You Want a Better World, Go Create It

NWHM Board Member Cheri Kaufman at UN Youth Assembly

By Cheri KaufmanFounding Partner of Kaufman Astoria Studios

Special remarks given by Cheri Kaufman, Founding Partner of Kaufman Astoria Studios, at the Opening Session of the 2016 Summer Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York on August 10.

Step aside, Baby Boomers. Out of the way, Gen-Xers.

The Millennials are taking over.

So HELLO, Millenials. Welcome to the 2016 Summer Youth Assembly, and welcome to the exciting new world you are entering, creating and shaping by your unique awareness of global issues and your original approaches to challenges.

You are now truly a force to be reckoned with.

In the workplace, you are making waves and making money— some of you a whole lot of it.

You are the start-up adventurers and the social media entrepreneurs. You are the sought-after, out-of-the-box new thinkers that corporations can’t get enough of. The vanguard members of your generation are hitting their mid-thirties and their numbers are moving the needles of demographic indicators in significant ways.

You are going to change the world— with new products, new ways of thinking, new tools, and an amazing sense of yourselves, your peers and your global contemporaries.

You have come here from all points of the compass and nearly every continent, to be with others who share your global idealism, your empathy for your fellow humans, and your determination to make a difference.

You want to transform vision into action, inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals to alleviate poverty, end hunger, ensure access to good education and healthcare, address climate change, improve economic development and advance gender equality.

You are the new philanthropists.

You were raised by socially conscious Boomer parents, incubated directly into the Digital Revolution, and, despite having come of age just as the economy tanked, shrinking job prospects and drowning you in student debt, a Pew Research Center study found that you remain more outrageously optimistic about the future than previous generations.

As a result, you are fundamentally re-shaping the mechanisms and structures of charity and humanitarianism, and in the process, calling into existence new forms of philanthropy, creating fresh platforms to identify and define the challenges of our time, inventing new ways to communicate, and discovering previously unimagined channels to turn on, tune in and reach out.

Meet Bertha, the 14 year-old daughter of poor farmers in a very rural part of Tanzania.

A strange itch in her leg eventually revealed itself as a tumor, which grew into a disabling mass causing serious pain. In another time, her affliction would have gone untreated and her fate would have been prolonged suffering and an early death.

Instead, a visiting medical professional submitted her name, via the internet, to a new charity known as Watsi, a website founded by three 20-something Millenials with smartphones who realized they held in their hands the means to raise funds from virtually the entire world for specific treatments that could be delivered to people in need at their nearby hospitals.

Bertha’s case was posted on May 31st of this year. The next day, a single anonymous donor contributed the full $1,035 for the treatment that could save her life. Within a month, Bertha arrived at the Arusha Lutheran Medical Center, received treatment, and is now recovering and looking forward to school and a future as a nurse.

On to Brazil: Consider the visionary bravado of a native Brazilian, Germano Johannssen, a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Public Policy. He formed the nonprofit COURB which reimagines entire cities. In the Brazilian town of Ilhéus, Johansson’s COURB coordinated local residents by integrating novel education programs with new bicycle paths which will link into an overhaul of urban agriculture.

Millenials are starting innovative philanthropies across national borders, solving problems that earlier generations didn’t even know existed, creating novel funding streams, and easily reaching remote people in need in ways that no one before them could have imagined.

Social media can be a very powerful tool for those who would be lost altogether, if not brought to the attention of an empathetic universe.

Grace Garey, Chase Adam, and Jesse Cook, the Millenials who conceived Watsi, realized that they could deploy a commonplace tool of the internet, the crowd-funding platform, to connect lots of scattered donors (so far more than 19,000) with similarly scattered patients (to date, 9,000 and growing) to address remote human medical crises that once would have left the afflicted to face isolated and unnecessary deaths.

The challenge for almost any new idea or philanthropic enterprise is getting the means to propel it into motion and then establishing a mechanism to keep it going.

Take, for example, the story of Amanda Rohlke, a Millennial living in Los Angeles and working in the film industry.

While doing research for a commercial about the proposed National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C., Amanda discovered that many established museums, and most school textbooks, ignore the accomplishments and contributions of women in history.

Amanda decided she had to become part of building this museum, “because large swaths of history will go unnoticed otherwise,” she said, explaining how her idealism was ignited, leading her to volunteer a large part of her free time to fund-raising for the museum’s L.A. Council.

In other words, the challenge is to transform insight into action that can continue and succeed. This is what is at the core of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The objective is to unite those who have the means to give with those who need it to thrive. Through all the charitable causes to which I have devoted time in my life, this remains a fundamental challenge.

Very simply put: You, me, WE are all in the business of helping.

But not only is it so important to look around and see how you can help, it is vital for young companies and charities to reach out and ASK for help.

This month, I launched a new company specifically aimed at providing a channel for young philanthropies to connect with funding sources, mentors, experienced leaders and corporations with a conscience. The company is called “C iGIVE, Cheri Kaufman,” and you can find it online at “CiGIVE.com.”

Everyone you meet here today is a resource. You are building a community of support just by being here. Embrace this gift. Take strength from each other.

For experienced donors seeking to engage with today’s innovative thinkers, this is a chance to leverage a gift into massive impact. If you think of these new organizations as start-ups, essentially you are getting in on the ground floor of an effort that, if it grows the way so many profit-oriented companies do, you might well be signing on as the benefactor of the next Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, UNICEF, or Direct Relief.

Looking out from this podium, I see so much possibility.

In your faces, I see the future. I see idealism for universal justice and gender equality. I see empathy for the distressed, the oppressed and the unaddressed.

I see the hope for peace and the end to conflict. I see resolve to restore health to our threatened planet.

I see philanthropy’s new entrepreneurs.

You want a better world— go create it.