Sunday, April 18, 2010

The World Needs More Social Entrepreneurs

I found this article on Youth Venture interesting. If you're not familiar with it, Youth Venture is a program of Bill Drayton's Ashoka--an organization committed to developing more social entrepreneurs.

Ashoka defines social entrepreneurs as "individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps."

The Youth Venture program targets young people (i.e., teenagers) with drive and innovative ideas and helps them launch social entrepreneurial efforts. "Ashoka believes that youth will gain the skills and innate understanding that they can be powerful long into their adult future. Through this experience, young people will grow up practicing applied empathy, teamwork, and leadership—the underlying skills needed to make change."

It sounds great. It really does. The profiles of their "Youth Ventures"--the young people they're helping to drive social change in their communities--are inspiring. I did some hunting around on the Ashoka website because I wanted to see how new their Youth Venture program was. Ashoka itself started in 1980, but I couldn't fnd a start date for Youth Venture. It sounds like a recent addition, though, and my Gen X cynicism can't help but wonder how much of it is a reaction to the leadership void we keep hearing will be left when Boomers retire and the smaller X generation tries to step in to fill those shoes.

Picture it. From one end of the spectrum we've got Civic Ventures and organizations like them, selling the idea of Encore Careers to for-profit Boomer leaders, helping them transfer to the non-profit sector so society can continue to benefit from their wisdom and experience. And from the other end we've now got programs like Youth Venture, encourgaing and providing resources to get the youngest generation to accept leadership roles in solving today's challenges.

Sometimes it really does seem that Generation X doesn't exist. Or at least that the Boomers who run programs like Civic Ventures and Youth Venture don't believe it has the talent--or the desire? or just the sheer numbers?--to save the world.


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