Time to start today’s blog post with something pretty jarring: a recent study found that 52% of millenials in the United States believe they can make a global difference in their lifetime. More than half of our well-intentioned, quick tweeting, and Kickstarter-backing college students believe that they will change the world.
Now, I’m an optimist. I’ve worked with hundreds of college students in my short, five-year career, most of whom have dedicated a large portion of their lives to service. But I just don’t agree with the statement that over half of them will make a global difference, not if they continue to act impulsively and in need of immediate results. Through social media, I’ve seen instant supportive responses to countless natural disasters and national crises (Katrina, Sandy, Haiyan… even Newtown and Boston, to an extent) and I appreciate how quick young people are taking action. However, our generation needs to understand that making a global difference is a process. It is time consuming, frustrating, and often displays little to no visible results. It’s collaborative, not competitive. It requires discussion and reflection as well as taking action. No one creates social change by trying to be the first one to do so.
Instead of breaking the bad news by setting up thousands of one-on-one advising meetings, I decided last year to create a program based on reframing the idea of what social change means and how students can incorporate “changemaking” into their everyday lives. It’s called Rutgers Changemakers Week. Simply put, the week is designed to show college students how they can make change a part of their daily life through workshops with social entrepreneurs, informational fairs with community partners, service activities, and making connections with local changemakers. It incorporates reflection and a longterm project called the Changemaker Challenge, where students and groups can put their ideas into action in an eight-week period. This provides students with an outlet to channel their excitement but also putting into perspective that creating social change is hard, and that a global change won’t happen simply by signing an online petition or sharing a Facebook status.
In celebration of Rutgers Changemakers Week, I am going to do what does not happen often on Twitter: focus on the students. In the month of February, I will be highlighting students who are making small, thoughtful changes in their local communities that can one day lead to a bigger difference. You can follow along with the conversation with our program’s hashtag, #RUChangemakers. I’ll be posting all month long to feature the great things Rutgers students are doing to start the conversation around social change.