Zeroing in on Generation Z



This July, I’ll be facilitating a new conference, Smarter, Strategic, and Sustainable Scouting, at the Philmont Training Center. If you’re not doing anything the last week of July, I’d love to see you there!

An important part of this conference will be exploring how to work with today’s Scouts, who are busier and more tech-dependent than any previous generation. As I’ve started preparing for the conference, I’ve been learning more about Generation Z–also known as iGen, screenagers, centennials, and dot-com kids. These are young people born in roughly 2005 or later–in other words, young people who are joining Boy Scout troops right now. If you don’t know how to work with them, you’re going to struggle as a Scout leader in the years to come.

There’s a ton of good information out there about Generation Z, but here are a few nuggets I found interesting:

  • They can’t remember a time before smartphones. The iPhone came out in 2007, when the oldest of them were 2 years old. It’s no wonder Scouts rebel when adults tell them they can’t take their phones on outings.
  • They have eight-second filters. If something doesn’t catch their attention quickly, they’ll move on to something that does. It’s no wonder they tune out long-winded announcements at troop meetings. (Note that I said eight-second filters, not attention spans; that’s a crucial distinction.)
  • Diversity is their default. In a fascinating TED Talk, Jason Dorsey of the Center for Generational Kinetics says that diversity–racial, ethnic, sexual, socioeconomic, etc.–is a given for Gen Zers. The only time they think about diversity is when they end up in a non-diverse situation. It’s no wonder Scouting’s image as a program for suburban white kids makes us seem out of date to many Gen Zers.
  • They want to change the world. Just consider these statistics from an Upcounsel blog post: “According to Marketo’s research, 60 percent of Gen Zers want their jobs to impact the world, while 26 percent of 16 to 19-year-olds currently volunteer and 76 percent are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.” It’s no wonder many Scouts are pursuing service projects with real impact (and probably chafing at busy-work projects.)

To learn more about Generation Z, check out this quick video from an Australian ad agency.

So how is your troop preparing for Generation Z? Post your thoughts in the comments section.


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