I’m kind of obsessed with my friends. Not in the, “You always tell me my hair looks nice,” kind of way, but in the “Holy crap, you’re going to change the world and I can’t wait to watch you do it,” kind of way.

It’s safe to say I’m passionate about today’s youth; we’re revolutionary in a way never before imaginable. I know, every generation thinks they’re going to change the world — and they do. They change their world.

But my generation is changing the world. For the first time in history, we can spread a message around the world in a matter of minutes, with a few clicks of a mouse. We have instant access to information and the reach to share it. It’s remarkable how the youth today are uniquely positioned to change the world. There, I said it.

Yes, every kid thinks they know more than their parents, but for the first time in history, we just might. We are at an interesting place in history where the traditional roles of parent and child have been blurred. Traditionally, parents care for their children, and later in life when parents are unable to care for themselves, the roles reverse. But now that switch is happening decades earlier. My generation teaches their parents more than any generation ever has.

Thanks to Twitter, I can tell my mom that there was an earthquake six minutes ago in another country, whereas she would have had to wait for the 6 o’clock news. We teach our parents how to use their Blackberries (maybe iPhones, if they’re cool), program their TVs, and what a Kardashian is — so why don’t we teach them something that can actually save their lives?

I’m particularly interested in youth engagement and cancer. Too few conversations are had with youth about cancer, because we’re not in the highest risk demographic and we’re certainly not the largest donors. To me, this is a huge mistake. No one asks for our help here, but because of our relationship to information and the digital space, we’re the only ones who can create a real change in the cancer space. We can create a paradigm shift, and change cancer from something that we wait to get and pray there’s a cure for, to something we’re actively looking for so we can find it in stage one.

Generation Y has an unprecedented sense of responsibility to teach our parents because we think we know more. And in all honesty, due to the exponential growth in technology, education and sharing via social media that’s occurred in our lifetimes, we just might. FCancer harnesses that sense of arrogance and responsibility to galvanize positive change by inspiring Gen Y to educate our parents, and teach them how to look for cancer instead of just find it. That’s my goal — personally and professionally.

You too can engage today’s youth to change the world. Whether you’re a charity or startup, what you do should make people’s lives easier, better and more enjoyable. Here’s how to recruit Gen Y on your side:

  1. Define your space. You’re never going to please everyone, so don’t waste your time and resources trying. Build for a specific demographic and build remarkably for them. When you try to please the masses, you risk diluting your message or mission to the point that you’re unable to please anyone. Be proud of what you do, and it’ll show.
  2. Be completely authentic. I’m often asked how we were able to build a “youth brand” so well. The answer is simple: we’re committed to authenticity. We build and create to fill needs and help people. As long as you’re being honest and truthful, the demographic that you resonate with will find you. Besides, our generation knows how to find a fraudulent needle in a digital haystack, so stay true to your space and the audience you intend to serve.
  3. Ask for action. Having people see what you do is cool, but it won’t get you far enough. Particularly in the pro-social world, what you really want is action. So how do you go from online impressions to real-life action? Ask! If your campaign, movement or organization doesn’t have a call to action, how can you expect a response? Impressions are wasted without a call to action. Even if it’s a simple “Read More” or “Go Here,” you need to have a goal with every interaction.

To those who say we’re the lazy generation, the entitled generation, the arrogant generation, you’re right. We’re “lazy” because we work smarter. We’re entitled because this is the world that we’re changing; it’s the world that’s being left to us. We’re the arrogant “kids” who will change the world for the better, who will start fixing the world instead of just breaking it, who will streamline banalities, and who will exploit joy.

Yael Cohen founded FCancer in 2009 after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to make a real impact within the cancer space, Yael created an organization that activates Generation Y to engage with their parents about early detection, and teaches supporters how to look for cancer instead of just find it.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

photo by: TheeErin