Youth Driving Local AND Global Change through Small Business

July 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Making a Difference

Because a longtime dream of mine has been to develop a program to encourage and educate young people’s interest in small business startup, I am always interested in new leadership and entrepreneurial programs for youth. 

There’s a current trend that makes absolutely no sense to me, particularly in the present economy. Most of the “entrepreneurship” programs I read about for young people are preparing then for a successful college “career” and to be leaders in the corporate world. These classes, seminars and workshops are marketed as preparing a student to give her the competitive edge on college applications and a strong resume for job searches. 

Why would we want our future leaders to be well prepared for a life of employment?  Doesn’t it make more sense for the brightest young people to be encouraged and prepared to create their own ventures, to be business leaders and employers rather than ideal employees? 

Another trend I find interesting is the push to “think big”. While it’s promising that the future leaders of our country are being encouraged to think globally, and have empathy for and interest in other cultures, I hope that this one-world vision isn’t intimidating or discouraging for the young people who are more comfortable with local or regional goals. We need for them to know that their community involvement and contributions to local economy and causes is of equal importance and value. And let’s not forget how many big things start with baby steps. 

I’m a huge proponent of starting small and I know that often that’s the secret to making big things happen. If all our future leaders are encouraged to conquer the world and immediately seek “positions” with huge international firms, who is going to be the community advocate? What about the bright young people who are all fired up about a local situation. Don’t we want to encourage these kids to drive change at the community level rather than making them feel that only huge global efforts will have any impact?

Many school districts around the country have a community service requirement and high school students frequently will find their calling coincidentally through this experience. I’d love to see it taken a step further and rather than all of these kids being steered toward careers as corporate executives, a follow up course offered on true social entrepreneurship. It’s time to get these young people thinking about how they can  create their own livelihood and make a difference in their communities. 

Do you know of any programs in your local area that is encouraging youth to drive change through small business? Is this something you would support in your community? 

It’s my intention to bring such a program to different areas around the US and I would love to hear what is already being done and where the need is greatest. As always,  please feel free to post your comments. 

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