Julia Schetelig – Founder of Generation Impact

Hello Julia! Feel free to introduce yourself.

Well, hello! I’m Julia. I’m originally from Germany, but I’ve lived in Finland, Singapore, and the United States over the past few years. And, I’m the founder of Generation Impact. 

Sounds exciting! So when did you find Generation Impact? 

It’s crazy that it’s turning a year old! So, I started it after my freshman year (of college). The idea came to me right after I graduated high school. As you know, I was very fortunate to go to our very international, service-oriented high school that allowed us to play an active role in the community. Looking back, I feel very blessed for all the opportunities and the fantastic network I had access to! We have an amazing alumni network; there’s always someone there to support you and answer any questions. However, I’ve realized that not many people have access to that, and many young people want to make a difference but don’t know where to start because there’s no one around that can hook them up with these resources! So, I’ve wanted to change that for so long! It’s been a whole year of bookmarking ideas, and gathering a spreadsheet of data to create this online resource community! 

How did the Generation Impact team come together? 

I often share with my friends the crazy coincidences that always seem to happen to me. It’s all very random! A few years ago, I met a stranger on a plane who is now a fellow collaborator, and we’ve been working together ever since. So, there are random things like that. There’s a lot of individuals from the alumni network from my highschool. And, simply opportunities I’ve shared and taken advantage of! For example, I did this Microsoft study, which was about the future of the workforce. It was an incredible experience. It was a group of 100 collaborators, and I’m still working with so many of these individuals! And, many companies were a part of the Microsoft event. There was a company named ‘Your Big Year, ’ which is all about empowering the youth, and the network I’ve been able to gather from them! So, there are at least 30 people who have been able to collaborate with Generation Impact. 

What would you like to accomplish with Generation Impact in the next five years? 

Well, we’ll see if we continue it for the next five years! I’ve been having a few problems with outreach. However, my biggest goal is to empower young people to make a difference they want to make. I do see, in our generation, this intense need to “change the world.” But, a lot of people don’t know about all the resources out there! They don’t know about the youth organizations or the fully funded conferences they can apply for, the scholarships that are available or simply funding. I want to connect them with all these resources and, to a certain extent, follow them on their journey! The great part of Generation Impact is that it is a small scale organization, so when people email me – we can easily call! I’m always happy just to read over proposals and provide mentoring. And, sometimes, that’s all young people need – a little push! 

Very true! Is there any advice you’d give your younger self? 

I think the easiest advice people often give is, ‘Just do it!’ but I think the advice I want to stick with is, don’t be afraid of failure. And, I think I was way better at that when I was younger than I am now. I used to be a big visionary as a kid. I remember at 16; I was part of a team that had to plan a fully funded conference for 30 kids in Cambodia. I was like, ‘Yep! We can do it! We can raise $2000 in the next couple of months.’ NOW, if you told me to coordinate a fully funded conference for 30 kids, there’d be so many things to think about! I think the more experienced you get, the more you know about what can go wrong. I think as I went through failures early on as being a ‘visionary,’ I lost the ‘just do it’ attitude. I became afraid of failure, criticism, and letting my team down! I think I would have started Generation Impact sooner if I didn’t have those experiences. But, you know, failure is normal. Don’t see it as a setback; always see it as a learning opportunity.

Now, what are the biggest challenges that people face when they want to make a difference? 

I’ll give you a psychology response and a business response. My business response is that people get too married to their idea. We are a very innovation-driven society at the moment – it’s all about having the prototype. And, if the prototype doesn’t work, they just throw it away! People need to get married to their mission. Don’t get too caught up in the ‘how.’ Be flexible in the way you’re approaching your goal. The psychology response would be people fall into black and white thinking. We often get these extreme ideas of ‘who we’re meant to be’ – for example, published at 16 or traveling the world or give a ted talk! Or, we’re nothing. And the truth is, the most significant change happens in between. It’s about making small differences and taking responsibility for their immediate community. People don’t see the opportunities that they have around them. It can be as easy as a sweet message on FB, or helping a friend out! 

What is the most fulfilling thing about Generation Impact? 

 I know this is a cliched answer, but seeing the change, you make! I realized that with actual facilitation. I love being a facilitator and facilitating workshops. And, I love seeing that little spark of ‘Oh, I get it now!’ And, they learn, and they grow – and that’s honestly my favorite moment! Another thing would be the amazing relationships you form through these experiences. The friendships I’ve developed through conferences and workshops. I consider them my siblings! They’re just beautiful experiences that I’d keep forever. 

Now, is there someone that inspires you? Who’s your role model? 

When I think of a role-model, I immediately think of Brenne Brown. She’s genuinely my psychology crush! She’s a social worker in the U.S, but she’s also a researcher. She became famous in this Ted-Talk she gave about shame and vulnerability – and has just done incredible work in general! She has a great podcast about comparative suffering. She inspires people to seek connectivity, and that inspires me! I often joke with my friend that I hope one of our friends gets so famous that I can meet Brenne Brown! 

In 10 words or less, describe Generation Impact.

A resource platform that empowers individuals to make a difference! 

And, lastly, what’s next for you? Any exciting new projects coming up with Generation Impact? 

I’ll be publishing an interview with Maya, the drag queen from India. I’m excited to sit down and talk about pride month – we get along so well, and it’s always a blast! I’m excited to initiate collaboration sessions again. I believe it will be weekly sessions people can sign up for – similar to office hours – just living room talk about making a difference! 


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