What's a rich kid with a social conscience to do? Courtney Young was fresh out of college and working for a Boston-area women's foundation when she began feeling "the conflict," as she calls it. The daughter of a successful real estate developer who amassed substantial wealth for her family, Young realized that she had both a surplus of money and a strong sense of social justice. "I wasn't sure how to reconcile those two, because so often those are viewed as diametrically opposed," she says.
So she turned to Resource Generation, a nonprofit networking group of young people with money to invest in social change and questions about how best to do it. The group was formed in Boston six years ago and now operates in eight U.S. cities. Its mission is to help people aged 18 to 35 to effectively share their wealth--"to align their personal values and political vision with their financial resources," as Young puts it. After attending a few of the group's workshops and informal get-togethers, she learned her options for planned giving and was on her way to joining the new generation of philanthropists.
Now Young, 24, is helping other young progressives with assets put their money where their mouth is. Three months ago she moved to Durham to become Resource Generation's first southern field coordinator. While she's presently focused on organizing in North Carolina, she'll soon be branching out to neighboring states. This Sunday, Young will host the group's first southern-based gathering in Durham (see details below).
Young says she's already found a strong response in the Triangle, and she's not surprised, given her group's previous experiences. Across the country, Resource Generation has tapped into a budding financial phenomenon: the massive inter-generational transfer of wealth from baby boomers to their children. Some young people are coming into serious sums of money, and some of them want to do more with it than draw interest or blow it on luxuries. But options for socially responsible investing aren't always clear.
That's where Resource Generation comes in. The support they can offer, members of the group say, can be as simple as providing a forum for talking about taboo topics like the unique dilemma of being young, moneyed and progressive. "We're all taught that it's not polite to talk about money, that we shouldn't talk about how much money we have or how much other people have," Young says. "At a certain level, it's supposed to be a politeness thing, but on another level it allows extraordinary class inequalities to be perpetuated."
Talking in frank terms about class and inequality is a Resource Generation priority, Young says, and the group's cross-class board of directors helps keep such discussions grounded in the real world. For example, in addition to discussing how to make smart investments for social change, the group takes up topics like how to confront urban gentrification that squeezes out the lower end of the economic spectrum.
So how rich do you have to be to hook up with Resource Generation? That's all up to the individual, Young explains. "We have people who self-define as wealthy, which means that we have people who have assets of $40,000 to people who have assets of millions of dollars. Some are living off a nonprofit salary, some have trust funds, and some have earned income." Whatever a person's resources, she says, anyone can contribute to the group's efforts to understand and redirect wealth. Come one, come all, she says, to Sunday's meeting.
Resource Generation will hold its first local meeting in Durham on Sunday, Feb. 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. For directions, call 489-4540. For more information about the group, go to www.resourcegeneration.org.