Generation X and Government
Governing.com has published an article today about how Generation X is now the generation shaping government. It’s an excellent article that’s been thoroughly researched, but compressed for quick readability. Here are a few chief takeaways:
- Public engagement has been broken and unpleasant for a long time.
- Public engagement is increasing at precisely the same time Generation X is aging into leadership positions.
- Public hearings are drawing more people and those people are a younger demographic; largely Gen Xers between 35 and 45.
- Generation X managers consider transparency key to citizen engagement
- Have you heard the term civic technology? Do you know about Code for America, MindMixer, Peak Democracy and Nextdoor? The article only briefly mentions them, but anyone working in or with local governments should know about these sites. I just joined Nextdoor for my neighborhood.
- Generation X has struggled as an afterthought. Traditional structures didn’t work for us for lots of reasons. We disengaged from them, but through social networks we have re-engaged.
- Increased citizen engagement is going to create monumental challenges for local governments including how on earth are they going to manage so many feedback loops?
Shifting Power Structures Among Generations
Unfortunately, many employers (nonprofit, government and corporate) continue to crack-down on employees for accessing social networks during business hours. They have failed to recognize the potential interface between civic technology and their employees’ networks. Those organizations who have not are now light years ahead of those who have.
At any rate, internet usage of employees should be monitored to some extent, but access for the brain trust at all levels should be liberal. (Brain trust is hence open to interpretation.) In fact, social networking is now a prerequisite of conversation-monitoring and consensus building, all of which should lead to a refined policy-making process.
Traditional power structures, managed and controlled by the old guard are challenged by all these shifts. But, I see no reason why older generations — Baby Boomers and Silent — can’t be part of this new world order; many already are. My 15-year-old daughter thinks Facebook is for old people! Clearly, social networking is not merely the playground of Gen Y (the Millennial Generation) or the pastime of Generation X. These networks have already revolutionized the way government does business. This is something to celebrate. It is a gift to freedom — the ocean on which the ships of democracy rise.