Guest blogger Alexandra Ursu: The world is in Millennials’ hands

I am a 20-year-old Millennial who wants to change the world. Despite all the critics and the bad press we receive, our voices matter – and I can prove it. Individuals, who are part of a movement, striving for change for a more sustainable world, surround me. What is making me so positive about our impact on the future of Planet Earth? Towards the end of last year, along with a team of nine other students, I attended the World Business Council for Sustainable Development meeting in Mexico City, a revealing experience that has demonstrated that forward-thinkers recognize our importance in driving change.

Why are people so reticent when it comes to our generation? Some may say it is because of our narcissistic behavior, placing us in the centre of our own universe, without considering the impact of our actions on others. According to a recent research conducted by Red Brick, 80% of hiring managers claim that their Millennial employees display narcissistic tendencies. Other people may say our lives are driven by technology, spending most of our time with our eyes stuck to devices with aspirations revolving around the number of likes we get or followers we have. I must be honest and admit that, for the majority of us, being popular on social media boosts our confidence. But is anybody thinking about the motives behind this seemingly superficial behaviour? Millennials are constantly facing criticism without being allowed to show our true colours. Therefore, online validation is the last resort we have – our last hope to be noticed and appreciated. You may consider it a scream for attention!

I strongly believe that, while making such bold statements, older generations forget one essential detail: their own children or grandchildren represent Millennials. Therefore, part of our behaviour has been directly influenced and shaped by them and the family environment we grew up in. Some parents are trying to get to grips with Millennial behaviour to show support to their children. It is no secret that even older generations now use all sorts of social platforms as a daily routine – so how fair is it to accuse the Millennials of something that the majority of individuals do? Did you know that, according to CNN Exit Polls, 55% of Millennials voted for Hilary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election? Most would be quick to blame the Millenials…

The conflict between generations has escalated quickly in the past few years. But the gap between generations has its roots well anchored in the past. “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect their elders and love talking instead of exercise”. It may sound like a perfect description of a Millennial in the eyes of a sceptic, but it is in fact Socrates’ view dating back to the 4th Century AD.

 ‘Millennials are often portrayed as apathetic, disinterested, tuned out and selfish. None of those adjectives describe the Millennials I’ve been privileged to meet and work with’ – quite a powerful quote from Chelsea Clinton, but would you agree? I want to prove her right using the power of example.

Last year, I was invited to apply to take part in a fieldtrip module that gave the students the opportunity to work as session hosts at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) meeting in Mexico City. WBCSD is a not-for-profit CEO-led organisation, uniting over 200 world-leading businesses to try to accelerate us all to a more sustainable world. This year’s meeting was concentrated on showcasing good examples of business practices to help us get closer to realizing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting brought together some of the most important companies in the world, offering them the perfect environment to collaborate and share ideas in order to find the most efficient solutions to the key issues they incur in their effort of delivering more sustainable business practices.

What drove me to apply for this unique opportunity? The desire of bringing actual change to the world we all live in, the need to make my voice heard, a passion for demonstrating that, despite the negative image that has artificially been created of the Millennials, my generation is still willing to play an active role in driving change for the future of humanity. With hopes and dreams, I submitted my application and, one month later, I was informed that I was one of the 10 students from Lancaster selected for the role. The competition was tough, with over 400 students invited to apply. Each one of the selected students is the living proof that the Millennials are not just a group of people thinking about money and luxury, but want to learn how they can drive change into the world.

I worked with passionate individuals and most importantly, as a team; we have demonstrated that there is still something good to say about our generation. How can we be called selfish when we are dedicating our time into helping those in need? For example, I have always been interested in sustainability and as Chief Information Officer for UNICEF Lancaster University; I had the chance to see the passion in the eyes of 2,000 University students who were giving up their free time to organize different fund-raising events for children in need. There is no other motivation for those volunteers apart from the desire to give something back to Society, playing a role in offering a chance to feed or educate those who are not as fortunate as them. Our latest event, Fast24, is a manifesto against hunger, and 20 volunteers will be living without food for 24 hours in order to raise awareness of the situation of millions of people in low developed areas of the world, empathizing with them and encouraging others to donate so that the money will be used to feed children in those areas. And I am not the only member of our Student Ambassadors Team concerned about the wellbeing of others. Other colleagues have sacrificed their summer in order to volunteer to teach English to African children. Therefore, the first thing that my WBCSD experience has reinforced is that the Millennials do have souls and that we are capable of making a difference. This has been proved by the interest the attendants had in hearing what we, the students, were thinking about some of the most pressing environmental problems to date, offering us the opportunity to play an active role in the debates and workshops delivered.

The other thing that I have learned is that our opinion does really matter for those who are willing to listen. During the days spent at the WBCSD Council Meeting in Mexico City, our team was involved in the majority of sessions and workshops delivered by dignitaries and World Business Leaders. I cannot find words to describe how revealing and inspirational the overall WBCSD Council Meeting experience was for us. There is no better environment for a Millennial to realize their importance on the face of Earth, as delegates recognized our power in changing the course of Mother Earth for the better. Their openness to our ideas, their willingness to hear our opinion on the issues discussed, the incredible support for our work and the overwhelming encouragement they expressed for us in order to spread our wings and to change the world for the better are my dose of inspiration for a lifetime.

Therefore, the WBCSD experience showed 10 Millennials feeling Society’s pressure and blame on their shoulders that this generation is still powerful for all the right reasons. Under the guidance and support of older generations, with a new vibe and innovatory visions, the Millennials can change something. We grew up in a world dominated by pollution and waste, which means that we are aware of the problems our planet is facing in terms of sustainability. With dedication and hard work, we are willing to find solutions, we are willing to fight for a cleaner world, we are willing to inspire, and we are willing to fight for good.