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Millennials—Today’s Social Impact Leaders

The entrepreneurial society all over the world’s been tenacious over the last years. It is of interest that businesses are embarking on new business models with regard to making social impact. And this venture has the purpose-driven millennials involved to a great extent.

Reports from The British Council show that social entrepreneurship is escalating like wildfire in developing and developed countries. Teresa Chahine, a pioneer in social entrepreneurship, defined the discipline as everything that lies in between charity and commerce. In spite of the fact that firms are still for-profit, funding social agenda is still the priority. Social enterprises are not like commercial firms who have corporate social responsibility programs. Rather, generating social impact is the core and foundation of the company’s vision, mission, and operations.

One of the most significant lessons highlighted by social impact leaders is that charity is never the finish line. There is no impact in charity, one simply walks away and brushes off the issue. To bring about a difference, a leader must first recognize the problem and search for a solution. For instance, Komal Ahmad – a Millennial, Founder and CEO of Copia, a service that redistributes food surplus to nonprofits in need. It all began when she met a homeless veteran in Berkeley who had not eaten for three days. Knowing that there is a raft of uneaten food across the street, she then realized that the problem was not the lack of food available. She was able to identify that the logistics of distributing uneaten food was the problem. It is critical to listen and observe well in the problem-solving process in order to understand and decipher the situation completely before crafting a plan of action. This millennial has been successful in fighting hunger through technology and bring about positive social impact.

On the path to social impact, criticism is inevitable and as is failure. Social entrepreneurs may receive criticism and discouragement for doing what they do. Simon Sinek, a motivational leadership speaker says, “Never give up trying to build the world you can see even if others can’t see it.” Because at the end of the day, the big picture is all that matters, remembering where and why it all began. It takes consistency, dedication, and valor to be able to make a mark in the lives of others, and to be able to lead and inspire previous generations, baby boomers and other groups of people to do the same. For social entrepreneurs, every day is always a challenging one, but it is always a battle worth fighting.

The steady rise of social enterprises undoubtedly play a massive part in affecting society, and this social responsibility is one that millennials are eagerly willing to take and be in charge of. Today, plenty of social issues are being addressed, and awareness is increasing fast. Among the most well-informed and cognizant are the millennials–who also seek purpose and fulfilment in their careers. Although quite young, this millennial generation continues to deliver grueling efforts  to lead effectively and follow through persistently one social impact at a time.

Ironically, however, a good number of millennials in developing countries in Southeast Asia, still feel that they lack the necessary qualities that social institutions expect from them the moment they step out of school.

Greg Navarro, a member of the Deloitte Southeast Asia Limited explains, “What is shown in the study is millennials are very strong in the soft skills– interpersonal. What they’re weak at is leadership, sales and marketing, so that’s one thing the academe has to address.”

Forming millennials to social impact leaders doesn’t happen overnight. This makes youth leadership training exceedingly relevant and consequential in today’s modern and volatile environment, This is paramount not only to prepare them to be the next generation leaders, but to generate fresh ideas and social movements from the youth, who can offer unique perspectives on different social problems and economic challenges.

Students’ leadership skills are honed as early as primary school when they become a part of group activities, class sections, as well as their own respective cliques. Young leaders in these cases could be assigned by the instructor, elected by the group, or simply volunteers who want to take initiative and responsibility. As students further advance to middle and secondary school, they’re given other opportunities to participate in paid leadership trainings and seminars inside or outside their respective campuses.

But are all students really given the privilege to exercise leadership and follow through with it? Oftentimes, only those who have academic merit, influential personalities and reputable characters get the advantage of being the first ones trained as leaders, allowing them to easily follow through in the next years. The ones who do not, however, may never get the chance due to reluctance, fear of being made fun of, or reasoning that it might already be too late for them.

In spite of this disadvantage, according to a Deloitte Millennial Survey, more than 6 out of 10 millennials in emerging markets such as the Philippines still aspire to be ‘leaders or most senior executives within their current organization.’ The survey further shows that millennials are immensely more eager to be leaders as compared to their counterparts in other growing countries, and even more so when matched up with developed areas.

Anyone can learn how to be a leader, with the right window of opportunities, mentorship, and environment. A concept called BIG MAN Leadership by Dean Williams of Harvard Kennedy School of Government accentuated that a status of power and authority does not necessarily equate to leadership. This simply tells us that one’s name and resources do not make him a leader–what matters more are intellect and character.

It’s just about time that Asia’s educational system fairly equip all students with leadership training and opportunities. Business entrepreneur and millennials have plenty of drive and social ventures to generate actions that can impact society. Who knows, the solution may lie in the mind of someone who’s been labeled all his life as reserved, no matter how much he wants to step forward and lead. We will never fully know who’s next in line to take over the corporate and economic landscape but we can up our chances if we put value in education.

By: Nathalie Ona

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