I have recently read an interesting article written for those who manage and develop 'professional' and other associations and societies in Queensland, Australia. The main thrust of the article is that, unless an association or society adapts, makes its activities and its aims attractive and accessible through all the modern media, electronic and otherwise, it will slowly wither as it faces increasing competition from others and perhaps even new rival organisations. The author points out that the majority of current 'associations, societies and institutes/institutions' are run and directed by Baby Boomers and now face the challenge of trying to attract and engage new members from Generation Y.
Generation Y is, according to the author, savvy, critical and demand open access to information. They are the 'connected' generation and expect organisations to engage them through the new media.
Reading it made me realise just how far apart my generation is from Generation X, never mind Generation Y! As my eldest daughter, the Postulant, pointed out to me, I fall on the borderline between the 'Silent Generation' made up of the pre-war and wartime kids with the immediate post-war children, and the Baby Boomers. Mine is the generation that was always too young to be experienced, and then to old to be allowed to take the senior positions and leadership of anything. We watched as the War Leaders were displaced by the Sixties Hippy revolution, and found ourselves sidelined by the new group. The Baby Boomers knew exactly what they wanted, or appeared to, so while the likes of myself struggled to make our way into careers and to raise ourselves and our families to meet the challenges of the societies we found ourselves in, the Baby Boomers grabbed the reins and set out to change the world.
While they were at it, the technological revolution took off and changed the game rules for everyone, but, if you are already in the driving seat, it is easy to remain there. As long as you don't wreck the ship, of course. The Baby Boomer generation were 'joiners.' They joined societies, associations, movements and worked furiously to get control and then change them. Where my generation accepted the world as it was, found a niche and then worked hard to climb the often slippery slopes of careers, to counter political interference and sometimes outright nepotism and the odd 'glass ceiling' it often seemed the Baby Boomers were taking a sledgehammer to everything. An example I have often had to confront is a simple one. Ask any church committee (usually dominated by Baby Boomers) how we could best engage with young people. You are immediately swamped with proposals for doing away with formal liturgy, scrapping organs and choirs and bringing in sing-a-long choruses round a guitar.
The tragedy is that the proposers can never see that, while this may have appealed to them as teenagers, today's teenagers may (and often do) have completely different tastes and desires. This difference is now coming home to bite - and with a vengeance. As the Baby Boomers reach retirement, the organisations they have dominated for so long are struggling to attract and engage new members from Generation Y. According to the article I read, it is because the current 'leaders' of our associations, societies, etc., simply aren't technically 'savvy' enough, but I'd suggest it is also because they have successfully alienated Generation X. I suspect, the new kids on the block have spotted the control freak approach of many Baby Boomers and want no part of it.
It does seem a shame that many Generation X folk find themselves caught in the same situation as my generation. On the one hand being told by Baby Boomers that they are not yet experienced enough, and on the other by their own offspring of Generation Y, that they are too old or not savvy enough with technology. There has always been, it seems to me, a 'generation gap' but the speed of technological development, especially in communications media, has turned it into a chasm for many. Generation Y has never known an age without mobile telephones and the internet. Generation X may have vague memories of telephones being tied to landlines and all mail being delivered through the letter box at the door, the Baby Boomers may recall the 'telex' machines that gradually replaced telegrams, but none of them are likely to have lived in a house without television, radio, or at least one telephone.
There is one more trick to all of this as well, and that is that the 'boundaries' between the Generations may be different in different countries and may be much wider in some than in others. One thing this member of the 'Silent Generation' is sure of is this - the struggle for control of all manner of things and for the hearts and minds of the next generation is going to be fascinating, probably unpleasant at times and very, very hard on the losers ...
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