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John Florez: Youth bring new perspective, solutions

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Have you ever wondered why politicians keep creating special commissions to study problems and then appoint the "stakeholders" who come up with the same solutions? In the meantime, a new generation of young people are ready to create new solutions for today's digital world — crowdsourcing.

Politicians use commissions as a way to avoid making decisions and to curry favor with their campaign donors. They are the so-called "stakeholders" — individuals who benefit from the enterprise they manage or those who are supposed to fix it. They are the experts, lobbyists, consultants and special interest groups that benefit from the status quo. It's the main reason government agencies become outdated, bloated and inefficient.

In past eras, when change was slow and times where good, our nation was able to absorb inefficiencies and waste, and public outcry was quickly dispelled as troublemaking. The Internet and globalization have made us see how our institutions, designed for past eras, are now ineffective in responding to our changing world. Thomas Friedman said it well: "In this day and age, we must all act like immigrants. We are all in search of opportunity in a new world that we do not fully understand." We see the danger our nation faces and where our way of life is threatened. We are struggling to deal with the unknown and new world, yet clinging to the past. In short, we are all strangers in this new world and in need of new eyes to help our society figure out new ways to cope with it.

The old "stakeholders," the experts, don't understand the different world we face. However, they still sit on commissions that determine public policies — education, health, economy, environment, energy. We fail to involve the consumers and the youth who see the world landscape with a new set of eyes. We dismiss them as in need of basics, just as we did when we thought calculators would hinder their learning.

Youth, born around 1985, were entering school at the time the World Wide Web was being created. They were born in the new digital world where they readily learned how to access and synthesize information, social networking and crowdsourcing — where they shared and learned from each other in problem solving. Unlike our generation that thinks linearly and looks to experts to solve our problems, Cathy Davidson describes how youth use crowdsourcing, outsourcing to the crowd to solve problems, in her book, "Now You See It." She writes that crowdsourcing is non-hierarchical in that difference and diversity, rather than expertise and uniformity, are used to solve problems; predictions to solutions limit participation and the likelihood of success; and the community most helped by the solution should be involved in finding it.

Today's youth are not obsessed with ownership or who gets the credit, rather a culture of sharing and realizing that the answers to problems depend on collaboration and working for the community good. They act like Freidman said we should in dealing with a new world — like immigrants where we look for opportunities. After all, it was immigrants who first landed here looking only for freedom and opportunity. They brought with them the values that made our nation thrive — the willingness to risk, imagination, creativity, hard work and to work for the common good.

Today, we live in a new world, yet still clinging to the past, and letting the "stakeholders" fight for the status quo. Instead, we should look to the new generation and ask them to tell us how we should shore up our old institutions, or create new ones, in making our nation succeed in the new interconnected and changing world.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch, served as former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education. Email him at jdflorez@comcast.net.