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Gen Y: The Social Innovation Generation

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Cross Posted from Social Edge 

Hosted by Saul Garlick (November 2009)

My generation doesn’t want to “paint a wall” or “pile bricks” in the developing world. Generation Y wants to do more.

Generation Y’s thirst is to create something lasting that works -- sustainable projects that will continue to affect the lives of those in rural communities for years to come. My generation is creating a daycare center in South Africa that will attract students by providing lunch that it grows in its own garden. 

My generation wants to create something from conception to completion -- from design to implementation.  My generation is creating a demonstration farm
complete with a solar drip irrigation system that connects rural Kenyan
farmers with modern farming technologies to replicate on their own land.

My generation wants to
incorporate what it learns from its experience abroad about leveraging
community resources to create sustainable development into its careers
-- as policymakers, as entrepreneurs, as eventual philanthropists.

The Associated Press
this month reported:  “Parents in some of Africa's poorest countries
are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give
their children a meal once a day.”

To address these issues,
funds abound, but social change does not. Young people provide an
untapped resource to redirect this ineffectual course. Their idealism
and open-mindedness to new solutions create opportunities to empower
communities to develop and own solutions to poverty. Generation Y is the generation of social innovation.

When I started ThinkImpact,
an organization that has connected American college students and recent
graduates from dozens of campuses nationwide with rural villages abroad
to help reduce poverty through designing and implementing innovative
projects, everyone had doubts that we’d be able to attract the best and
the brightest to leave home for a year, to live in what are sometimes
literal mud huts and to succeed in creating something sustainable. But there’s no shortage of young people -- members of Generation Y -- who want to alleviate poverty as a career.

  • How can the next generation of funders better meet the demand for funding long-term projects, instead of short-term experiences?
  • How can we provide real opportunities for career development for these recent graduates when they are living in some of the most remote locations to help them go from their experience abroad to a career in development and social innovation?
  • How can we improve the “paint a wall programs” that currently exist and integrate them into new programs that allow more ingenuity and a longer term commitment, and thereby better suit Generation Y?

Join Saul Garlick, Founder and Executive Director of ThinkImpact, in the conversation.