Being a social entrepreneur is simply not enough. With the challenges we face in our world today, working within our organizations alone will not suffice. We need to think bigger. Much bigger. To reach our true potential, we need to make a massive investment to educate and inspire youth about the challenges we face, so that they can lead forward the solutions. And I don’t just mean college programs – we need to start in kindergarten. Today’s youth are our storychangers; they can rapidly scale the movement of better-world business.
What percentage of the global market is built of social enterprises? How many people on earth even understand the term “social entrepreneurship”? How many kids grow up learning how to be committed citizens for a better world through what they buy (and what they don’t), where they work, and how they live? How many kids are growing up learning that making an impact is awesome? How many kids realize the power they collectively hold to completely change our future for the better? More importantly, how many of us realize that?
Each of us is contributing to what I believe to be the largest challenge our social enterprise community faces: tunnel vision. We are missing out on the true potential of collaborative storytelling in accomplishing our life missions; we need to look up from our work now and then to remember that collectively we have a unique, beautiful story that we need to share with our children.
transforming the story
When I was in high school, I bought a pair of Gap jeans (among many other clothes from companies I wish I hadn’t). Why did I buy them? Comfort. Did anyone ever teach me the environmental mess that occurs to make a pair of jeans, or the social irresponsibility of a company like Gap? No. Was I ever shown a better alternative? Nope.
What we raise our kids learning is completely out of focus with the world we wish to create. Disagree? How many parents know about Tegu toys, and how many more just simply buy Legos? How many kids know what the Millenium Development Goals are? Or who one of the greatest leaders of our time is? Don’t blame kids. This one’s on us: the advertisers, the parents, the teachers, and every single adult in between. We control the story. We need to show children not the way the world is, but the way the world can be. Or better yet, we can trust them to show us.
Kids are passionate. Kids are smart. In 2010, I taught social entrepreneurship at my former high school. Two months in, the students were building a business. A few hours after teaching my 9-year-old cousin the Warby Parker and VisionSpring business model, he held a mini-conference in his house to explain his newfound passion to his family. Passion! That is the key takeaway here. It’s a no brainer that kids will love the idea of building a better world. The most important thing here is that kids are finding passion and purpose in learning and doing. Math can become relevant in understanding how to run the finances of a better-world business. Science and Technology mixed with creative and critical thinking can help to design scalable solutions for a world without fossil fuels. Class projects and activities partnering with and building better-world businesses can help these students do something truly meaningful in their communities. We can empower youth to design solutions to the challenges we face in ways our current generation cannot even imagine.
Simply put, it’s time to transform and transcend the market, not just react and act within it. It’s time to spread the knowledge of how to build a better-world business, to share why this is important, and to inspire our children no matter the village, city, or country to lead the movement forward. It is time for us to educate a generation to become storychangers – to learn to be empathetic citizens ready to collectively solve our world’s challenges. To build a world in which we can all live synergistically, in which everyone has the opportunity to live with purpose and dignity.
If that sounds impossible to you, then it is time to pass this letter on to someone who will believe we can do better. We’ve come far in the movement, but we are only getting started. It’s time to open our minds to new possibilities. Let’s empower our children to solve the challenge. Let’s not only bring them into the conversation, but help them lead the way forward.
While discussing our mission to reweave, a great friend left me with a few words from William Wordsworth. He reminded me “The child is father of the man.”
To children, it’s simple. For them, every business should be like Warby Parker or Better World Books – every business should work towards a better world. They should never have to support a business that isn’t working towards bettering the lives of every stakeholder on our earth. For them, and for our next generation, a world that works for all can be a choice we make. They have the opportunity to grow up learning and living this story. It’s what our children can, should, and might even need to want. Let’s help them get a head start. If Wordsworth is right, there isn’t room for debate here. It’s time for us all to truly come together. We can and we must reweave the story of our world, for good.
Abhi Nangia is the founder of Reweave, an organization committed to educating youth to better the world around them.