Generation Opportunity (GO) will celebrate its first anniversary in June. Since launching last year they’ve already garnered 2.8 million Facebook fans – a feat many organizations that have been around for decades have been unable to accomplish.
GO is a non-partisan non-profit organization that reaches out to Millennials, young adults between age 18 and 29, to get them involved in the political process. GO does this through new media and intense grassroots networking.
“We have literally met tens of thousands of young people on the ground and been to hundreds of events,” Paul Conway, president of GO, said.
Through the 2011 National Student Government Summit in Bethesda, Maryland, for example, GO trained student government leaders from across the country on how to combine social media and grassroots tactics to better impact their campuses and state capitals on issues of youth unemployment and job creation.
Online, they reach Millennials through three Facebook pages: Being American by GO, The Constitution by GO and most recently Gas Prices Are Too Damn High. Through their website, www.generationopportunity.org, they also provide guides for blogging, interacting with the media, organizing events and a page with voter registration information.
As an organization targeting the most diverse generation in U.S. history, GO organizes conversations and activists around core principles that they see as having broad appeal: greater economic opportunity; defense and expansion of personal freedom; and limited government. From these principles they focus on issues like the job market, the national debt, education, energy and health care.
Conway brings significant experience to the young organization. He served under four presidents and three governors, and was chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor under Secretary Elaine Chao, chief of staff at the Office of Personnel Management and an agency chief at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He explained the GO model through their latest campaign, Gas Prices Are Too Damn High.
“[W]e know as a fact that gas prices affect young Americans disproportionately because it takes money out of discretionary income,” Conway said. “If you have to go to a series of part-time jobs or have to go look for a job or travel long distances [for your job] the cost of gas is a major impact on your budget.” More young people are in that position because of a struggling job market.
After looking at how gas prices have historically impacted people who live paycheck to paycheck, the GO team started conversations on Facebook about gas prices, posting on the topic several times a day and providing links to articles about the issue. Conway said he found that “young adults understand [gas prices] not only … in terms of everyday budgets, but also the bad position the U.S. is being put in by increased energy dependency.”
That lead to the next phase of GO’s campaign, just recently launched: an online petition calling on the Obama administration to reduce restrictions on domestic energy exploration and to open up land and offshore areas for drilling. Thousands have already signed the petition.
Despite the diversity of Millennials, Conway said that GO found a common strain: Despite being hit hard by the poor economy, this generation “remain[s] confident in their own skills and eager for a chance to access opportunity. They are looking for concrete solutions from elected leaders in both parties, and they have run out of patience.”
GO sees Millennials as a generation bound together by the common experiences of watching the Towers fall on 9/11, fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, watching the economy collapse and other nations rise. But despite all that, Millennials haven’t given up their optimism in terms of America’s ability to be great again.
“They want to get something done,” Conway said. “I think to be honorable, leaders of both parties need to approach them, respect their intelligence, respect their opinion, and put in front of them solutions.”
He noted, “This generation approaches things from a very principled standpoint, and not necessarily from a partisan lens.” Because of that, Conway says in November “I think the demographic is fully in play.”