On Wednesday, June 15th, Canada’s Public Policy Forum hosted a Lunch & Learn Event in Ottawa with Ilona Dougherty on Youth and Innovation. Ilona is a regular commentator in the Canadian media and speaks to audiences internationally about tapping into the innovation potential of Millennials and Gen Z. Ilona was also the Chair of Volunteer Canada from 2013-2015.

Sharing research conducted with her colleague, Dr. Amelia Clarke, at the University of Waterloo, Ilona spoke about the need to unlearn everything we think we know about youth, when it comes to Millennials and Gen Z, and see youth as a solution to social and economic challenges – such as those faced in the voluntary sector.

According to Ilona, today’s youth are wired for innovation; they are creative, curious, comfortable with risk, collaborative, observant, and hold a vision that everything is possible. They seek deep meaning in their lives, want to be engaged, to learn more, and have an impact.

Non-profit organizations that effectively engage youth volunteers have the chance to leverage and retain the gifts, qualities, and skills this cohort offers. Organizations can:

  • involve youth volunteers in real, impactful projects;
  • share knowledge and context with them and see what innovative ideas they have; and
  • provide opportunities for inter-generational partnerships to help youth excel in your organization.

Ilona asks that we “let young peoples’ brains inspire us.” If we engage youth effectively, we can keep Canada’s voluntary sector strong. For more tips on engaging youth, visit volunteer.ca

Ilona Dougherty, Youth Engagement Expert, Co-founder of Apathy is Boring @ilonadougherty