There’s nothing like spending a week with 1,833 high school students to invigorate you and see the promise of our future. In addition to almost two thousand high school students I had the pleasure of spending time with a group of fifteen 20 somethings that are all serving as staff assistants. All of this was in conjunction with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual Youth Tour.

Under the amazing supervision of Beth Knudson, NRECA’s Youth Day featured the young people on stage, just as it should. It was a great demonstration that when you entrust people with talent they will respond.  Beth’s superpower is that she really cares. What I love about that superpower is you can’t train for it, odd coming from a consultant right? All you can hope to do is to give people reasons why they should care. When we match people that care with a role that they are passionate about the magic will happen.

If you are one of those people that cares about the work you do, thanks and we need more of you. If you supervise someone that cares find a way to serve them. Pepper them with projects that have meaning, need to get done, and will have impact. Give them the support they need to be successful. Keep doing it, everyone gets rewarded in a manner that serves them.

I was conducting a director training and I was asked, “How do we get more young people involved in our co-op?” I replied, “Good question, wrong audience!” We need to ask young people how they want to be involved and answer Why they should be interested.

If co-ops are truly going to be relevant and offer real solutions to the challenges society faces we need to evolve. For many co-ops that means younger people in positions of leadership at the staff and board levels. Let me very clear I am not saying just a wholesale swap of older people for younger. The wisdom of older people should be passed to the next generation by serving together.

If we want to use co-ops in a way that they can create a fairer economy for everyone we need to embrace the business model whole heartedly. We need to figure out how we get the next generation heavily involved and support their ideas. Just criticizing millennials is not going to get us anywhere. Is the next generation different than us? Yes. Just as we were different from our parents. Different is normal let’s embrace it.

Look around see what other co-ops in other regions and other sectors are doing. “Admire and acquire” those ideas. Make participation as easy and welcoming as possible. For communities and their co-ops to thrive there must be a place for all generations at the table.

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