Creating a Pathway to Action
This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.
By Oliver Libby, George M. Tsiatis
On February 5th, students from around the world will join together at the Youth Assembly at the United Nations. They come because they care about the future and they want to be an important part of building a better one. They often hear: “You are tomorrow’s leaders... So study today, because we’ll need you someday!” But what about today?
College students are graduating to an uncertain job market. Outdated labels still carry force: “Do I sell out or help others, and how long do I have to wait before I can do good?” Many want to strike out on their own and do something they care about, but few know how or when to start. Even if they have a great idea, how do they create sustainable models, raise money in a world where track record is everything, and find a supportive ecosystem? Sure, you can always find a little bit of funding, and some advice too. But how about a comprehensive program that jumpstarts young leaders, fully supporting their first steps in social impact?
The Resolution Project sees opportunity when groups of undergrads come together. Many of the students attending the Youth Assembly are ready to start down a pathway to action, but they need encouragement and substantial support. That’s why Resolution will be awarding Fellowships to those attendees who demonstrate the most compelling personal leadership characteristics and most promising social venture proposals in its Social Venture Challenge at the Youth Assembly. Resolution Fellowships include mentorship, seed funding, and access to global advisory resources from a dedicated team of volunteers and partners — a fully supportive environment for a first-time social entrepreneur.
Resolution runs Social Venture Challenges at youth conferences all around the world, providing young leaders committed to social responsibility with an alternative to traditional options. Young professionals volunteer to help them navigate this crossroads with confidence and optimism — something made easier by knowing that they have a support team of hundreds of accomplished professionals and powerful partner organizations. What was an intimidating conversation about the future, instead becomes an energetic dialogue about the present, doing well while doing good, and getting started today.
Resolution Fellows are launching non-profits and social businesses while they’re still in college and make no mistake, they are the CEOs. Resolution helps them get off the ground, and work through each challenge they face. For example, Derrius Quarles won himself a million dollars in scholarships to attend college coming out of the foster system in Chicago. With Resolution’s help, he launched Million Dollar Scholar, a social business that provides a web platform and training to high school students seeking college scholarships. Derrius has over 12,000 students on his platform, helping them raise over a million dollars in scholarship already. Talk about paying it forward!
Resolution’s community of Fellows is benefiting thousands of people on six continents through their ventures, which address a wide range of issues from women’s empowerment and education, to energy, water, and beyond. What’s also crucial is that the act of implementing even a small social venture teaches real-world management skills, and provides Fellows with that fulfilling feeling of helping others. We need a generation of socially-responsible leaders, and this is the way to get them going.
Statistically, many of the ventures won’t last forever, but the impact of these projects on beneficiaries and on the Fellows themselves is extensive. 82 percent of Fellows report increased leadership skills, preparing them for a lifetime of socially-responsible impact. Almost half of the Fellows say that implementing their venture has inspired new ideas for socially-responsible businesses or projects. If Fellows decide to move on from their initial project, Resolution stays with them, helping with the transition into new ventures, academic settings, and socially-responsible careers.
The old model of “Learn, Earn, Return” is fading. Choosing between public and private - “selling out” and “giving back” — is a false choice. Our Fellows are creating innovative models with diverse approaches to sustainable positive impact, while our volunteers (bankers, lawyers, doctors, creative professionals, scientists, and academics, among others) are actively improving each Fellow’s chances of success. This is more than just checks and fundraisers — this is dedicated mentorship, hours each week — really being in the trenches in a social start-up.
The truth is that the world needs a lot of help, and the next generation of leaders are going to have to collaborate. Old labels aren’t going to mean much because business, charity, and government are all blending together. The earlier that young people start to learn management skills and identify with positive impact, the likelier they are to become the leaders we require in this most crucial time.
Let’s take a note from entrepreneurship culture and tell students: “Everyone says you are a leader of tomorrow, but you can start now, because we need you today!”