Blog & Opinion
Young Impact: a movement on the move
What concerns me these days? “America first, climate last.” Trump called the Paris Climate Agreement a ‘bad deal’ and ‘unfair’ to America and then confirmed that the US will back out of it. It’s a disappointment, to say the least. Fortunately, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the power of the younger generation, and I still believe in the growing counter-movement that’s changing the world now.
For several years, I supervised students in the part-time master’s programme who were taking a subject called the Business Project at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam. (Incidentally, the name of this project doesn’t really reflect the content of the subject.) These students – young career professionals who want to broaden their horizons at the academic level – are expected to conduct a problem-based learning research project within a social enterprise. In the purest form, this would be a business dedicated to creating social value. Profit? OK, but it would have to contribute to making the world a better place. This is what’s appealing to more and more young people. So it’s not that surprising that social entrepreneurship in the Netherlands is on the upswing. Despite the fact that our country still has no separate legal form for this kind of business, we have no fewer than 4,000 of them in the forms of companies, foundations or cooperatives. More and more cities are setting up programmes to help social entrepreneurs increase the social impact of their social business. In The Hague, this is the Social Hub. And, driven by the growing demand from students, educational institutions are also integrating social entrepreneurship into their curricula to a greater extent. Minors such as Innovating in the Social Domain and Social Entrepreneurship Incubator are getting more popular at our school, and the Financial Inclusion & New Entrepreneurship Research Group is conducting research into how entrepreneurs can contribute to a better society.
Even so, it’s predominantly our students with their fresh perspectives and new ideas who are our sources of inspiration. They aren’t just saying that things have to change – they’re showing it can be done, too! I’m really proud of the students in the Nutrition and Dietetics degree programme who are so involved in the development of challenge-based learning (learning by being challenged) which will start in September 2017. Working together with other partners, they will be focusing on a complex, real-life social challenge as part of the learning process. An example of the challenges aimed at nutrition and stopping food waste is ‘The Hague eats itself green’. And the challenge has been accepted!
Even more impact at THUAS itself? Outside of their formal education, students who are members of Enactus The Hague University of Applied Sciences are making a difference with projects like Alterlab and HeartFood. And Green Spoon versus Plastic Soup (edible spoons, knives and forks) and Iron Roots (sustainably produced sportswear made from hemp) won several awards during the elections for the Hybrid Student Entrepreneur 2017. Lots of smart ideas for a better world were also presented during the Social Start-up Pitches given on the theme of social entrepreneurship at last year’s Duurzame Dinsdag, an event organised by the Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability. I think this is a clear sign coming from young people who are taking these opportunities to show what kind of world they want to live in. The world isn’t waiting around, so why should they? Young Impact: it’s a real movement that’s getting more and more young people to do something that contributes to the world of tomorrow.
It’s wonderful to see how my Business Project students (young professionals in the corporate sector) will never be the same after having become acquainted with a certain societal development or a target group in a social enterprise. It’s reassuring to see that the exit made by the US from the climate agreement has already launched a huge counter-movement and made the resolve to achieve the climate change objectives even greater. That’s the impact of Young Impact.
Want to learn more? Social Enterprise NL encourages the social entrepreneurship movement in the Netherlands. Young Impact is a movement backed by more than two million young people dedicated to improving the world together. More inspiring examples at THUAS? Share them with a reaction or an e-mail to email@example.com.