I believe we can change the world; in fact, we are doing it person-by-person, organization-by-organization and community-by-community. In the mist of all the chaos, conflict, negativism and cynicism surrounding us, there is a rising movement to transform our world into one that values and respects all people, life and all that gifts that nature has given us.
A week and a half ago I spent five days with 2,000 young people from Brazil and Europe at the Junior Enterprisers Worldwide Conference, in Paraty, Brazil. Their average age was 20 years old. I was asked to give a keynote address. I accepted the engagement because the theme of their conference was compelling -- "ONE WORLD, ONE NETWORK" --and their tagline was "Evolve, Undertake, Transform." How could someone who believes we can change the world say no to so many young entrepreneurs gathering to advance such a noble vision?
These remarkable young people are engaged in junior businesses that embrace a highly evolved view of business, one that embraces the concept of "doing good and doing well." While they are preparing their transition from student to the business world, they are a part of junior enterprises, most of which are working to solve some of the most seemingly insolvable problems in our world. They have formed companies with names like "Carbon Offset," "Beehave". They are applying their skills as engineers, programmers, marketing, legal and financial professionals to solve social and environmental problems facing us. Collectively they aspire to be ChangeMakers, or what I call DreamMakers.
"ONE WORLD, ONE NETWORK" is more than their conference theme, it is their vision, a movement that has the potential to change the face and the values of businesses from the prevailing singularly aimed profit model, to an enlightened and inclusive business model that understands our species has the capacity and potential to do good and do well -- at the same time.
Junior Enterprisers was founded in Paris in 1964. Today they have Enterprises consisting of approximately 38,000 young entrepreneurs, throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. The majority of these young entrepreneurs are from Brazil (which may be in response to the phenomenal growth and development we are seeing in Brazil). They had their first worldwide conference in Fortaleza, Brazil, in 2004, followed by the Netherlands in 2006, Portugal in 2008, and Milan, Italy, in 2010. JEWC 2012 in Paraty, Brazil, is their largest conference ever.
I had been invited to be the closing conference speaker so I requested to I attend the entire conference to gain an intimate understanding of who they were and what they stood for. This experience was a mind-blowing experience form the moment I started my journey to the conference site. I had understood that Paraty was in the state of Rio de Janeiro outside of the city of Rio. After landing at the Rio's international airport, a car was waiting to drive me to the conference. When I got into the car, the driver told me, "just relax and enjoy -- this will be a four- to five-hour drive through some of Brazil's most beautiful topography." He was right; we traveled along the coast on our left and mountains on our right. I can only describe what I saw as God's gift of heaven on earth. I felt in my heart, this is going to be a very special experience.
We arrived about five hours later in Paraty, a small, beautiful, charming, colonial town, seemingly untouched by time. By contrast, it was bustling with thousands of energetic millennials wearing orange "JEWC 2012" T-shirts and jeans. They were reconnecting with each other, face-to-face and to their friends and colleagues back home and around the world through their smartphones. Each of them had made a very long journey to get there and the anticipation, excitement and pure joy was palpable. From the time I stepped out of the car, until I left five days later, I was engulfed in a whirlwind of powerful, positive energy. I was surrounded by hundreds of beautiful, young people, who were eager and proud to tell their stories about how they were making a difference in the world. I was humbled and honored to hear them and compelled to write about them.
For a moment it took me back to my college days. Being a baby boomer, I reflected on the days when we banded together in protest of the injustices in our world including the war in Vietnam and racial and sexual discrimination. But I realized some things are very different about these remarkable young people. They are not protesting; they are co-creating the future: collaboration, cooperation and innovation are their "weapons." Most importantly, they are the "end point of evolution" -- they are smarter, faster, far more informed, far more connected, more hopeful and courageous than any former generation. They understand on a very deep level that we are all connected and they are committed to put their vision of what the world can be, to work for the benefit of all.
During my closing presentation, I asked them to envision Junior Enterprise Worldwide 2016 and to write what the world press would be reporting about what they had accomplished.
Here are three of my favorite headlines they created for JEWC Movement 2016 -- in their words:
"GLOBAL WATER: JUNIOR ENTREPRENEURS COME TOGETHER AROUND THE WORLD TO SOLVE THE BIGGEST ISSUE OF HUMANITY"
We believe that water is the biggest problem now in the world. There are many wars about water consumption and millions of people are dying because they don't have access to drinkable water. Why not help those people and make of this world a better place to live, a place where everyone can access pure and clean water? Why not us -- junior engineers, junior journalists, junior chemist? We believe that we can solve this problem, together.
-- Any Cometti & Viviane Machado
"STUDENTS OF JUNIOR ENTERPRISES FROM 100 COUNTRIES JOIN TOGETHER TO DISCUSS WORLD CHANGING TOPICS"
This headline outlines our dream, a vision that positions JEWC 2016 as a global connecting mechanism. Think of the power and good that could come from a global conversation.
-- From the Poli Junior Enterprise Team!
"FROM A NETWORK TO A WORLDWORK"
We built a social business network that encompasses the whole world and helps develop many social businesses. Through this social movement we were able to right corruption. We reinvented the learning process in schools and universities to include the poor children around the world. Our greatest accomplishment was that we believed we had the capacity to be WorldChangers.
These young people that I met at the Junior Enterprise Worldwide Conference are not pursuing traditional power -- power over people, or the planet. Status and titles means little to them, they want to make a difference. They are pursuing collective power to solve the problems created by the past. They derive their rewards from coming together and making change happen! They are passionate about reversing the damage we and generations before us have created and have tolerated -- they are dreaming a beautiful world and they are committed to work together to make their dreams come true -- they are what I call DreamMakers!
These young people are leaders serving the greater good. They are our future and I am inspired, energized and renewed by these amazing ChangeMakers, DreamMakers, WorldChangers; I hope you are too.
"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, indeed that is all that has"
-- Margaret Mead, Social Anthropologist