It should not be a surprise that the next generation from parents that are business owners or high-ranked corporate executives do not need to wait until going to business school in their mid-20s to learn the basics about management. Dealing with competition, products, clients, distribution, economy, employees and a number of other different business subjects are discussed on a daily basis at dinner tables, social events and family gatherings. But what is interesting now is that, although most of the current wealthy millenials (also called Generation Y) could turn to their family business or parents’ career paths to plan their future, a growing search for positive change, making an interest over social responsibility and engagement a must-have.
In the last week of July, a number of young wealth-holders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists gathered in NY for the Nexus Global Youth Summit on Innovative Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship. One of the common Gen-Y interests – which filled a 400-person capacity auditorium – was ‘doing right by doing good’, helping peers to connect and discuss social change with non-profits and incredible young philanthropists. This socially conscious behaviour is developing across the globe with this generation. Emerging countries where social disparities are more evident, such as Brazil, urge the youth to act in a faster pace to transform their concerns into action. Brazil had a 13-person delegation that interacted and connected with peers from 30 different countries during the summit.
With the growth of social conscience, we observe this generation interested in, for instance, making a difference by creating a new product that thinks about recycling or its ingredients’ sustainability; learning how business is done in countries that focus on trying to eradicate poverty; or transforming the entire environment with a new idea. The current youth is looking into social world-changing innovation as a career opportunity. Can we predict whether entrepreneurs with social conscience might hit the jackpot and gain high returns by investing their time in current concerns with social engagement? Investing in carbon, education, water supply, food scarcity or distribution will solve the world’s problems – could it also create a new gang of super-businesspeople connected to each other by their gadgets and social networks?
Recent research by Box1824 (which specializes in research on consumer behaviour and trends) looked through the eyes of the Brazilian youth (18-24 years old), considering this approach as a glance to the future. The Brazilian Dream site shows – among a number of conclusions – that the Brazilian Generation Y wants to connect their work with personal fulfillment, and that this powerful combination should be considered a success in life. When work and happiness walk side by side, the new social environment is less focused on the individual, and more on the new collective gathering of the community.
Leandro, a young Brazilian entrepreneur, is among several changing their business model: ‘Having trained in workshops to discuss social engagement and social investment made me see how it could be possible to maintain a business and also be committed to working for the common good. I’ve learnt about the social reality of my country and the possible vehicles to promote social change. In addition to changing the focus of my family’s company, I also made several changes to my lifestyle, and to the way I relate to friends, family and employees. I became more patient and attentive, and I now try to give more thought to issues, taking into account the points of view of others – partners, clients, employees, neighbours and the local environment.’
Is the legacy of the young generation the conscience about the community? Should the new philanthropy or charity be social investments or business created by individuals and families? Should we consider social engaged enterprises generous for splitting revenues and margins with the community? What is the extension of corporations’ role in the eradication of poverty and sustainable environment? Hopefully we don’t need to wait several years to find out.
Elaine Smith is development manager at Instituto Geração.