Why Foster a Social Entrepreneurial Spirit in Young Kids?

Lisa Novick And Julie Chapman
May 6, 2011

Kids Can Change the World!

We believe that kids of all ages have the imagination, drive, and ability to come up with innovative ways to change our world for the better.  In other words, they have what it takes to be social entrepreneurs. Our definition of social entrepreneurism is creating a venture or business that can help solve social problems or benefit society. For children, this can mean creating things to sell, providing a special service, or organizing an event to earn money for a cause or to create what many experts call "social value." Take Alex Scott, for example.  She was only four years old and fighting cancer when she started her lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research. After one year, she raised $2,000. By the time she was 8, she had raised $1 million through Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. To be clear, we are not suggesting that we teach young kids to run their own businesses or balance a spreadsheet. However, we feel there is great value to 1) parents and educators becoming more aware of the basic concepts of social entrepreneurism so that 2) they have valuable knowledge to pass on to the kids in their lives. Because every child is different, some may be ready for this kind of learning experience during their preschool years -- like Alex Scott -- while others may show greater interest in elementary or middle school. By being able to impart simple and meaningful examples social entrepreneurism to our kids at young ages, we are helping them belief in their power to take action and make a difference in their world.

What's the Value?

Social entrepreneurial ventures have become an important part of today's economy. In the past, charitable organizations and government agencies focused on addressing our world's many challenges such as poverty, the environment, education, and health. Over time, it became clear that more ideas, resources, and approaches were needed to help tackle the growing number of issues around the globe. Businesses began to emerge that were dedicated to helping find solutions to today's problems, bringing with them a new generation of innovators and problems solvers using the social entrepreneurial model. Simply put, "social entrepreneurism is as vital to the progress of societies as entrepreneurship is to the progress of economies." (So say Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2007.) The field of entrepreneurship has been incorporated into educational curriculum at all levels and has been shown to result in numerous benefits including greater awareness of personal talents and skills, enhanced creativity and problem solving skills, improved academics and attendance, and grasping basics about economy, finances and social responsibility. If we place value on fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in young kids, our hope is that social entrepreneurism is not too far behind. 

Need for Action

Many reputable organizations such as Ashoka, EchoingGreen, and the Skoll Foundation are inspiring and supporting teens and young adults to be social entrepreneurs. Thanks to these organizations and others, the field of social entrepreneurism has expanded significantly in the last few years. But little to no attention is being giving to teaching our nation's youngest talent -- our future problem solvers. Rather than just talk about this topic, we should act. That's why YesKidzCan! is launching the Social KidPreneuerz Awards Program. The program will present $100 awards to kids (in grades 3-5) to inspire them to undertake an entrepreneurial activity that benefits society. While modest in size, each award brings with it a substantial feeling of responsibility and ownership and requires a commitment to complete the task. The intention is to plant the seed of social entrepreneurism among younger generations, instilling in them the belief that they can shape their world. The awards program also offers a great opportunity for teenagers to guide younger siblings or children through this project. In addition, YesKidzCan! has learning tools for parents, teachers and community/faith leaders to gain more knowledge for themselves as well as to use with kids in grades 3-5.    

The Shape of Things to Come

There have been documented examples of social entrepreneurism dating back to the 17th century. And, while many people today are still unfamiliar with the topic, this is beginning to change with popular social enterprises gaining mainstream prominence. For example, Paul Newman built a multi-million dollar corporation called Newman's Own which sells salad dressings and other products with 100% of the revenues going to support children's causes. Kids are naturally curious and creative. Combine this with giving them a greater understanding of social entrepreneurism, and we are helping them see that they have what it takes to "be the change" as Gandhi said. You never know.  Tonight at the dinner table, you may just be sitting across from the next Alex Scott or Paul Newman. 

From the Parents

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