Columnist Calls for End to “Save the World” Rhetoric

December 17, 2014

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Courtney E. Martin urges students to abandon the “save the world” rhetoric of yesteryear and embrace a new, more realistic version of social entrepreneurship that will inspire them.

An acclaimed author and culture critic, Martin will visit TLU to discuss her most recent book Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists on January 22 at 7 p.m. in Jackson Auditorium. Martin is a weekly columnist for On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation, podcast, and Webby Award-winning website. In Do It Anyway, she profiles eight young activists who, she said, are using their biggest gifts to serve the world’s deepest needs. Among those featured is environmental justice advocate Nia Robinson, radical philanthropist Tyrone Boucher and actor Rosario Dawson.

For Martin, it’s essential for young people to put action behind their convictions, especially as a response to older generations’ ideas that they are disengaged with social and political issues.

“The best way to counteract that idea is to walk our talk—really putting action behind our convictions—and to be open and generous in explaining the new forms of social change that are emerging,” Martin said. “We are such a generationally segregated society; I think sometimes older people just don't get a chance to see what's happening online, for example, and feel sheepish about asking ‘dumb’ questions.”

Martin said it’s important to understand for everyone, not just the inner circles of social entrepreneurship, to feel like they can make a difference.

“On the one hand, it's created a beautiful, wide ranging community of opportunities for young movers and shakers, including convenings, fellowships and funding,” Martin said. “On the other hand, I don't want people who don't speak the language of ‘social entrepreneurship’ to be excluded from these opportunities.”

Aside from being an author, Martin is co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network and does research and strategy for the $1M TED Prize each year. She spoke on feminists (or feminism?) and activism at the inaugural TEDWomen Conference in December 2010, and is Editor Emerita at Feminism, Martin said, is the “radical idea that men and women are equal.” Her #femfuture hashtag is an initiative to explore how online feminist work can become more sustainable and impactful at creating systemic and structural change.

She is currently exploring how people, and millennials, are redefining the American Dream for her latest book, “The New Better Off.”

“I'm interested in all of the various ways that we are reinventing the good life, from collaborative consumption, to new rituals, to co-working spaces, to the explosion of freelancing,” Marin said. “The economic downturn has forced us to reckon with the outdated definitions of success in a really productive way, in my view.”

She also embraces the idea that millennials might just be the "new hippies."

“You're talking to a woman who lives in a co-housing community, drives a Prius and has her 1-year-old in a nanny share, so I'd say I wholeheartedly embrace the label,” Martin said. “In all seriousness, there is a wonderful update of sorts going on with regard to ‘hippie’ values; I think young people understand that real security comes through powerful networks and close knit community, not salaries or symbols of security, like a home you can't actually afford.”

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