Millennials could be the answer to government malaise


Millennials are on the move. And they’re moving to cities. According to CityLab, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds will increase each year in the United States through 2024, rising from 44.1 million in 2015 to 47.6 million in 2024. This is the time of life when millennials are most likely to live in urban areas.

Why does this matter?

For those of us interested in the democratic health of our country, data and technology in cities, combined with the energy of millennials, offers an opportunity to reimagine city life. But it requires intentionality and looking beyond just coastal, affluent cities to making fundamental changes in governing that will transform the current perceptions of City Hall.

Urban millennial expectations

Urban millennials live life on demand   their demand. From food delivery apps to live-streaming services, they increasingly expect instantaneous results and an opportunity for engagement. They also want to collaborate and share with one another. Whether it’s their opinions or experiences, in our increasingly atomized lives, people are looking to technology for connection and participation. From Wikipedia to Waze and Yelp, digital tools are leveraging individuals’ experiences for aggregate results.

However, it is still an entirely different story when it comes to government. Residents feel like government’s antiquated systems do not meet their expectations. In fact, it’s even worse than that. American democracy is in crisis. Fewer than 1 out of 3 people find government credible. What does it take to tap into the energy, expertise and excitement of everyday residents and combine that with more entrepreneurial approaches to government?

Millennials are changing notions about life, in part through technology and the awakening of activism following the 2016 election of Donald Trump. With this, there is an opportunity for cities to demonstrate that 1) data and evidence can make urban governance better, 2) City Hall is a dynamic place to work and engage with and 3) cities can tap into residents’ creativity in new and unexpected ways. As the number of 25- to 34-year-old millennials will increase by about 3 million over the next seven years, there are projections that this is the exact time in life millennials are most likely to live in cities.

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