Looking Deeper at Social Entrepreneurship: Here to Stay or a Fad?

June 18, 2011

We are enjoying our expert interview series as we dive deeper into our “The Millennial Generation Today” research results.  We have spoken with a financial expert for graduates, CEO of a staffing and recruiting agency, CEO of a national Millennial-led organization and we continue our blog series today with Christopher Gergen, a visiting lecturer and adjunct faculty member of the Hart Leadership Program at Duke University’s Terry Sanford School of Public Policy.  Our discussion continues with social entrepreneurship.

So let’s start with some food for thought…what does it mean for companies today – your company – that a majority of Millennials want to work for a company that does well by doing good?  According to our research 66% of Millennials believe it is important to work for a company that embraces and supports social responsibility and 69% want to work for a company that does well by doing good.  What does this mean for your company?

Q: So is social entrepreneurship here to stay or just a fad?  

A: I teach an undergrad class at Duke called “Leading as a Social Entrepreneur.”  I will be teaching it for the second time this coming fall and we already have 40 students on the wait list; this class fills fast.  Students are interested in taking these kinds of classes because they have a significant appetite for learning about opportunities that align with their values.  Consider the largest student group at Fuqua (Duke’s School of Business) is Net Impact.  Duke’s Net Impact mission states: 

As business school students, we believe our greatest benefit to future employers is not only increasing their bottom line, but doing so while creating a sustainable world. We believe sustainability will continue to emerge as a value creation opportunity for businesses in the 21st century.

There are Net Impact chapters at business schools all across the country and there are others opportunities for students to get involved including the Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard which is the largest student led conference, and the growing number of Changemaker campuses

Q: Our research shows that while it is important for Millennials to work for companies which embrace social responsibility there is a disconnect with Millennials being skeptical of companies and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) plans.  What are your thoughts?

A: I think this reflects a broader trend of growing corporate skepticism.  Companies claim they are green but in reality they are not, their statements are superficial.  There is a move toward a more authentic direction.  Standards are being created to define what social responsibility really means.  Through the B Lab a validation process certifies companies a B Corporations.  And companies that are authentic in their drive for the triple bottom line attract better talent, have a more loyal customer base, and attract a different kind of investor, an “impact investor” looking to make a difference. 

Q:  Our research found only 9% want to start their own company in the next five years but 46% do want to work for themselves.  What are your thoughts on these findings? 

A:  Millennials, like most of us, want control of their own destiny.  They want to live an intentional life that has a purposeful path.  They are seeking to work with smart, passionate people and want to be constantly challenged.  We all want these things but in this generation I see it more pronounced.  They want to pursue a path that keeps with their values.  In the classes I teach there is an entrepreneurial mindset. But it also depends on how you define “entrepreneur.”  There are different shades of entrepreneur – consider the free agent versus a scaled entrepreneur. 

Thank you Christopher for your time and providing great insight on social entrepreneurship and what it means to the Millennial generation. 



One comment

  1. The reality of good. At the end of one’s life,
    is not measured by how much money you made, but
    by how much you have made the world a better place.
    Successful entrepreneurs often the real impact of the
    non-profit and social enterprise switch.You know very
    well about social entrepreneurship,
    Who reads your website well.

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