Millennials are often associated with low resilience in the workplace and high unemployment rates. However, the world is experiencing a great challenge to rethink, in terms of knowledge transferring, value judgements, and economic development. Social enterprise, an innovative business model developed in light of this background, has become an alternative for the younger generation to imagine and participate in the world. Such concept has been supported by pioneers around the world.
Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and Founder of Grameen Bank, often called “bank for the poor”, believes that social enterprises not only keep the competitiveness of traditional corporations but also create social values for the society. In 2011, he founded the Grameen Creative Lab which enables young people to establish social businesses, taking his influence to the aspects of education and talent development within this field. Bill Drayton, Founder of Ashoka, the world’s leading organization that promotes social entrepreneurships, also believes that young people are the shapers of our future. According to his theory, encouraging young people to think independently and participate in community affairs will result in the development of local economy and social businesses.
How do we employ educational methods to help young people develop the innovative mindset and social entrepreneurship needed to change the world? Here are some examples.
1. Social enterprise incubators within campuses
Ashoka U, established in 2008, works with colleges and universities to foster a campus-wide culture of social innovation. Institutions that wish to partner with Ashoka U are expected to prove that they have the capacity to drive changes and realize the concept of social business within and outside of campus, from faculties to students and from lectures to extracurricular programs.
UnLtd is the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in the UK, established in 2000 with the support of Millennium Commission. Each year, UnLtd provides awards, funding, and trainings to thousands of social entrepreneurs, helping them initiate and scale up their social ventures as well as make transitions. It also collaborates with Higher Education Funding Council for England to empower students from 60 universities to engage with social enterprises and develop relevant skills. With the support of DBS Bank and HCT Logistics, Social Enterprise Insights has brought UnLtd to Taiwan and established “Social Enterprise Insights iLab”, with the aim to help young social entrepreneurs take their first steps.
2. Local research centers
Fu Jen Catholic University’s Social Enterprise Research Center and The Taiwan Social Enterprise Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society have been dedicated to researching and promoting social businesses. During the consultation process, it was observed that social enterprises often lack sales and marketing channels. Therefore, 17 Support, an e-commerce platform, was founded to encourage consumers to buy products from social enterprises. More academic initiatives were established one after another, such as The Social Enterprise Development & Research Center at National Sun Yat-Sen University and Yunus Social Business Center at National Central University.
3. Teachers as changemakers in social enterprise curriculum
Professor Dung-Shen Chen from National Taiwan University has inspired many students, from a sociological perspective, to start their own social enterprises. Happen Social Design, started as a co-working space and now a consulting firm specializing in revamping local communities, and XG Studio, promoter of urban rooftop farms, are both proud examples sprouted from Professor Chen’s class which has become a living lab for social innovation. Professor Ji-Ren Lee from National Taiwan University Creativity and Entrepreneurship Program has devoted many years to helping corporations develop strategic plans and employee education programs. He believes that a right business model is crucial to the success of a social enterprise. For example, creating a multi-sided market can benefit those who are disadvantaged by transferring the cost of products or services to those who are able and willing to pay, increasing the value of innovation other than goodwill. In addition, professors from different fields, such as design, architecture, human resource, services science, and industrial engineering, all join forces to embed social entrepreneurship to their courses, sowing the seeds of Innovation for Good.
4. Social initiatives organized by students
Besides research centers and academic programs, the synergy generated among students is equally impressive. Net Impact is an organization established by a group of MBA students in San Francisco in 1993. It has been successfully empowering students around the world to create sharing values between corporations and the society and execute solutions using business skills. In 2012, National Taiwan University started NTU Net Impact chapter, first of its kind in Taiwan. WE Style from National Tsing Hua University and Strong Chance from National Chiao Tung University are both student clubs focusing on social entrepreneurship. An on-campus competition featuring social enterprise is also a great way to cultivate talents by enabling students to shape and test their innovative ideas, such as The Global Social Venture Competition organized by University of California Berkeley, Social Venture Challenge collaborated by DBS Bank and National University of Singapore, and the TiC100 competition in Taiwan.
According to research, 70% of university students highly value the possibility to make a social impact at work. For young graduates who seek to develop a career with impact, joining social enterprises is an emerging option. Other than great passion, strong execution skills and resilience are also key success factors for social enterprises. Through the four channels discussed above, educational resources can significantly add value to the young generation and in turn the society as a whole.