“Share Or Die” – Gen Y and the collaborative economy
Book Review Share Or Die – Gen Y and the collaborative economy
The internet tapped me on the shoulder last week presented me with a copy of an eBook co-edited by Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of the website www.shareable.net and Malcolm Harris the senior editor of the New Inquiry http://thenewinquiry.com/
The book is called Share or Die: Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis.
To quote from the introductory email,
“Share or Die is a call-to-action for Generation Y on how to:
- adapt to disappearing jobs and stagnating wages
- build a meaningful work-life balance
- develop new collaborative strategies to deal with scarcer resources
- and make a future for themselves based on their own creative ideas
The book – written by young adults for young adults – is full of both inspirational and informative content for new graduates, their parents, their future employers, and anyone else interested in the successful transition of young people into their adult lives.”
Anyone interested in the world of “work” will have read various articles and reports over the last couple of years which explore the differences in attitude and expectations between Gen Y and Gen X regarding careers, employment and the workplace in general.
This book is coming in from a very interesting perspective however in that
1. It is written by a variety of Gen Y contributers in the first person about their own experiences.
2. It covers the issues not just from the perspective of HAVING a job but from the perspective of NOT having a job – either voluntarily or because of the lack of opportunities for Gen Y graduates in the current economic climate.
Given the financial turmoil of the last few years it’s hardly surprising that the traditional career path presented to the young of “work hard now and you will get paid (more) later” is under question in a climate where the pay-off at the end may or may not happen and the only thing a graduate can rely on is that they will start their working life in a scary amount of debt. That there is a growing sense of “if you can’t deliver your end of the deal mate then the deal’s off”.
As Malcolm Harris says at the beginning of the book: “Even though it wasn’t premeditated, a narrative does emerge in ShareOr Die. There’s a common anxiety in the pieces in this collection, a well-informed fear that life will be different for young people just starting to come of age. The promises of the 90’s and the early 00s,that society could only be improved, that shopping was patriotic, that the earth knew no boundaries for the determined, have turned out to be worth about as much as a tranche of sub-prime mortgage backed securities. There’s a sense of generational betrayal, a knowledge that those who came before weren’t planning for a future with consequences.”
Or Jean –Yves Huwart writes in the first article “The State of Gen Y”
“Nowadays, a greater portion of the younger generation is clearly rejecting the classical working model, either by choice or necessity. First, aware of their parents’ sacrifices – who often worked all their life in dull positions, damaging their health without much recognition – they turn their back to the retrograde career model. Second, the management culture of many traditional companies – with command and control principles, yelling managers, social-media-phobic policies, and for-profit myopia – is tragically outdated.”
Of course how different Gen Y really is to previous “younger generations” in terms of concerns and attitude is up for questioning – a quick leaf through my copy of Douglas Copeland’s original Generation X book published in 1991 (Tagline on front cover “Look Out yuppie scum, Here come the X’ers”) shows some telling similarities between X and Y. Chapter titles include “Our Parents Had More”, “Quit Your Job”, “Shopping Is Not Creating” “Purchased Experiences Don’t Count” and “Why Am I Poor?”
A sense of generational betrayal is not exactly new then so is Gen Y really so different from all the disaffected youth that have come before?
But as I finished writing that last paragraph I realised that the answer is almost certainly “Yes”.
It may not be Gen Y’s willingness to share experience and knowledge with each other which is new but their ABILITY to truly do so. So on the one hand I had to stop and think about posting quotes from Mr. Coupland’s book in case of copyright infringement, (do chapter titles count??) and on the other hand I am able to Blog about “Share or Die” and use one of the cartoons and quote freely from its pages because technology and social media are enabling that to happen in a way which just did not exist before. And because the creators of this book have SHARED it with me as a consequence.
60’s Hippies had protest songs and communal farms, 70’s Punk Rockers had free Fanzines and communal squats (sooo cold in winter. Soo fun) but at no time in the past has it been as possible is it is now for “young adults” to share and communicate with each other and the rest of the planet as easy and, crucially, as quickly and for as little financial outlay.
Over to Jean-Yves again:
“Here is the good news: new economic models better suited to Gen Y have arrived.
Although still a maturing form, crowd funding platforms are channelling seed money to support the development of new ideas. Access to prototyping is much broader than it used to be. New services can go online with a simple site in a matter of minutes. For anyone who wants to build physical prototypes, FabLabs (Fabrication Laboratory), 3D printer or Techshops8 offer new opportunities for independent producers. New producers can deliver tools, devices, and originally designed items unit by unit. Easier prototyping means the path from idea to production is shorter than ever. Those new processes will reduce waste and lower the risk for early stakeholders.
New online and offline ecosystems provides today’s young entrepreneurs with models to emulate and collective inspiration. Online, you can find these new spaces within digital communities and social networks. Offline, they could be the co-working spaces popping up all around the world, and wherever new communities of entrepreneurs are meeting each other in person. It’s never been easier to find an entrepreneur soul mate, a partner, or skilled professionals to help turn ideas into new realities. In today’s world, better-informed buyers are asking for customized products. As the new demand heads toward lower standard production volumes, “mass customization” possibilities enabled by the internet could redraw the global manufacturing map. Nimbler production chains closer to users will mean advantages for buyers and small sellers. This is another opportunity for small-business owners who can focus on local or global market niches. …….. …Young workers are in an uncomfortable situation: dependent on and opposed to the dominant model. However, this generation has at its disposal an amazing set of resources it brings to bear against the old guard. More connected than their parents, more familiar with an ever shifting technological landscape, closer to the means of production than any generation before, you have to like their chances.”
And we do.
Malcolm Harris quotes Sid Vicious in his Preface but Gen Y might also find some truth in the words of another icon of British Punk, Joe Strummer:
“ It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing.”