Can any generation take the lead in revitalizing democracy or should we close the intergenerational gap and embark together?

So we’re in for something, the youth taking control of the World Forum for Democracy. At least we could expect that because of this year’s theme: From participation to influence, can youth revitalize democracy. How can the youth energize the old lady of democracy? Or is our focus on the youth a solid case of barking up the wrong tree. Do we need a more intergenerational concept where all generations take part in creating the new meshwork of a democratic society.


To inspire or to decide

Today we had some sizzling Lab sessions and round tables to elaborate on the theme and discover where the youth comes in. An interesting thing is the bandwidth of their appearance. Are they in the Hemicycle to inspire, to advise or to decide on the future of things! Mostly they are in the inspirational and advising department. There’s still a lot of grey hair in the panels. Although the unconference part of the Forum gives a good insight in the decision making process of the young. It’s energetic and all about co-creation.
The chosen theme is a nice follow up on last year’s theme: democracy in a digital age. At that time we saw all kind of emerging technology and crowd-driven-decision-making-tools entering the hall of democracy. Now we take it one step further, getting the youth alongside, maybe even give them a pole position in the renewal of democracy. But it is right to give them the burden of creating something new from the ashes of this possible dying Phoenix?


Structure or unity

I wonder will the youth introduce new underlying values for the new meshwork? There’s a lot going on about this new, fast at a zero marginal cost operating networking society. The global connected youth, networking in an informal way and sharing life and mission through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Whatsapp. Communicating at a different (speed)level. Are there any new underlying values in this caring and sharing community? And what will be the new ‘money’ in this zero cost system, is it attention, happiness? One of the young participants stated: the old go for structure, we go for unity!

So can the youth revitalize democracy? If one of the basic values of democracy is inclusion, can any generation alone be responsible for creating our new pathways into the future? No I don’t think so, lets embrace the youth, give them all the space they need, but make sure they enter their revitalizing quest with an intergenerational focus. The renewal of democracy without leaving any generation behind! It will be interesting, and a nice test case to see if we can hook up all the different generations to the informal networks of the youth adding their specific value to the process.


Living in a zero marginal cost society

Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, elaborated in his keynote on his concept of “zero marginal cost society” and called on participants to discuss and develop a “digital bill of rights and responsibilities”. We are really in for something with all those zero cost possibilities in communication, transportation and free energy! It will democratize our daily life and society.

At the start of his keynote Rifkin dismissed all photographers, IPads and iPhones; ‘Close all your devices and let’s have a decent conversation’. And that’s a strange statement for a man boosting about the youth and all their new ways of distributed knowledge and communication. Nancy Lublin (CEO, on the panel after the keynote,  reacted on Twitter with a: I’ll never put my devices down, old man. This is a event we all should tweet about’! Her shoutout is about transparency, openness and a nice collective dialogue on social media. And maybe that said it all…there’s still a big gap between talking about a digitalized world and really living it. The youth might be our democratic enabler if we ready to embark with them to new horizons.