You probably saw the memes floating around the internet after Hillary lost the 2016 Presidential election that slapped at Millenials for the way they responded to the outcome.

This is what happens when you give children participation trophies.

Unfortunately, the conversation stopped there. It didn’t go deeper into what participation means, what it involves and what the consequences are if we don’t allow it. It was a shallow commentary on moment in time that could have provided an opportunity for deep consideration of how our communities operate and how we can make them stronger.

There are ongoing conversations about participation in the democratic process, but again, we aren’t reaching down to the real issue. It is easy to point to voter ID laws, race and special interests as the culprits, but again, we are not reaching down to the real issue of participation. It is a surface-level conversation that leads to surface-level policies. Not surprisingly, the problem is not resolved.

This issue really isn’t about the reaction of Millenials. It’s not about participation in the democratic process. It is about the fear and vulnerability that govern our decisions about participation.


In the next three posts I’ll talk about why focusing the conversation on participation trophies – and Millenials – does nothing to confront the real issues faced by individuals and organizations that are facing change. These are deep issues that are very challenging to face. There are three primary ways to approach this, and the most challenging takes a level of maturity and self-confidence that eschew talk for action:

  1. You can choose to not allow people to participate. That approach says a lot about who you are or who your organization is.
  2. You can choose to allow people to participate. That approach says something else about you, but it may not be speaking a compliment.
  3. You can choose to invite people to participate.

***Spoiler: you want to be able to take the third option.