Main Street across the generations

Frequently older community members will talk in downtown meetings about what it was like when foot traffic was shoulder to shoulder, and when everyone went to Main Street to go to the movies.  

Soon one might hear a young voice from the back of the room say, “What do you mean went to the the movies?  Why didn’t they just watch them on their phone?”  Times change. While downtown doesn’t mean what it once might have to that older generation, we must think about what it could mean to the younger generation–a large influential group that we might even be struggling to understand ourselves.

The Beloit College Mindset List has just been released to remind us of what the cultural reference points are for the 18 year olds headed into college this fall. Those 18-year olds might be volunteers in your organization. You might want them to shop on your Main Street.  If you’re putting on an event, will it draw them in? 

Read the list for yourself, but here are a couple of teasers: Snoop Dogg started rapping and John McEnroe quit playing tennis before this lot was born, and they’ve never acknowledged pointing at your wrist as a request for the time of day.  (So your funny references to Dick Tracy’s watch migh fall flat as well.)

As you’re trying to connect to folks from across the generations, these differences are worth considering. Cultural placement, communication styles, and values vary, depending partially on when you grew up. For a quick primer, check out this Generations resource sheet from organizational develoment consultant and Generations author Peter C. Brinckerhoff.  And if you want to hear the author, he’ll be giving the keynote talk at the Nonprofit Learning Point conference in Richmond on September 8.

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