Around the World, Young People Are Embracing Their Collective Power
Historically, power has had negative connotations — as in having power over someone or something. Young people today, however, increasingly see power as a collaborative exercise with collective benefits. In our connected world, power is more accessible to everyone, increasing the potential for how it can be expressed and navigated.
For our latest global study, Power in Progress, we spoke to 11,000 young people in 10 countries to gain insight into their feelings about personal and collective power, disruption, and how brands can harness this new power. Here’s what we found:
In the path to power, new dynamics are forming. The path to power for young people is the same as ever – a trajectory from personal to cultural to structural power. Within that path, the forces of change are creating new dynamics.
We identified why power is changing, how it’s changing, and where it’s going.
Why power is changing: it’s embedded in the identities of today’s young people. Unlike previous generations, the young people of today grew up as digital and social natives with different role models for personal power. They can tap into the networked power of the collective in an instant – 73% encourage and support others when they face challenges, 61% closely collaborate with others to achieve their goals, and 54% believe that their generation is more collectively empowered than prior generations. Leadership is an expectation, with 72% saying they believe they can have a successful career doing what they want to do.
How power is changing: it’s fluid. Young people are collaborating in real time to gain power by harnessing attention and using media in new ways. This new power is no longer a zero-sum game or held within one entity. Instead, it ebbs and flows without a single person leading the charge. With 57% saying they believe that power should belong to everyone, young people are joining forces to boost historically under-represented voices and reclaim narratives. Just 38% of them believe that people like themselves are well-represented in mass media. Social media is an essential tool, with 62% of young people agreeing that it gives them a voice on issues important to them and 63% saying that it has the greatest impact on our country today. When people or views emerge that they don’t endorse, they will band together to “cancel” them. With fewer gatekeepers, everyone is tasked with policing authenticity.
Where power it going: it’s recalibrating. Power is a work in progress for young people. What was once considered disruptive is institutional to them. Half of young people believe that companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google are too big and powerful. Their values aren’t anti-institutional, however; 66% don’t see the system as a barrier to power. They are split on whether effective change can be made from within the system (46%) or by disrupting the system (40%). In their worldview, brands have meaningful stature. In the US, two-thirds believe that brands should play a bigger role in social issues and 70% say that brands that participate in social issues earn their respect.