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    February 10, 2009

    Gen Y: Social Entrepreneurs

    Today's post comes to us from guest blogger Desiree Vargas, co-founder of Give Forward, a really cool organization. "Our goal is to create a movement that encourages everyone to experience the joys of giving and receiving at any level. It doesn't take a million dollar donation to make a difference – by utilizing GiveForward, millions of people donating $1 each, adds up to the equivalent of history's most impressive philanthropic endeavors."

    Desiree and I met through my blog and I asked her this Socially Entrepreneuring Gen Yers to share some thoughts with my readers.

    Thanks again Desiree! To find out more about Give Forward, visit

    Hi! I’m Desiree, co-founder of, a new online fundraising site aimed at getting young people involved in philanthropy. At the ripe old age of 27, I think I’m as old as you can be and still be considered a member of Generation Y.

    I used to think that Gen Y didn’t really have its own identity. It was just whatever came after the MTV generation of entitlement and youth revolution. But over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that Gen Y is paving the way towards a unique set of characteristics not seen since the baby boomers. We’re socially and environmentally conscious, driven to action not just rhetoric, we are technologically savvy, confident in our ideas, and reliant on virtual networks of friends and acquaintances all over the world. We require confirmation of facts from trusted sources. We’re idea machines with eyes aimed at a better world.

    Before starting GiveForward, I worked at the Kauffman Foundation (the “Foundation of Entrepreneurship” for you NPR followers). My job there was to help colleges and universities expand their entrepreneurship courses outside of the business school. It was honestly thrilling work. We were in untested territory creating e-ship courses for history, foreign language, film, and art students to name a few. But best of all, I got to see first-hand how Gen Y’s were creating businesses.

    Many things amazed me about the work…more than will fit in this post. But something that I was really impressed by was how well college students grasped the idea of social entrepreneurship. For most people teaching the concept (i.e. gray-haired professors), social e-ship meant the creation of non-profits or the development of profit-making arms for existing non-profits to sustain themselves. But for many college students, social e-ship meant the start of a business that creates value for society. Business plan after business plan described start-ups that would do good and do well financially. While sometimes too idealistic to be a viable business model, these businesses reflected what I think is a trend unique to our generation.

    By no means do I think that Generation Y created the concept of a social venture. If anything, the dotcomer’s and even some of the baby boomers looking to make a difference in their encore careers are the progenitors of this concept. But Generation Y has the opportunity to live their entire career spans expecting to work for companies that treat their employees well, give back to their communities, and create a product or service that brings value to the world. This doesn’t mean that your company has to be using wind technology to solve the energy crisis or single handedly fighting the AIDS epidemic. Your company can simply be providing a good or service without causing unnecessary harm to the environment, offering fair wages both domestically and internationally, contributing to the betterment of your community, and sustaining a financially strong business that creates jobs and protects stakeholders and shareholders, alike.

    Some generations think we’re trying to have our cake and eat it, too. But I say, if your keep your moral requisites high of your place of employment, you’ll always do well by doing good.

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