battle is lost. If we listen to them, we might have a chance.”

Excerpts from responses so far

Your closing point aligns to the growing demographic conflict around age that we are observing, at least here in the US.  There appears to be a growing tension between the Baby Boomer generation that is in large part responsible for our current state of affairs and the young people coming out of schools …They are our hope and our challenge… – Mario Morino, Venture Philanthropy Partners

I think we see and feel a tension between the two not because there is an inherent dichotomy and tension between scrappy and strategic, but rather because we haven’t figured out how scrappy becomes a critical component to a healthy and robust strategic vision... –Todd Khozein, Random Hacks of Kindness

The solution is right there in your words scrappy AND strategic  … scrappy comes out of enthusiasm and energy invested in change, strategic must come out of alignment of actions with values (rather than objectives) … it’s a great time for this dialogue: the baby boomer generation has accumulated a lot of resources and is also at a point where it’s asking (again) the big questions and addressing the big issues  … I’m very interested if you believe the “strategic” generation would be willing to take the “risk” of driving change together with us, by values rather than objectives? – Vlad Atanasiu, Resource Center for Student Organizations (Romania)

The baby-boomers-in-power that I know would no more abandon their objectives-based orientation than they would fly to Jupiter … the ‘end of ideology’ has transmuted into a kind of technocratic approach to fixing the world. But that’s not what drives the current baby boomers … Today feels a lot to me like 1963 or so, when the social ground had just started to shift, as distinct from 1970, when the outlines of the shift had become a lot clearer.  – Daniel Ben-Horin, TechSoup Global

Speaking as a baby boomer myself —I think we no longer can consider ourselves to have wisdom because we have experience.  We need to switch to a “co-learning” role with younger leaders … How do you lead a nonprofit in a way that accommodates both styles of working - and know when to switch between the two?   — Beth Kanter, blogger and social media pioneer

Youth may be driving an outright hack on our concept of civil society … enhanced by the scalable and countable nature of tech … but it may not be meant to scale, it may not be forever, and they may simply not care about things like ‘sustainability’… Perhaps we can be strategically scrappy and engaging by democratizing our process and letting youth hack our space freely?  - Chris Worman, TechSoup Romania

There is much excitement and interest in measuring/tracking/using data in real time to shift course on emergent, collaborative, and innovative efforts.  At the same time, we see a huge emphasis and need to “scale what works” in the field which implies rigorous measurement that PROVES what works.  It’s completely possible to do both within the same organization… – Victoria Vrana, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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