With building the capacity of students being one of our core focuses, and great joys, I was privileged to once again be invited to speak in front of 150 AIESEC students as part of their Shaping Your Future Conference. As an organization that I think has one of the strongest communities of students, students who are socially minded, being in front of them for an hour an a half (speech, panel, and workshop) provided another opportunity for me to not just share my views on social entrepreneurship in China, but also take the pulse of their interests, concerns, and plans.
Ideas that were best flushed out during a 35 minute workshop where I asked participants to share (in groups of 10) the issues that they feel China will face in its future, and the role that they themselves will play through their employment and engagement through MNC, NGOs, as government officials, and socially focused enterprises.
True to form, the groups performed well. Identifying topics that overlapped each other, without duplicating: Access to education, Over population, Urban/ Rural poverty gap, and air pollution. All issues that are of importance in China’s future.
When it came to actually discussing solutions, and their role as future leaders, many of them were quick to point out the roles of socially minded entrepreneurs ( both NGO & NPO), and the important role that government policy played as well.
Yet, when it came to understand how they as students could support these efforts, the primary focus was to understand how they could afford to work for an NGO/ Social Enterprise right away. to which, myself and others on the panel replied… you don’t have to work in an NGO to be socially minded.
It was perhaps THE breakthrough of the evening for the students, who were expecting us to convince them that they had to go NGO, or that it was only through an NGO that issues could be solves. That they could, through a multinational company, work to address issues they felt were important by choosing a multinational company whose goal (product, service, or CSR platform) would result in a positive impact as well, and that through that experience they could become a more effective NGO manager in the future.
Something I have no doubt will happen.