Gen Z: The New Generation in Social Entrepreneurship
Move over millennials, it’s all about Gen Z now. There’s over 2 billion of them and they’re being heralded as the tech-savvy, empathetic, entrepreneurial and innovative generation. Born from around 1995 onwards, they’ve also been dubbed the first truly global generation, due to their ability to relate to their peers around the world. Think Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, right from childhood.
A McKinsey study of Gen Z captures how technology “has produced a hypercognitive generation very comfortable with collecting and cross-referencing many sources of information and with integrating virtual and offline experiences.” As the lives of this generation unfold, everyone is continually learning how they will impact the social entrepreneurship sector. Here’s three things we know so far.
Gen Z’s are digital natives – the first generation that could have their whole lives recorded on a smartphone. Gen Z’s savvy ability to use technology is unparalleled to any other demographic. They’re likely to have an online presence at a young age which means that online organisations should seriously consider how they engage with them. In terms of social enterprise, with a world consistently evolving to be more tech-heavy, a generation who are fluent and agile in its applications is going to be invaluable.
Google’s ‘It’s Lit’ publication claims that “Gen Z is the most informed, evolved, and empathetic generation of its kind.” This demographic has grown up with real time news and an ability to retrieve any information almost immediately. As a result we’re witnessing a group with a heightened social consciousness and the means of connection to do something about it. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student who started a global youth movement protesting against climate change, is a perfect example of this. She successfully mobilised hundreds of thousands of passionate young people online around the world. For social entrepreneurship, this is incredibly positive as we can hope to see Gen Z leaders who are empathetic and purpose-driven in various sectors of society. For Gen Z customers of social enterprises, they’re likely to gravitate towards those with an impact that personally aligns with them.
In 2016, a NAB report stated that 44% of Gen Z believe that owning their own business is the key to success. Furthermore, FYA’s New Work Order report suggests that this generation will have approximately 17 different careers in their lifetime. With the rise of the gig economy challenging a traditional 9-5 model, it’s easy to see why Gen Z are more open to diverse ways of working. FYA’s report also states that currently 31.5% of young people are unemployed or underemployed, which provides for further incentive for young people to create work how they can. Social enterprises will need to be thinking about work flexibility and meaningful engagement for this generation as a means of retention.
It’s difficult to predict exactly what the future holds for this generation and social entrepreneurship. Gen Z are inheriting some of the greatest challenges that our world has faced, but we can rest assured that they’re going to be more prepared than previous generations. Digital natives from birth, more connected and empathetic, and with an entrepreneurial spirit, this seems to be an excellent combination for social entrepreneurship to thrive. Time will tell.