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Co-operatives Should Tap the Millennials

Millennial, Social Entrepreneur, and author,  John Xavier Francia tells participants at the recent 2018 Co-op Leaders’ Congress in Cagayan de Oro 1) who are the millennials, 2) what it takes to take them on board, and 3) how they can contribute to co-ops.
What do you know about millennials?  Who are we?
 
Let’s get something straight.   Definitions first: millennials are people who reached adulthood in the 21st century, born in the 80s and 90s.  
 
I am 28 years old, and it’s very hard to generalize an entire generation. There are 1.5 million millennials worldwide.  And as we grow older, we will be occupying higher and higher positions in government, business, civil society, and organizations – and cooperatives.  So you can expect that there’s gonna be more and more of us as years go by.
 
Aside from that, I don’t think that anyone can fully grasp what it fully means to be a millennial.  I can’t speak for 1.8 billion people, but I can speak for many like-minded people like myself.
 
What do you think you know about millennials?  Just one word . . . 
 
Millennials are: Driven,  Adventurous,  Confident,  Conscious,  Woke (not naïve),  Tech-savvy,  and Go-getters.  
 
Negative descriptions are: Lazy.  Restless.  Always in a hurry.  Entitled.  Narcissistic – posting selfies online.  Self-absorbed.  Impatient.  
 
We can’t generalize but there is truth in all these adjectives.
 
In the song “The Greatest Love of All” sung by the late Whitney Houston, she said: “ I believe the children are the future.  Teach them well and let them lead the way.  Show them all the beauty they possess inside.  Give them a sense of pride, make it easier.  Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be . . .”  
 
They say we have to take care of our environment . . . for our children.
 
There’s a little bit of despair in that line .  The Baby Boomers and Generation X are subtly saying: Anak nagkamali ako . . . ikaw na ang bahala! (My child, messed up.  You clean it up!)
 
A lot of responsibility is on Millennials’ shoulders!”
 
Baby Boomers were strict parents.  Generation X parents instead told their kids they were “special.”  The millennials were coddled.  
We were told we were “special”. But when we get into the real world, we realize that we are just like everybody else.  We realized the world is harsh and our knowledge is not enough.
 
And this is where some millennials suffer from depression.
 
Then, in social media we see our friends are getting engaged or married.  Social media is all about social status – millennials boast about their beautiful girlfriend, new house or dream car.    
 
There are under-30-millionaires all over Facebook.  Then we ask: “Ako 28 na, ano ang nagawa ko sa buhay?"
 
You Generation X people experience that anxiety only during high school reunions.  We Millennials experience that every day on social media.  
 
There is pressure, that’s why we are in a hurry.  We are constantly proving ourselves. 
 
But millennials are optimistic despite all the issues in environment, politics, gender, race, religion and culture.  We face a world more open.  And we still believe that despite all the disappointments, we can make a difference.
 
In 2016, half of millennials said they can contribute to positive change.  Cooperatives should harness this. 
 
Is it any wonder that today, there are many social enterprises?  The arrival of millennials and social enterprises at the same time is no coincidence.  
 
I know many social entrepreneurs.  
 
A college barkada made their thesis a reality by establishing a social enterprise to help poor women from Payatas to make sandals from recycled materials.  A political activist recently started a company that uses traditional herbs to make tea.  Resettlement communities have planted tanglad.
 
A friend of mine graduated from college and became a cacao trader supplying candy companies in Switzerland.  He is one of the bigger players in the cacao industry – and he created opportunities for farmers in other areas aside from Mindanao.
 
Then finally, my partner and I discovered that Basay, Samar is the biggest producer of banig (sleeping mats).  Production is P50 million annually, but the women were just earning P150 weekly.  There was a lot of injustice.  So we organized the women into 20 associations.
 
Today their income has quadrupled, and we expect to increase that to ten times.
 
Social entrepreneurship has been a vehicle for millennials.
 
How do you harness that belief by millennials that they can change the world?
 
Millennials have the propensity to jump from one job to another.  Many job applicants to Bayan Academy change jobs every 6 to 18 months.
 
Why?  They are easily bored and have commitment issues.  It may have some truth.  But it is because they are looking for something in their work.  
 
Thirteen percent of millennials stay 6 months in a job, 66% stay 2-5 years. Only 25% stay more than 5 years.  
Again, millennials are looking for something deeper in careers.  We value more than just money.  Millennials look for: 1) fair salary (just enough to live a normal life), 2) sense of growth, 3) higher purpose (37%).  
 
This is the key how to retain millennials. 
 
The higher the sense of purpose, it is most likely they will stay longer in a job.
 
88% say they will stay longer than 5 years if they have a variety of experiences and develop professionally.
 
So if your co-op can align your values with that of millennials, giving them something meaningful and contributing positively, they will stay.
 
I have been with Bayan Academy for 7 years, except when I volunteered in Samar for a year.  Bayan Academy has empowered me to be a social entrepreneur and a volunteer.  In fact, they invested in the Samar social enterprise.
 
Is it any wonder why I lasted so long in Bayan Academy?
 
If you can provide them an avenue to achieve their life’s purpose . . . to be in charge once in a while . . the greater the chances of getting their loyalty.  “Teach them well and let them lead the way!”
 
But millennials are so ma-arte!, you say.   I have news for you: In 2020, millennials will comprise half the world’s workforce.  
So you have no choice.  If you don’t find members or employees who are millennials, sooner or later you won’t have members nor employees because eventually everybody will retire.  Your co-op has a time limit.
 
You must accept and compromise with millennials – they will work hard and bring their skills to your organization.  Either you accept millennials or get grumpy as you grow old.
 
 
 
 
 
   
 

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