Engaging Gen Z in Government Policy Discourse

Morna Ikosa

Generation z, THE group born between 1995 and early 2010, has emerged as a significant force in shaping the political landscape, wielding substantial influence on government policies.

This digital-native generation, raised in an era of rapid technological advancement and global interconnectedness, brings a unique perspective and set of values to the political arena.

Characterised by their strong social consciousness, Gen Z has been at the forefront of various social and environmental movements, advocating for issues such as climate change, racial equity and democracy, as in the case of the Arab revolts that resulted in deposed heads of state in Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 and now recently the Kenyan protests.

What was different about the Kenyan protests is that they were predominantly led by Gen Zers from multi-ethnic backgrounds.

The youth did not respond well to the leadership of president William Ruto.

Some politicians indicated they have never witnessed the type of activism demonstrated in June, citing they are dealing with a “new phenomenon and a group of people that is not predictable”.

Gen Z engagement with and their utilisation of digital platforms – from social media to online activism – have amplified their voices and enabled them to mobilise their peers, effectively pressuring policymakers to address their concerns.

The Kenyan government’s retraction of the high tax proposals is tacit proof that Gen Z’s digital fluency and social consciousness has a profound impact on the political discourse of their country.

This shift in political engagement should compel policymakers to adopt more inclusive and multi-stakeholder approaches to engage with Gen Z.

The salience stakeholder analysis model by Mitchel, Agle and Wood presents a valuable framework for governments to engage and influence Gen Z.

This model can assist governments to assess and prioritise competing and conflicting stakeholder needs and expectations.

The model is designed to be used in conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI) technology to generate a variety of stakeholder avatars that governments are likely to interact with.

It classifies stakeholders based on power, urgency and legitimacy, forming five distinct groups: dangerous, dependent, dominant, definitive and dormant.

As a result of governments failing to engage proactively with stakeholders, they frequently find themselves taken by surprise when a stakeholder previously categorised as dormant suddenly transforms into a dangerous stakeholder within a mere 24-hour period.

Therefore, to effectively leverage the salience stakeholder analysis model when engaging Generation Z, governments must first thoroughly identify and understand the key stakeholders within the Gen Z demographic.

This includes recognising their diverse backgrounds, interests and levels of engagement.

Governments must carefully analyse the unique characteristics and needs of Gen Z to enable them to proactively and strategically target and influence this influential group.

Once the key stakeholders have been identified, the next step is to assess their power, legitimacy, and urgency in relation to government initiatives.

This multidimensional evaluation allows governments to prioritise their engagement efforts and tailor their approaches accordingly.

As Gen Z continues to grow in both size and influence, their impact on government policies is poised to become even more pronounced.

Policymakers must continue to closely monitor the evolving preferences and priorities of this generation, adapting their approaches to ensure that the voices and concerns of Gen Z are effectively represented in the political decision-making process.

  • Morna Ikosa is a seasoned stakeholder engagement and strategic communication consultant with an affinity for sustainable development matters. The views expressed here are her own.

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