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Techstars manages Startup Digest. Techstars is an organization who is responsible for building the remarkable global startup ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs who build great businesses.
My role in all of this is with Techstars on their Social Enterprise Startup Digest publication. Today was the first curated newsletter I sent out to our 4,000+ subscribers from around the world. Incase you missed it, I informed the subscribing social entrepreneurs that I would use the time for us to begin working together and solving actual problems. Less talk, less describing, and more getting up and doing.
As my gears started turning, thinking about startup ecosystems, global connectivity, and the interesting opportunity which presents itself when you connect an organization such as Techstars with one such as United Nations, UNICEF, Ashoka. Bringing these massive organizations and their allies to the table, right here and now, is how we must think if we want to stand a chance against the challenges of tomorrow.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited onto the Techstars Social Enterprise Startup Digest team. I published my first comprehensive social enterprise reading list in 2014.
I have a global vision for humanity. I see a world where you and I, we learn how to work together to solve our own problems. In order to live a life filled of people helping people would mean there is not much extra time for supporting ourselves and our families. That is, of course, unless we are able to build sustainable business models which are targeted at solving the social problems within our local communities. If the purpose of business is to serve the needs of the people then we would get the best of both worlds. We would stop destroying ourselves, our relationships, and our planet. We would also proactively solve the problems humanity is confronted with today.
How might we grow businesses that are rooted in solving social problems? There are many ways, I am sure. The few that I have experience with revolve around the idea of ecosystems. We are products of our environment. If we change the environment perhaps we would see a new type of business grow.
Techstars thinks global and acts local
Techstars is a great example of a movement who understands the ecosystem concept. Having the global vision, global reach, and global initiatives enable Techstars to play an instrumental role in transforming the outcome of the human race.
How might we cultivate new ecosystems that produce people-driven organizations? How might we create the conditions for these types of businesses to grow?
Unfortunately, far too many people are tied to the existing system. Their livelihood, safety, shelter, food, social status, and sense of self is tied to the system we see crumbling to the ground right now.
What are we expected to do when there are no other options? I am unable to walk away from the system we have today because without it, I will not survive for too long. Is there anyone who isn’t tied to the current system? Perhaps they would be willing to organize themselves, explore the challenges we face, learn the skills necessary, and start building the foundation of our new economy.
Disconnected youth may be one of our last hopes
In the United States, there are about 6 million disconnected youth scattered throughout the nation. This population is neither working nor enrolled in school. Their disconnection from the economy costs the nation trillions of dollars and reduces our ability to compete in the global labor market.
This problem has existed for decades, if not longer. Youth are heavily impacted by the sociological theory known as the theory of cumulative disadvantages.
I have been hired by various organizations in our country who exist exclusively for this population. While each organization is able to create a measurable impact to some degree via their programming, it is possible that we are looking at the problem from the wrong angle. Rather, perhaps we are looking at this problem as a, well, a problem.
Economic Opportunity is Found Beneath Social Problems
One thing I am learning about social problems, is that the problem we are presented with on the surface is not an accurate representation of the problem which requires resolution.
How might we reframe this situation so that this population of disconnected youth who are about to be over looked, ignored, and disregarded might have an opportunity to become something more?
How might we dive into this population of disconnected youth and find out with ones grew up in foster families, which are aging out of the foster care system, which have gone to college just to receive a degree that has no value in the current workforce anymore?
Fortunately, it was not too long ago when I was also a disconnected youth facing similar challenges as they face right this very moment.