NGeners Rock!, The Boat

This guest post was authored by Pickett Slater Harrington, Manager, Program and Practice, Independent Sector NGeners Rock!, The Boat I’ve spent a number of years working alongside NGeners – talented, intelligent, energetic and emerging social sector leaders that range in age from late Generation Xers to Millennials. Here are four characteristics that I’ve seen displayed by NGeners throughout the years that lead me to the conclusion that NGeners Rock!
1. NGeners are non-linear, systems thinkers NGeners have an uncanny ability to think at multiple levels of complexity and make connections between what sometimes seem like different and conflicting ideas. NGeners see the value in working across sectors to learn, adapt, and apply lessons. This stems from a strong desire to change systems, not just the symptoms. This approach lies not just in the way they work, but in the way they think. 2. NGeners build connections and networks purposefully When it comes to network building, NGeners ask the question, “To what end?” They know that the true power of networks is not in sheer numbers, but in the ability to move people to action. To the NGener, it’s not just about how many 1st level contacts you have on LinkedIn or the number of people in your social network, it’s about how you connect and mobilize people to create change. NGeners network purposefully with the end result of social change in mind. 3. NGeners have a failure fearlessness A hallmark of younger generations is a willingness to break with tradition and try something new. NGeners take this to another level and nothing represents this trait better then how NGeners actively embrace failure. Success to NGeners is not measured by absence of failure, but by the ability to actively manage failure – try something new, learn, apply that learning, and try again. Somehow, NGeners have managed to take the fear out of failure by cuddling up next to it and making it their friend. 4. NGeners have an ability to rock the boat without falling out of it When it comes to rocking the boat, NGeners are less counter-cultural and more culture co-optative. Instead of spending energy fighting against systems from the outside, they have learned to infiltrate systems and transform them from within. If you don’t believe me, then talk to the organizations (nonprofit and for-profit) that have noticed the change in their culture because of the influx of NGeners. This is amazing but the truly remarkable is they did it with little resistance. They didn’t ask for permission or struggle to have their voice heard – they just did it. Now that’s how you rock a boat.
If you want to know how you can rock the boat then register to attend the Independent Sector NGen webinar Rocking the Boat without Falling Out on July 29, 2014 from 2 pm – 3pm EDT or rock out with fellow NGeners at the 2014 Independent Sector NGen Pre-Conference in Seattle, WA from November 15-16, 2014. While NGeners may come hard wired to rock the boat if they really want to make an impact, they must cultivate the necessary skills that can help them be more effective in their social change work. I recently learned that Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), together with human resource professionals, has developed the Measuring a Leader framework which encourages nonprofit professionals and social change agents to develop a particular set of skills and values necessary to be effective leaders in building a just, equitable, and sustainable society. Here are the seven core skills sets, in no particular order, EPIP believes emerging social sector leaders will need if they are going to solve some of our most pressing social challenges.
1. Strategic and Analytical Skills Effective leaders anticipate future needs and trends, create competitive strategies and plans, and think broadly when analyzing an issue or presented with a challenge. 2. Innovation and Problem Solving Skills Effective leaders think unconventionally while inspiring others to as well. They solicit diverse perspectives to aid problem solving, analyze problems, create solutions and solve problems quickly. 3. Leadership and Management Skills Effective leaders direct individuals and groups, and delegate appropriately, to accomplish desired results. They emulate exemplary individual behavior and ethics, and coach others when appropriate. 4. Social Justice and Racial Analysis Skills Effective leaders embrace diversity based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age. They understand the historical origins of long-standing structural problems, and ensure equitable and just outcomes for all people. 5. Communication Skills Effective leaders communicate ideas and concepts clearly, persuasively, and dynamically through both verbal and written means. 6. Influencing and Fundraising Skills Effective leaders inspire and influence others to join collaborative projects and raise resources for community organizations they support. 7. Decision-Making Skills Effective leaders make timely and well-considered decisions while considering the input of others.
You can find more information about these core skills on the EPIP website at Or follow the conversation on Twitter with #EPIPLeaders. Also, check out EPIP’s upcoming July webinars to which Independent Sector NGen members have free access: Grace Under Pressure: How to build engagement and capacity for action in distressed communities (on July 16th and Crowdfunding 101 with Public Allies on July 30th. Whether NGeners are cultivating new skill sets or rocking the boat one thing is for certain they represent the future of social change work. And I believe the future is in very capable hands.