“Young people have a greater ability to enact change than ever before,” said President Bill Clinton at his fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) meeting in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. “CGI U is a global network for young people seeking to use the resources at their disposal to make a difference in the world.”
And this is no exaggeration. With more than 1,000 energetic and highly-motivated students representing all 50 states, 82 countries, and more than 300 universities, CGI U 2012 meeting gathered some of the best and brightest among youth and millennials to discuss pressing issues facing the world. Lending itself to the powerful brand that is the Clinton Global Initiative – whose annual meeting in September touts high-level engagement from foreign government, business and the entertainment community alike – CGI U channels young innovators and leaders to help cultivate a new wave of social entrepreneurs.
Why millennials? Aside from the cliché that “the youth are our leaders of tomorrow” (which, might I add, you’ve probably heard every speaker say to you since you were in grade school), millennials matter in an increasingly globalized and connected age. The power of social media has changed and amplified the way millennials can influence, rally, and advocate for an array of issues. Moreover, millennials are more prone than other generations to be collaborative, worldly and global-minded, and social good-conscience. They are also more likely than older counterparts to work for and buy products from companies that have social good in their corporate DNA.
At this year’s CGI U 2012 meeting, students along with distinguished speakers and moderators, examined critical topics such as the transformation of the Middle East, the global economic crisis and its impact on young people, recruiting and retaining teachers, the famine in the Horn of Africa, cost-effective campus sustainability programs, and the youth movement for global health.
For example, University of Pennsylvania student Makhosonkhe Nsibandze made a pledge to design an entry strategy for creating a community center in his native country of Swaziland that will serve as a forum for Swazi youth to tackle the discrimination and exclusion of LGBTQ and other underserved communities. The Bantu Project will serve as a safe haven for local gay and lesbian students, while paving the way for social change within the African country.
Or another example — one of my favorites — three students from Transylvania University committed to converting waste material from local breweries into clean energy for the university. And you thought college students were only interested in alcohol for ‘late-night socializing’? Guess again. The “Brew-U” project aims to reduce the school’s reliance on coal and make it more energy efficient.
In total, 915 new commitments were made at this year’s annual meeting, which brings us to nearly 4,000 commitments since the first meeting in 2008. The Clinton Global Initiative is tapping into the invaluable resources of millennials…are you?