In the world of civic engagement, the product list is ideas and the sellers are many, for the Millennial generation. But the question remains the same: what do they like? What will motivate them to buy the thing the latently like. Ideas, much like preferences for different products, lay latent until realized, most often by an outside adjuvant. For instance, a consumer is well
acquainted with their own personal values. The appreciation of methods which sustain the Earth, for example, is a value system that is observable and recognizable on the surface. The customer would obviously be best served if he is able to purchase products in alignment with his surface value system. This congruence is hampered though. Hampered by a barrage of a options, by hard to find or missing product information, or by a general lack of knowledge of how to navigate these pathways to arrive at clarity.
Relative to the competitive marketing of the business world, the marketplace of ideas being sold to our generation is much the same. A barrage of options, hard to find or missing information, and a general lack of knowledge of how to navigate these pathways to arrive at clarity. This is why I have continued to work with Campus Election Engagement Project to further civic engagement on America’s college campuses. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, as all who have already entered the post-college-adult world are well aware. As we hustle and bustle to survive in post-modernity our days as Americans fastly move by, soundtracked by 24 hour news cycles. How difficult it is, these days, for people of all generations to find unbiased, clear answers to relevant questions about policy stances of prospective candidates to office. At CEEP, we are working hard to make that more accessible to young voters on college campuses.
On the ground in 2013 working as an intern for our project, I would hear time and time again, the same answer. When I asked students why they were hesitant to vote, the reply would repeat itself. “I don’t know enough about the candidate.” “I want to vote but I’m not sure what is going on and I don’t want to make an irresponsible decision.” Millennials, are oft argued to be reckless; while looked through one eye as the hope of the future, we are viewed through the other as the recipe for the downfall of civilization. I may be using a bit of hyperbole here, but the point remains true. Millennials while viewed as being reckless desperately desire to make the responsible choice. Young voters want to buy the product that is in congruence with their value system. The problem, again, is the lack of clarity.
By creating and distributing non-partisan voter guides, Campus Election Engagement Project and its stipended student fellows are able to provide hard to find or missing information and offer an alternative to surfing the multitude of news networks and talking heads in order to try to sift out simple policy stances. Most young people want to participate in our democracy, this beautiful marketplace of ideas. Most of the time all that they need is to be asked to buy in and to be given the confidence of an informed buyer. Time after time, when students took a nonpartisan voter guide in hand, they would express their gratitude at the service provided. They were so happy to receive a tool to cut through the spin. Something simple, to the point, and empowering. Let’s continue to serve the Millennial generation by granting them the currency of knowledge.