Seven strangers meet for brunch in Brooklyn. They have only two things in common: they were born roughy between 1998 and 2015, the cohort known as Generation Z, and they’re willing to talk politics at the dining table — specifically about refugees.
The group is surrounded by white stucco walls, marble tabletops and potted palms — an ideal setting for an Instagram photoshoot. But none of these Gen Z-ers have a phone in their hand. For the next few hours all devices are tucked away while the conversation proceeds without distraction, save for the cameras taping them.
UNICEF and Purpose, a creative agency specializing in purpose-driven campaigns that impact policy, have organized this group to discuss the global refugee crisis.
“If we brought folks — even folks who think very differently from one another — around a table, they could relax, eat something and bond over that,” says Gissou Nia, an international criminal lawyer and strategy director for Purpose. “The awkwardness of meeting a stranger gets stripped away.”
Members of Generation Z are known for choosing their own preferred pronouns, leading online-offline protests and backing intersectional politics.
They’re a set of uniquely diverse, digital natives. And while they’re also considered the loneliest generation, they’re largely connected to the world via social media and can incite protests without leaving their bedrooms.
“The ultimate hope was to convene a group of change makers who would start to build solutions by them, for them because more than half of the world’s refugees are children,” says Nia. She helped bring together Gia Grier, 18, Ahmed Badr, 19, Abdalla Asem, 21, Soraya Morales Nuñez, 21, Fadumo Osman, 22, Latchmi Gopal, 24 and Julie Kim, 27.
Each of the video participants has a history of activism. They were selected via social media, and agreed to be filmed as a part of a campaign to welcome refugees to dinner. Among several issues discussed over brunch, displaced persons emerged as the most pressing topic.
“I didn’t feel like I knew enough about the refugee crisis to speak on it,” says Gia Grier, a high school graduate from Brooklyn, N.Y. “I think by having conversations that can sometimes be challenging or uncomfortable, because we don’t know too much about the topic at hand, we end up learning more about the world. I think challenging conversations are more rewarding.”