'Millennials Speak. Essays on the 21st Century' a Crowdsourced Book On Gen Y


Millennials Speak. Essays on the 21st Century is a crowdsourced and crowdfunded anthology written by 20 millennials from across five continents. The writers comprise a globally diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders who cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. The book is being released today and I served as project lead, editor, and contributed two essays. The entire project, from idea to publication, took a little more than six months. How did we get here?

I came up with this idea when promoting a novel I wrote, titled The Sovereign Soil, which approaches a lot of big problems faced by millennials through fiction, namely the assault of industrial agriculture on our ability to feed ourselves. I thought it would be a good idea to create some sort of non-fiction version of what I was trying to do with the novel, so I got to work.

The first person I contacted was fellow PolicyMic pundit, Sabith Khan, who I met when we were both students at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School about four years ago. Sabith is from south of India and I grew up in rural Alabama. I like to joke that Sabith and I are both southerners but it just so happens that the countries we were born in happen to be about 10,000 miles apart. And, aside from the very different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds that we come from, he was the first person I thought to reach out to about collaborating with and moving forward with this project.

As far as topic list, when I first contacted Sabith I had a list of topics I wanted covered in the book, which Sabith added to and helped me develop (he also wrote two essays). For the most part, this list served as the core of the book. But, I allowed the topic list to develop as organically as possible as we reached out to new people via social media and our own networks. We ended up with four thematic sections of essays: international relations and foreign policy, popular culture, food & health, and essays on the United States.

I have noticed that a lot of the work and research regarding the millennial generation is very American-centric. But for a globally-connected and aware generation, limiting the scope of study to a single country misses the mark for such a diverse global demographic. So, Sabith and I cast a wide, global net when recruiting writers in attempt to fill some of that geography gap with this book. 

I only personally know about half of the writers who contributed essays. The other half we went out and recruited using social media. Basically, I went looking for people who are active or actively writing about some of the topics that Sabith and I wanted covered. I then worked with each contributor closely to shape their essay to fit the vision I had for the book. It was a very collaborative project and it was a pleasure working with all of the writers. And, four PolicyMic pundits contributed: Sabith, myself, Andrew Leon Hanna, and Nick Santos.

I encouraged each writer to use the word "I" at some point and explain how their personal backgrounds and histories shape their opinions and stances that they took in their essays. This was not so easy a task with the several Ph.D students who participated, although they eventually came around to the idea of sharing an opinion. The essays average around 3500 words, or about 12-15 pages of what double-spaced copy looks like in Word, for a total of about 270 pages.

This book is both crowdsourced and crowdfunded. In short, everything about this book is 21st century: from the topics that the writers cover, to the way that we connected with one another using social media, the way we financed the production costs using the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, to our leveraging new developments in print-on-demand technology and eBook distribution to publish the book.

The book release is today, and a launch event is being held tonight at the World Bank. You can find the book in both paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon