Caffeinated Commentary Rewind: The Millennial Challenge

A look back at January's Caffeinated Commentary
Blog Post
Feb. 1, 2018

With three months, nearly 30 Caffeinated Commentary posts, and a substantial number of cross-posted publications, the DM and its authors - our ten 2017-18 Millennial Public Policy Fellows - have been busy!

In addition to pursuing a focused policy research agenda and working within a New America Policy Program by providing analytical support, the Millennial Fellows use the DM - also affectionately called Direct Message - as a platform to provide candid, personal, and to-the-point analysis on “policy and cultural issues outside of the traditional think tank and blogging boundaries.”

Through our themed monthly Caffeinated Commentary series, our fellows have not only written pieces unpacking how their personal perspectives influence their policy interests, but also have explored the intersections of home, community, and policy. And most recently, they each made the case for why anyone, but especially their fellow millennials, should care about the specific policy interests they’re passionate about.

While all of the January Caffeinated Commentary pieces act as a call to action, engagement, and education for both policymakers and the fellows’ generational peers, I want to walk through each piece and the generational policy challenges they interrogate.

Our Cybersecurity Initiative, Open Technology Institute, and Resource Security Millennials Fellows chose to focus on policies that are currently out-of-step with current conditions, including those that have yet to account for changes in technology, the shape of the market, and the very nature of the environment.

Dillon Roseen identifies a looming paradox about millennials and technology. He argues that millennials are both the most cyber secure and insecure generation in Crap, I Forgot to Go Incognito! - a piece that first appeared in the widely read New America Weekly.

The need for new norms and tools to achieve informational accountability is at the center of  Spandana Singh's’ piece “I Couldn't Spot a Fake News Story, Can You?” For Spandana, the responsibility of identifying and actively challenging fake news falls not only on producers of digital content, but also its consumers.

Though policy disconnects have slowed responses to the reality of climate change, Braxton Bridgers considers in “Millennials and the Climate Change Dilemma” how his generation is already bucking stereotypes to meet the challenges of climate change.

In a related vein, Becky Chao writes that millennials, as the largest generation in today’s labor force, have a key stake in understanding how shifts in market regulation are impacting economic prospects. Her argument about “Why Millennials Should Care about Antitrust” makes a strong case for a vigorous antitrust policy agenda.

Another part of the millennial challenge is informational. As this rising generational cohort makes its mark on society, in the workforce and economy, and as a political force, there is an imperative to stay informed, to revisit assumptions and histories, and create new pathways for engagement. The pieces by our Public Interest Technology, Education Policy Program, Political Reform, Family-Centered Social Policy, and Better Life Lab Millennial Fellows all hit on this informational thread.

In “A Call for Millennials to Re-learn History,” Emma Coleman provides five ways for millennials, especially white millennials, to tap the resources of our country’s complex past to educate themselves and responsibly inform and create policy.

Jenny Muñiz shows us in “What Dreamers can Teach Us About Civic Education” how there are lessons to be learned by following the lead of the Dreamers, who are using all the tools of civic engagement.

Highlighting the ways in which increased partisanship undermines political participation by creating significant obstacles to our democratic traditions in the process, Christian Hosam makes a related argument in “The Partisan Trap.”

There are some advantages in using a generational lens to look at policy issues, including building momentum to pursue a criminal justice reform agenda. As Myacah Sampson advises in “Why We Incarcerate,” this approach for undertaking meaningful changes to the criminal justice system, which includes daring to center the communities our elders have ignored, proves incredibly useful.

Finally, Roselyn Miller offers a dose of healthy skepticism to the types of generational generalizations that obfuscate rather than illuminate. Her piece, “Millennials are Killing the Millennials Industry” shows how hard-to-reach populations aren’t that hard to reach at all; they simply require different skill sets and a bit more thoughtful engagement.

The diversity reflected in these pieces is also a central characteristic of the millennial generation, and likely will be a source of ideas and inspiration necessary to meet the challenges of our times. If you continue to check in on the DM, I believe you’ll be rewarded with a constructive public conversation guide and new perspectives on our shared public tasks of promoting policy insights and solutions to meet the moment.

I can’t wait for to you read what else our Millennial Fellows have to say.

Reid Cramer signature

Reid Cramer, Ph.D.

Director, Millennials Initiative