Growing Youth Engagement in Social Entrepreneurship

By Brooke Hemingway

 

Companies like TOMS shoes and Better World Books have combined business practices with a social mission. TOMS donates one pair of shoes for every pair sold, and Better World Books uses proceeds from book sales to support world literacy. This concept, called “social entrepreneurship” is when individuals create solutions to social issues through business. In 2015, 63% of consumers indicated that the intersection between business and ethical issues has become more important (Trahart 2015).


Not only has awareness about the importance of social entrepreneurship grown in the general public, but it has a new place in academia. Thomas Cavaneugh, head of the Center for Social Impact at North Central College said that “the social environment has drawn lots of people towards the idea that [social] change is important, that understanding the problems they're trying to change is important.” Cavanegugh stressed that the most important step to enacting change is to truly understand all parts of an issue. He called social entrepreneurship a “conscious decision” to both understand and attempt to solve an issue.


Corporations and academics are not the only participants in social entrepreneurship; the number of young social entrepreneurs (age 18-34) has nearly matched the number of young commercial entrepreneurs in recent years (Tkacz 2016). Lucy Gold, a junior in high school, is one of these young entrepreneurs. She is the co-founder of Connecting Chicago, Chicago’s largest youth-run nonprofit. Connecting Chicago helps solve educational disparities in Chicago through tutoring services and creates tangible impacts on students, such as increasing their confidence to speak up in class.


Lucy recommended that students interested in the intersection between business and social work reach out to existing organizations. “For any passion, there’s some sort of social project”, she said. Resources like idealist.org or the Social Enterprise Alliance list various internships, jobs, or volunteering opportunities in your area. Making tangible social impacts isn’t limited to businesses, but is accessible to anyone with consciousness and information.