Young people came out and voted in impressive numbers at the general election but, as Crowd consultant Milly Derbyshire reports, engagement and proactivity is finding other forms, too...

The votes are counted, the verdict’s out – the election result that no pollster predicted – an all out Tory majority. But that wasn’t the only surprise on election day. Despite forecasts that young people would yet again be the most politically disengaged, and fail to vote in significant numbers, initial reports have suggested a higher turnout that ever before – as high as 65%, a huge jump from the 40% average in the previous three elections.

So how did they vote?

It looks like they opted for left wing Labour over the right wing Conservatives, were a lot less likely to vote for the immigration and EU focussed UK Independence Party and much more likely to vote for the Green Party. Not surprising considering Labour had pledged to reduce tuition fees and cap private rents, the Greens cater to a more youthful, idealistic commitment to the environment, and young people might not consider immigration and the EU as much of a problem as their parents. But compared to the overall outcome, it’s clear that the increase in youth participation is still a drop in the ocean that holds little sway in affecting the final result. With seemingly little power to affect the election, and despite electing a 20 year old MP, we’re witnessing alternative ways of young people channeling their energies in order make their voices heard and their ideas a reality. Politically, economically, socially, they are restless, hungry and open to new paths to success and change.

Young people are increasingly politically engaged, not only in traditional systems of representation, but also by finding new channels to speak up. George the Poet is a great case in point. BRIT Award nominated and signed to Island Records, George consciously chose rap to communicate socially and politically motivated messages in order to tap into a young audience.

The political realm is not the only space where young people are actively disrupting traditional structures and norms. Our Youth Tribes work uncovered a thriving network of bedroom industries – young people carving out careers without leaving the confines of their room. Jettisoning the elitist world of unpaid internships or the corporate structure of the graduate scheme, young people are re-imagining routes to commercial success. People like the founders of Wavey Garms, an idea that uses the simple technology of Facebook to connect supply to demand in the world of vintage streetwear. Borne of a frustration at eBay, Wavey Garms created a simple alternative that’s found huge success.

Young people are disrupting norms by creating alternatives to institutions in the form of bedroom industries
Young people are disrupting norms by creating alternatives to institutions in the form of bedroom industries

And young people’s approach to education is seeing an overhaul too, unsurprising after the hike in tuition fees. Online, on demand education, like free coding education site Codeacademy, is giving young people the chance to learn in ways that better suits their needs, and budgets.

As the election turnout shows, young people are far from the apathetic group so often painted in the media. Not only did they turn out in higher numbers than ever anticipated on election day, but they are actively seeking ways to redefine how they can be part of, and change, society. How their impact will change in the future will be an interesting one to watch – considering the widely accepted notion that young people tend to stick with their voting preferences into later adult life, it seems likely that young people’s influence is only set to amplify.