Generation Y has much to offer Rotary, says McQueen
Michael McQueen, author and founder of Nexgen, spoke at the second plenary session Monday 23 May. He sat down for an interview with RI News. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
Michael McQueen, who spoke at the second plenary session of the RI Convention, is a social researcher and best-selling author of two books on bridging the generation gap. As a leading authority on youth trends, he is regularly featured on TV and radio programs. McQueen sat down with RI News in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, to talk about how Rotary can best connect with Generation Y.
Your book The 'New’ Rules of Engagement looks at what drives and defines Generation Y. How do you define this generation?
McQueen: Well, numerically, Generation Y is between the ages of 12 and 30. But culturally, they are globally minded. Through online social interactions, many members of this generation have networks of friends around the globe who are only a click away.
RI News: How can Rotarians best reach out to Generation Y?
McQueen: Start small. Rather than approaching young people by asking them to join, engage them with short-term projects. Build relationships with them so they get a sense of Rotary’s DNA. When Rotarians are asked about Rotary by younger people, often they answer with how Rotary works -- the rules, traditions, and rituals. Rotarians need to explain the “why” of Rotary. Generation Y is outcome focused. Have a clear answer on why the outcome of projects is important.
RI News: What kinds of benefits can Generation Y bring to Rotary?
McQueen: The next generation represents an enormously exciting opportunity for Rotary. There are three reasons why. One, having grown up with the Internet and being so interconnected, young people are acutely aware of global issues and concerns. They believe that such a small world really can be changed. Two, they are socially engaged. Recent studies have shown that 70 percent of Generation Y actively volunteers on a weekly basis. Not only does this group feel it can make a difference, it genuinely wants to. Three, they are ambitious. Young people today are desperate to get ahead in their careers and are looking for mentors and networking opportunities.
RI News: Generation Y seems to be very busy, perhaps busier than previous generations. How can Rotary overcome this challenge?
McQueen: Yes, the younger generation has been raised in a faster-paced world. The demands on their time, energy, and attention are enormous. But when young people say they don’t have time for Rotary, they are stating a priority rather than a fact. Young people simply perceive Rotary as a lot of restrictive rules and time-consuming work. Rotary’s challenge is to communicate to young people the compelling reasons and benefits of joining Rotary.
RI News: What about new technology? How should Rotary be using technology to its advantage to attract young people?
McQueen: Use more multimedia. For instance, nobody under the age of 35 really knows what polio is. Their parents do, and they can be told how crippling this deadly disease is. But that only means young people will be intellectually pulled in, not emotionally. Use video to educate them about polio. Also, more clubs should have websites that engage young people.
RI News: Are you considering becoming a Rotarian?
McQueen: Funny you ask. I officially joined Rotary on 28 February. But there are so many passionate, engaged, and inspired young people around the world right now who are in the right position to join.