When I first heard people making generalizations about “millennials,” I realized that I was, indeed, in that category. I embraced what I had learned as a philosophy major . “Know thyself” – or, myself as the case may be.
What I learned was spot-on. Millennials, are intrigued and motivated by the potential and the power of business as a force for social and environmental (as well as financial) development. Many are looking for job opportunities that not only provide wealth, but also meaning and fulfillment, and are generally good for the world. They want professional roles with creative autonomy and personal freedom.
A number of years ago, I left a high-paying job at a San Francisco tech firm. It wasn’t meaningful to me in the ways that I wanted my career to be. I wanted to make a difference in the world and in the lives of others. I started exploring vehicles for social change. Philanthropy, volunteer work and non-profits are certainly not to be discredited. But I came to think that leveraging the power of the markets was the way to create more rapid global, economic shift. At a global level, the amount of capital readily available for investment (with some degree of expected return) dwarfs the amount of capital available for philanthropic aid.
I found my way to “impact investing” and social entrepreneurship. Business solutions to poverty that leverage the power of the markets are increasingly seen as some of the most promising vehicles for creating social change within a global economic paradigm that has perpetuated poverty for decades.
The pursuits of monetary return and social impact have been seen as contradictory. I’ve come to think this need not be the case. Of course, all that’s required is a rethink of the capitalistic framework our society has embraced since the Industrial Revolution.
“Some people may choose to change the disposition of the players on the pitch or to redesign the playing field, but a few rare individuals work to change the rules of the game – or even the game itself,” John Elkington and Pamela Hartington write in The Power of Unreasonable People. “As globalization continues, these efforts will need to expand around the world, which will entail the fundamental rewiring of existing institutions or the creation of new ones.”
Investment has been a driving force for the expansion of consumer markets – a financial support system for the production and reproduction of novelty. (Check out Tim Jackson’s incredible Ted Talk on mankind’s obsession with novelty.) But what if we attached a new lens to our perception of investment and made an attempt to solve social issues through that same economic mechanism.
Harald Welzer says that, “the ‘great transformation’ that is supposed to beam our society into a sustainable future and prevent the collapse of the biosphere calls for more than just technical and political solutions. It also has a socio-psychological and cultural dimension. Economic innovation and an evolving business framework, solar panels and eco-taxes alone are not enough. Sustainability also requires social innovation and social transformation.”
The change we seek needs to be more than turning off your lights when you leave the room. It needs to be more than composting your organics. And it needs to be more than purchasing fair-trade coffee from the grocery store.
These things are obviously important and good, but I’m talking about a mental shift – a collective, cognitive recalibration of our current perception of success as economic growth and material possession.
Advancements in global communication and technology now allow us to collaboratively solve social problems at an increasingly rapid pace. And the millennial believes she can develop a business solution to poverty by leveraging modern technological platforms from anywhere in the world. And while a there will never be a substitute for physical travel and face-to-face relationship building, millennials are increasingly in search of remote opportunities where this type of work is possible.
The social venture ecosystem is in its infancy, and good job opportunities are still scarce. And while the industry is growing – universities are educating students on the importance of responsible business practices, more and more multinational corporations now have entire departments focused on sustainability and social responsibility, and there are an increasing number of social start-ups around the world – the demand still exceeds the supply for more meaningful work opportunities within truly impactful social enterprises.
This is where ADAP Advisory Services comes in…We are creating an on-ramp to the emerging impact ecosystem for young rockstars who want to change the world. As Tim Jackson says in that same TED talk, we have to “invest in the idea of a meaningful prosperity – providing capabilities for people to flourish.”
Over the past eight months, ADAP Advisory Services, in partnership with BOMA Investments and the 1to4 Foundation, has developed an Associate Program to provide opportunities for grad students and working professionals to build (or re-route their) careers toward social entrepreneurship and impact investing.
The program is both a professional service for social entrepreneurs and active impact investors as well as a capacity building platform for those interested in gaining exposure to the social venture ecosystem. As the ADAP Advisory website explains, the three goals of this virtual, educational program are:
- Provide structured and facilitated opportunities for learning, networking, and career advancement.
- Assist students and professionals in gaining knowledge of (and hands-on experience with) multiple aspects of social entrepreneurship and impact investing through direct involvement with critical business development activities.
- Facilitate long-term social impact throughout the developing world.
Associates work both individually and in teams to develop tools, systems, and solutions for many of the recurring problems faced by early-stage social entrepreneurs. They work alongside those entrepreneurs to apply proven systems for scaling their businesses.
Associates build relationships and gain experience with some of the industry’s leading social enterprises, which I earnestly believe because most are also ADAP Capital investments. Ahem – shameless plug for our investees!
If you are looking for more meaningful work or considering a new career path as a social entrepreneur, impact investor, advisor, or social enterprise consultant.
Please reach out for more information. You can find me at [email protected]