The Pew Research Center issued a new report entitled “Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends.” The report highlights a muddled mix of good and potentially not-so-good trends. As the introduction states:

“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood… they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry – and optimistic about the future.”

InstitutionsA mix of interesting elements to latch on to or take to a broader perspective. As mentioned before, context matters and being unattached to institutions may make some sense as we look at the recent past:

  • Financial crisis (bailed out banks, high unemployment)
  • Unaddressed budget issues (federal deficit and long term debt)
  • Unethical politicians along with business and religious leaders (newspaper headlines say it often)
  • Hypocrisy in leading (espousing one set of principles and then doing the opposite themselves)

Many of our institutions have failed us, demonstrating poor leadership. No wonder there is a Millennial nonattachment to them. Other generations have detached, too (just look at our voting turnout).

A New Call for Institutions

Millennials are feeling the brunt of the institutional failings as they entered the workplace during one of the worst economic times since the Depression. Other generations have been hit, too, as they try to navigate layoffs, career stalemates, and delayed retirement. We are all in this together. This is a renewed call for effective problem-solving.

Beyond the economics are what we care for and how we develop our spiritual life. One element that has been consistent with Millennials is the importance of purpose and working for a cause. In our Millennial Momentum stories, we have seen a glimpse into this with The Can Kicks Back and the Food Recovery Network. Compassion is an element in all of us and we need to embrace this desire to do good and do the right things today as well as in the future.

Having principles is important. We know this yet we are challenged. We are tested in having open, honest, and civil conversations on how to embrace important principles while embracing the diversity of thought. We need to think beyond ourselves and think about what is best for society – now and in the future.

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“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford


Mixed within the debates is the need to do something. We know we need to coordinate our efforts to achieve big things for diverse human beings, making the world a little bit better in our path. This is a call for renewed civility and finding the needed common ground to walk together and create a better future.

If there is a time for our institutions to rise up to the challenges, it is now. Changes need to occur. Some are getting this fact and have made significant changes. Others are slow to adapt, change, and show real leadership. Institutions need to refresh leadership principles and put them to work in our new connected environment, engaging Millennials and all generations to restore faith in what can be done.

A Call for Transparency, Trust, and Results

This is a call for greater transparency, full trust, and greater results.

Transparency. Transparency means we can see the essential interactions and information about an organization. To me, transparency is about accountability. Being transparent does incent and enforce accountability. If organizations are transparent in their operations and leadership, then they know the good and bad will be found out. Today’s reality is this will happen. In the age of social media, transparency happens. Someone will notice. Someone will report. Soon all will know.

Be proactive in your transparency. Institutions need to get out of their old comfort zones and be comfortable in the new world of transparency.

Trust. Hand-in-hand with transparency is trust. Transparent organizations and leaders by their very nature will be more trustworthy. Human leaders achieve great successes. Human leaders have great failures. We need to always have the highest integrity in how we handle both. Trust should be evident in success and failure by being forthright and always honest.

Trust is also simple — Say what you intend to do and do what you say. Consistency of good character ensures trust as does meaningful collaborative relationships. Social media uncovers all and connects all so organizations need to act as a trusted servant leader in all actions and interactions.

Results. Institutions need to be transparent. Institutions need to embrace trust in all they do and say. Real results need to weave through both. Just talking about a problem leaves it unsolved. Just debating an issue leaves it unresolved. There needs to be a movement toward decision-making and problem-solving. We cannot advance as a society without achieving better results than before.

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“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan

Without making society better, community falters. We are born to make things better. We need to engage a mindset of how we can achieve better results than previous generations did. This is about advancement, not finger-pointing. This is about collaboration, not chest-thumping.

Together, transparency, trust, and results are wrapped in purpose to make it all work for a greater good.

Institutions: Change or Be Changed

Millennials are here. Every generation has their set of challenges. I believe this generation is ready to lead, act, and change what isn’t working. We can wait for the wave to come, or we can begin to facilitate the needed changes now. At the very least, we need to engage in fruitful, respectful conversations with an eye toward how to solve problems and overcome challenges.

A special note for various institutions to consider and begin now:

  • Charities – Be clear in purpose and show where the money goes and the corresponding impact of the dollars spent.
  • Religious organizations – Be grace-filled, open, and community-focused. Engage, love, and forgive.
  • Government – Be transparent in how everything works, where political money flows, where expenditures go, and always solve problems with a future outlook (act with the long term in mind!).
  • Education – Excite a sense of continuous learning and a healthy, curious mind for the long haul, balancing individual uniqueness with classroom goals.

This isn’t change for change sake. We need to change to improve and create a better future.

“Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.” – Robert Kennedy

When we discuss our institutions, we tend to stir the flames. We need to focus the flames on igniting progress forward rather than circular or unproductive debates. This is the call for our institutions. This is also a call to be responsible citizens.

Just as many expect Millennials to step up, we should also expect our institutions to do the same, sooner rather than later.

Yes, we are human but, as humans, we try to leave our place in the world better than when we arrived. Are you ready to engage change with transparency, trust, and a results orientation?

How do institutions need to change to create a better future?