Generation Change: A New Era of Advocacy
“Calling all Gen Z activists!“
That’s how a TikTok video garnering over 40K views started. If you haven’t heard, Gen Z is supposed to save us all. In a world where many of the biggest issues seem insurmountable, it could be easy for this new generation to feel overwhelmed and powerless. But with their tech-savvy, unconventional approaches to advocacy, Gen Z activists have already achieved impressive victories in areas where traditional activism has fallen short.
A New Approach to Advocacy
In a post-Roe world with a looming climate apocalypse, what’s Gen Z to do? Take action. But not the go-to, sign-a-petition ‘slacktivist’ actions that we’ve grown accustomed to (and that unfortunately everyone has started to ignore). Instead, Gen-Z led efforts have been able to grab headlines and achieve victories in areas where established efforts have failed. They’re pushing activism in new directions, and they’re just getting started.
A few of Gen Z’s major advocacy wins:
- Raising $2.3M for abortion funds across the U.S.
- Submitting 120k+ spam messages to thwart a Republican effort to stop student debt relief
- Taking down a Texas anti-abortion tip line with 30k fake submissions
- Pushing Yelp to add a prominent disclaimer to anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers
Why have their efforts been so successful?
#1 Much of Gen Z (defined as those ages 8-23) can’t vote. Because voting is often touted as the most effective way to create change, Gen Z has been forced to find unconventional ways of participating in civic engagement.
#2 Gen Z believes the world is on fire, according to a research study by EY. They are motivated to push the boundaries and break the rules (e.g. skip school to attend a climate strike) in a way that many previous generations have shied away from.
#3 Gen Z has chosen TikTok as their platform of choice, and the more savvy TikTok users amongst them are capable of pushing out information to millions of people at a faster pace than traditional media. Altogether, the influencers of Gen-Z for Change have a greater reach than Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC combined.
#4 Their efforts are creative and unexpected. No one predicted thousands of Gen Z youth would gang together to falsely register for a Trump rally – ultimately leaving the stadium half empty and morale low. This kind of creative thinking has helped them to catch established organizations off guard and achieve impressive victories.
#5 They’re young and underestimated. Somehow conservative extremists being outwitted by teenagers makes the victories more headline worthy – garnering them even more resources and support. Those meddling kids!
Where’s Gen Z activism headed?
There are a few directions I’m predicting we will see in the near future:
#1 The rise of coalition building. Several prominent Gen Z groups have formed, both formally and informally, around the country in recent years. Their power will grow exponentially when they team up and coordinate around important causes.
#2 Strikes, boycotts, and other direct actions. Signing a petition is falling out of fashion and we’ll see a greater effort to directly engage government officials, corporations, and other decision makers through strikes, boycotts, and direct actions such as email, phone, and tweet campaigns. Rally Starter is a new platform for creating and managing direct actions, and several Rally Starter campaigns have attracted attention including a successful campaign to cancel an anti-LGBTQ+ speaking event associated with a Catholic high school.
#3 A push for progressive workplaces. As Gen Z enters the workplace, employers will be expected to publicly speak up and take a stance on important issues ranging from abortion rights to gun violence. A generic statement will no longer be good enough – instead, employers will be pushed to put their money where their mouth is by making donations to appropriate causes as well as reviewing their workplace policies, evaluating their vendors, partners and supply chains, and potentially examining their own complicity.
#4 A resilient right. While the majority of Gen Z leans liberal and votes blue, there is a right-wing contingency that is equally passionate and tech savvy. Expect them to observe the successes of their progressive peers, and ultimately use those tactics against them. We may also see more voices such as Andrew Tate rise to prominence amongst young right-wing activists and can expect those voices to have a significant impact on the cultural and political landscape in the upcoming years.
#5 Ultimately, a shift in power and dialogue. Gen Z is already successfully running for office and building companies. Mainstream Gen Z values such as promoting diversity and advocating for mental health awareness will become cemented in the workplaces and social norms they create. These conversations will also deepen into discourses on intersectionality, as our society becomes increasingly aware of the ways in which different forms of discrimination and oppression intersect and compound each other.
Overall, Gen Z activism is driven by an eagerness to think outside the box, challenge established norms, and create real impact. As this generation continues to come of age and take on leadership roles in society, we can expect their influence and ability to effect change to continue to increase. This means that the future of advocacy organizations will depend on successfully learning from and engaging the support of this new generation. At Media Cause and Rally Starter, we are committed to staying up to date on the latest advocacy happenings and leveraging our expertise in creative thinking to create successful campaigns.
*Note: The use of the term Gen-Z is not intended to promote ageism in any form. This article only serves to highlight some of the achievements of a specific age demographic.