This blog is part of our “Engaging young people in philanthropy” series, as part of our International Youth Day content. Learn more about Matson and read other articles in the series to hear more about his perspective on transforming philanthropy.

“Moving from ego-system to eco-system.”

Otto Scharmer

In these moments, more than ever, our society is looking for transformation. We need to consider young people’s participation in this decision-making journey.

We need collective action from the tri-sector, including public, private, and philanthropy sectors to make this path a reality. In this blog series, I will share with you a possible pathway I see for effective transformation. 

By the end of this series, I hope you will be able to imagine what it looks like to have an intergenerational collaboration on a project. 

Let’s dive in.

What’s the problem? The blame cycle

There is a disconnect between the younger and older generations. Right now, we assume that with age comes knowledge, and this often dismisses and undervalues the contributions of young people. 

This intergenerational disconnect is getting in the way of transformation in our society.

You can see the stall of transformation in the philanthropy sector, where leaders are currently wrestling with a shared understanding of how to embed equity and inclusion into impact investing, endowments, disbursement quotas, and other pressing challenges.

Shockingly, philanthropy is looking to the government rather than seeing that they have the tools to address the systemic issues such as inequality, climate change, and ensuring safe community and covid recovery plans. 

I call this finger-pointing, the ‘blame cycle’.- The idea that someone else or another sector needs to create the change. 

So this is how the cycle works: the private sector relies on the government for a change, and the government relies on the community sector and private sector. This cycle stalls action and keeps our society yearning for change.

So, who has the power to transform our society?

Is it any one sector or individual or is it our collective responsibility? What power and role do young people have as part of this collective? What is the risk if we embark into this collective responsibility without engaging young people in decision-making?

Is it impossible to answer these questions? I don’t think so.

We need an intergenerational approach with an intersectional lens to break the blame cycle and bring the answers you and I have been longing for.

Wait a minute.

With my time in philanthropy, I have learned that we have the tools within our sector to bring about a sustainable transformation. 

The solution is right here to activate the masterpiece within young people. 

We need to harness the skills of young people to transform the way philanthropy thinks and to challenge the longstanding assumptions that maintain the status quo. 

Andrew Chunilall, CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, would say, “it’s a psychological change that is needed.” We need to shift our mindset for us to embark into transformation. 

To make this psychological change, we need to shift power, increase intergenerational collaboration, and redefine leadership. 

Leadership is not about management. 

Leadership is not about problem-solving either.

Leadership is about getting people engaged, including intelligent, and committed young people. We need all sectors, and all citizens to drive the needed social change collectively. 

We need systems leadership.

Systems leadership is about collective action.

The collective action of which includes young people because they have a broad range of skills that can transform our sector since their innovative skills are valuable to the betterment of our society. 

Can we activate young people’s skills and embark into an intergenerational collaboration to tackle the current systemic problems facing our society?

Want to continue to explore how the pandemic has impacted young people and how we can engage them in building for the future, check out the blogs coming out this week.

Matson Kitamisi is the Transformation Coordinator at CFC. Working at CFC, has helped him understand both the challenges of our current philanthropy system and the strengths that young people can bring to transformation. He believes in an ecosystem problem-solving approach and intergenerational lens in transforming our society.