This week, Business Week reports unemployment of 16 - 24 year-olds has hit 18%, its highest levels since 1948. They say we may be a "lost generation."
From my perspective, this isn't a lost generation. Instead, the rules, or maybe the entire game, have changed. Look at Ashoka, Do Something!, Echoing Green, TED Fellows or Grown Up Digital. Just "getting a job" isn't how we do it anymore. New kinds of communities, alliances and companies are forming, and 18 - 24 year olds are creating them. The young people are the leaders in coming up with innovative and creative ways to tackle global issues.
On Saturday, November 21st, I'm speaking at a conference in Rotterdam called the European Summit for Global Transformation. With no corporate sponsors, no political or financial backing whatsoever, a group of friends from four different countries (Switzerland, Germany, the US, the Netherlands) decided to create one weekend every year for social entrepreneurs to connect, share resources, projects and ideas and get inspired.
"We're out to create a tipping point for transformation," said Jeroen Hermkens, the Summit's founder, "the first year it was a small group in an office. The second year, last year, Lakshmi V. Venkatesan, one of India's finest philanthropists and entrepreneurs was our keynote speaker, and a participant nominated another speaker, Esra'a Al Shafei as a TED Fellow. It's exceeded everyone's expectations."
The Summit brings together ordinary people creating extraordinary results around the world. From environmental sustainability to freedom of expression in the Middle East to new schools and sustainable business opportunities, anyone with a profound commitment to social entrepreneurship has a place at the table. German participant Michael Loehr reports, "Last year's Summit was a turning point in my life."
Dr. Rebecca Self, an American living in Switzerland, is responsible for the event's programming. "We were a small group who knew hundreds of people working in relative solitude on huge, impressive projects, like my student Esra'a building MidEast Youth. I knew if she could meet my friend Bill Liao, who co-founded Xing.com, amazing things would happen."
They have. Mideast Youth raised more money the week of the Summit than in its entirety before the event. Esra'a was hired by someone there to continue her online community-building, so she now has an income doing what she loves and can continue Mideast Youth, too.
This year Maggie Doyne, who's built a home for 26 kids in western Nepal, will be at the European Summit too. Self says, "Who knows what Maggie and Subhash (myself) could create if they join forces in Western Nepal. Making these kinds of connections are what the Summit is about."
Opportunities are available for young people today; they just might not look the same as they did ten, 15, or 20 years ago. Many of us are creating futures not just for ourselves, but for our communities. We'll be meeting at the European Summit for Global Transformation this November in Rotterdam. The opportunities and the networks might change your life. If you share our commitment to social entrepreneurship, we hope to see you in the Netherlands!