Music and lyrics hold the power to resonate with the masses and influence positive change, especially as we commemorate International Youth Day 2023 on Saturday, August 12.
As I sat down to pen an article honoring this special occasion, it was these lyrics that came to mind: “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” Imagining Whitney Houston’s mesmerizing rendition in my mind, I think she got the message mostly correct. Children are the future, but just as much as we need to teach them, we need to listen to and collaborate with them.
According to the United Nations (UN), 1.8 billion people are between 10 and 24 years old, the largest youth generation to date. Half of the people on earth are younger than 30 years old. As they will soon be inheriting this world from us, it will be their voices we hear on the public stage — not those who currently fill our boardrooms or public offices. Have we done all that we can to prepare them for the near-impossible task that lies ahead? To celebrate the next generation stepping up, in my true Millennial style, I have compiled a special Spotify playlist to inspire us to work better together.
Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift
Repeat after me: “It’s me, hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.” Swift probably wasn’t writing about economic equity or single use plastics when she wrote this 2022 classic. But the only way to create sustainable development solutions to the world’s most pressing issues is to admit that you, yes you, are part of the problem.
For every global goal, there is a role you can play. Ask yourself, “What will my role be?”
Ice, Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
This one-hit wonder with hundreds of millions of streams worldwide has a very memorable opening line that bears repeating, “Stop, collaborate, and listen.” The best ideas do not always come from those with years of wisdom. Or, as James Okina, a young social entrepreneur and strategic SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR) consultant says, “If you can collaborate with the ‘next generation of young leaders,’ consider yourself fortunate. They will inspire you with fresh ideas. My advice is to look past age and recognize when the prefix ‘young’ is unimportant. They are not just ‘future’ leaders, they are leaders.”
If you are not sure where to start, check out the advice shared in the latest Possibilists study.
Something About You – Roosevelt
Two years ago, I began mentoring an incredible young woman, Natalie Gahre, a member of the sustainability product team at SAP. What started as a mentorship transformed into a learning and leadership experience for both of us. “It’s always easier to work across generations if people are open to trying something new,” shares Gahre. “More ‘experienced’ professionals offer advice to young people with the caveat that ‘you should learn from my mistakes.’ We all need to be brave, optimistic, and excited to try new things together.”
As my favorite DJ Roosevelt points out, there is something [incredible] about you — share it. If you are looking for an opportunity to share your unique expertise, join me and thousands of colleagues from Unilever, EY, Reckitt, and SAP on the TRANSFORM Support Hub, powered by MovingWorlds. This virtual pro bono consulting platform connects experienced professionals everywhere with young social innovators anywhere to expedite world-changing solutions for organizations like StartSteps, Sungai Watch, or Durian.
Youth – Glass Animals
When it comes to thinking about the future of your company, Jess Teutonico, executive director of We Are Family Foundation has some sound advice: “Center inter-generational collaboration into everything you do. Engage young people to authentically be a part of your organizations’ decision-making tables. This generation has the creativity, ingenuity, and tenacity to move our planet forward more equitably and sustainably. Why are we waiting for them to ‘grow up’ when they have already proven they are solving our problems now?”
Juergen Mueller, CTO and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, agrees and says, “This year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, I had the opportunity to meet several young changemakers and I learned a lot from them. Inviting young leaders to global events like these has the power to bring the right energy, connections, and perspectives together that can ultimately result in advancing solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. I’m convinced that this holds true for many decision processes – involving young talents helps to bring the best in innovation to market.”
We Are Family Foundation is launching new research on the power of inter-generational leadership and they need your voice. Click here to receive the survey when it launches on September 8.
Jerusalema – Master KG ftg. Nomcebo Zikode
I was introduced to this song by Busang Maruping, a young Atlas Corp Fellow from Botswana. Master KG had already written the hook and convinced Zikode that she had the ability to write the lyrics that evening, even if she did not believe it herself. They finished the song that night and in 2020, Jerusalema became one of the most Shazamed songs in the world. This song reminds us to have faith — trust your gut and know that sometimes it just takes two. Someone with a different perspective can have a profound impact on the outcome of a project, or a song.
If you are a leader in the U.S. looking for an opportunity to add diverse perspectives to your team and invest in the leaders the world needs, you may want to hire your own Atlas Corp Fellow.
We Are Family – Sister Sledge
Fun fact: what started as a song became a global movement. Nile Rodgers, the legend behind this jam, has made it his mission to invest in the world’s leading young social innovators — inspiring us to do the same.
With only seven years left until 2030 — our global target to create a world without poverty, a just and peaceful society, and a planet that can sustain us — we need the soundtrack of a lifetime. I hope that these songs and their sound advice will pump you up and encourage you to keep moving forward. I welcome you to add your song to our playlist by sharing your advice on how we can build a more sustainable future together and tagging @SAP on social media.
Jennifer Beason is global director of Social Entrepreneurship at SAP.