Undoubtedly, the recession has wreaked havoc on society at large and on individuals, leaving millions unemployed and many more struggling to make ends meet. However, closer examination reveals one redeeming quality: it has forced many, particularly those of the millennial generation, into a new paradigm for business and social change. Our generation’s idealism in the face of economic turmoil, has forced many to forge their own way and establish themselves as entrepreneurs, creating small companies that are both profit-oriented and charitable. This movement has largely been referred to as social entrepreneurship. Elizabeth Nolan Brown of “Reason” magazine refers to this movement as “hipster capitalism.” These entrepreneurs reject both the “commune” lifestyle and “rugged individualism,” favoring a business model that celebrates the good of capitalism while rejecting its ruthless qualities, Brown said. Historically, businesses have a purely results-oriented mindset. They have their goals—primarily profit and growth, and they create systematic approaches for achieving those goals. The business sector has succeeded in creating unprecedented amounts of wealth and has allowed our society to flourish in many respects. When this drive for results is paired with non-profits’ goals to provide hope for people who are suffering and bring tangible social change, the results can be powerful. Many people from our generation have gladly taken on the challenge or merging these two mindsets. The popular brand TOMS Shoes exemplifies the rise of social entrepreneurship companies. According to its website, “What began as a simple idea has evolved into a powerful business model helping address need, and also advance health, education and economic opportunity for children and their communities around the world.” It is important to emphasize that this is a business model, not a charity. Through their business, which focuses on the sale of shoes, clothes and coffee, they can use the drive for profit to ignite social change. The rise of social entrepreneurs has not gone unnoticed. Forbes has even released a list of “30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs,” celebrating the young people who have adopted this new paradigm of business. This list highlights a wide variety of endeavors. Chase Adam, 27, launched a website “where donors can directly fund high-impact medical care for people in need,” and has raised over $2 million to help 1,000 patients. Kamel Al-Asmar, 29, developed Nakweh, “the first volunteer network for the Arab world.” Christopher Ategeka, 29, sells bikes and motorcycles to Ugandan health centers to provide quicker access to medical care. Brian Baum, 24, “raffles off once-in-a-lifetime prizes…that raise funds for charities.” The list continues on to highlight many more creative, strategic individuals who truly strive to make a difference in the world in their own way that capitalizes on their personal strengths and interests.
According to Brown, millennials value “flexibility and autonomy” and prefer jobs in which they can assert their creativity. We don’t need to force ourselves into the old paradigm of business. Rather, we can leverage these natural instincts along with our idealism to make a difference. Business does not have to be viewed as “selling out” and profit does not have to be associated with greed. By harnessing the power of capitalism, we can combine our need to earn a living with our idealistic nature to make substantial, lasting impacts in our communities.
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