By Taylor Hawkins
“Today’s young people are forced to confront crises that we did not cause.”Our Future Agenda
This is a reality that can either overwhelm you with fear and frustration, or become the fire you need to fuel your action. I am proud to say that for the young people who have been working together through Foundations for Tomorrow – an Australian based not-profit working to advance the protection of future generations – that we have opted for the latter. In the face of feeling we were not being given a seat at the table, we built our own and we want to share what we learned along the way.
Australia – while being right on the cusp of this definition – is a ‘future majority’ country. Meaning that there are fewer people alive today than will be born this century. This also means that we have a huge emerging constituency both in 37.5% of the population who are under 30 and those yet to be born, whose futures are being defined with the decisions we make today. This is why there is a growing movement to see these future interests considered in our decision-making, and to stop the overwhelming focus on short-term wins that we see around the world. We must start to think, plan and act for the future.
It is this mission that the team of young leaders at Foundations for Tomorrow have been focused on for the last three years. This journey has included hearing from thousands of young Australians, who shared their vision for a more just, equitable and sustainable Australian future, and then convincing Australian parliamentarians, one by one, that they should take a stand for our future. This long, and often bumpy, road has led to the establishment of The Australian Parliamentary Group for Future Generations! This adds Australia to the growing list of jurisdictions leaning into the potential of future generations policy, alongside Wales, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and many others.
While this is just the first step in a long journey, it is a process that we have learned a lot from, and as such we wanted to share just a few of these lessons with other young leaders around the world looking to take strides towards the future they wish to see.
Lesson 1: Know the rules, so you can break them.
While many of us are pushing for a new and different future, we must learn the landscape and the rules of our current reality in order to most effectively challenge them. Stand up and be a passionate champion of the future, but don’t forget to be a student of our past and present.
Lesson 2: Have a plan, but always stay curious.
Too often protests come without a clear ask or solution. Now, I have walked and stood in my fair share of these events, but have seen that this must come alongside a clear vision for what you do want to be truly effective. Come in with an idea or a vision to share, and then hold this loosely. We are all learning as we go and this vision can and will change as you unearth new ideas and opportunities, so stay open and curious.
Lesson 3: Find your allies, some will surprise you
It can often feel that it is ‘us against the world’ but we have been consistently surprised by the amount of people willing to meet us on common ground if we take the time to slow down and understand the perspective of the person ‘on the other side’. Leave space for people to surprise you and enable your spectrum of allies to extend beyond those who agree with you by default. This is where true systemic change becomes possible.
At the bottom of each of these lessons is the fact that the future we want will be achieved most effectively through courageous reimagining, informed curiosity and a commitment to finding common ground whenever possible. We want young people inside the rooms where decisions are made, not yellowing from the other side of the door. So let’s band together, share notes and find the most effective ways to make the future we want become a reality.
Taylor is an Advisor to the Our Future Agenda initiative of the United Nations Foundation and is Co-founder of Foundations for Tomorrow, a non-profit with the mission of advancing the protection of future generations in Australia.