In the previous post, we’ve analyzed the first 3 Cs that Generation C borrows from Generation Y (and adapts to its own style). Now let’s explore the specific traits of this cohort.
Gen C specific traits:
As opposed to Gen Y who often collaborates resourcefully to fulfil their own individual aspirations, events during Gen C’s childhood suggest that this might be the first generation to adopt collaboration as an end in and of itself, as a value to incorporate in everyday living.
First of all, they’ve engaged in massive collaborative online games (like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty) earlier than other generations (with the exception of late-Yers), a practice that has taught them to collaborate effectively, in distance and with fluid leadership style in order to accomplish complex tasks.
Secondly, in the wake of 2002 and 2008 economic crisis, finding new ways to save money and resources and create opportunities through social networking has become a life-or-death strategy in many families. Gen C youths have witnessed (and sometimes taken part in helping) their parents repositioning themselves in a downturn economy. It’s not surprising then that Gen C has interiorized a series of collaborative, money-saving practices: checking product reviews before making a purchase, sharing as an alternative to owning, service exchanges as an alternative to monetary transactions.
Lastly, during the first decade of the 21st century, we’ve witnessed the power of several other global collaborative initiatives: crowd-organized relief initiatives during 9/11, Katrina and Haiti, crowdsourcing knowledge through Wikipedia, crowdfunding through Kickstarter. It is certain that those examples have and will continue to have a modelling role for the young generation.
In family life, Gen X were the “children of divorce”, Gen Y were the “children of recomposed families” and Gen C are the “children of multicultural families”.
Of course this view is archetypical and not every family is multicultural, but they are growing in numbers at extremely fast rates. Those who are not multicultural, are certainly often in contact with such families in their children’s school, in the workplace and in every other area of their lives.
As opposed to 3 generations ago, when a family’s history could be traced inside a 20 km radius, nowadays geographical mobility is part of life (and often expected in certain careers). According to cross-cultural writer Pico Iyer, 220 million people today live in a different country than their birth-country. To put things in perspective, if they were all assigned a new fictional nationality, they’d become the 5th largest country in the world.
Whereas immigration waves during the 70s and 80s have created a higher cultural mixity in lower social classes, to understand how multiculturalism impacted middle-class families with Gen C children, one must look back a couple of decades. With the end of the Cold War, high-school exchange programs from Latin America and Russia towards Western Europe or the US exploded during the 90s (I’ve also been a lucky participant in one of those).
One decade later, moved by the desire to further integrate the new European Union, European politicians supported several cultural exchange initiatives. The most successful of those initiatives is Erasmus, a 20-year old program that has touched 3 million European students (and has grown 2.3 times between 2000-2013). From 2014 to 2020, the goal is to reach 4 million students, meaning over 500.000 exchanges per year.
From the expatriation experience, several of those students shared a deep connection, married and had Gen C children, often carrying them through successive international moves (or complex divorces with international shared custody). To this tendency, we add the arrival of low-cost airlines that have allowed Gen C children of all backgrounds to obtain, from an early age, first-hand cross-cultural experience up to once or twice a year.
Be it in the school yard, at the dinner table, during an exchange program or family vacation, Gen C has been exposed to a multicultural environment much more than any generation before them. This exposition has protected them from ignorance and raised their cultural awareness and cultural fluency. It will certainly serve them in shaping in the years to come a more just and empathic world.
Those are the 5 Cs that better define Gen C: Creative, Communicative, überCustomized, Collaborative and Cultural Polyglot. In my next post I’ll explore in more detail the final trait of Gen C: introversion.
Which one of these traits do you see more often in the Gen Cs around you?