The ‘Millennials” Are Mainstreaming Social Change

What is it that drives a person to become a social entrepreneur? If you take a handful of these people, you’ll see they come from a wide range of backgrounds. They can be independently wealthy, or very modest in their means.

Looking at famous social entrepreneurs, some are from the communities they are helping, others are from another place and reality altogether. Think of Mother Theresa and Bill Gates, or Mahatma Gandhi and Richard Branson, or Nelson Mandela and Angelina Jolie.

What they all share, of course, is a strong desire to make a change, and use their skills and talents to do so. Also, they see the ills of the world as opportunities, not only to redress past mistakes but to build new systems founded on a philanthropic ideal.

The new breed of social entrepreneurs – those aged 20 to 30 and known as the “Millennials” – are now coming to the fore, standing on the shoulders of those who came before them with a wealth of innovative ideas and a willingness to tackle society’s most intractable challenges.

Who are they and what is their story?

Part of what defines the Millennial generation is that they tend to seek career paths for personal fulfilment more than money. Increasingly the world over, the ability to have an impact on society is at the heart of this motivation.

That said, profit motive is not seen as exclusive to this dream. In fact, the young professionals interviewed in a 2014 social entrepreneurship survey commissioned by Chivas Regal, titled Redefining Success in a Changing World, (Learn More), unanimously agreed that it is possible to combine profit with having a positive social impact. They also said they would be more motivated to work for a company that creates some kind of positive social impact rather than one simply turning a profit.

With technology enabling them like no generation before, a huge number of the globe’s Millennials are immersed in the world of IT, and this is where you’ll find many social entrepreneurs – using social media or other platforms to raise funds for social projects or accelerate service delivery to the poor. Think of South Africa’s Nkosana Makate‚ who invented the cellphone reverse-call “Please Call Me” service, or the creators of apps like MobieG, the life skills counselling app offered to troubled teens via MXit.

In some ways, social entrepreneurship – which many believe is the new world order in corporate business – is a reaction to the failures of past corporate culture, where large multinationals have been exposed for poor and unequal labour practices, and environmental degradation.

Canadian environmental entrepreneur Kresse Wesling, partner in the recycling accessories brand Elvis & Kresse, told Chivas: “Young people see the world as having been screwed up by the generations that went before them, and see the big university fees and don’t see jobs, and see the environment not doing so well … they want something different out of life than to work in a bank for 40 years. That’s where the level of anxiety comes from; to us, it’s not about making money … it’s about whether ideas and concepts are successful and whether they provide the necessary solutions.”

In the corporate context, many Millennials believe the big multinationals can and should contribute solutions to the problems of our world. Especially after the global financial crisis, young professionals are, according to the Chivas report, “re-evaluating what is really important to them”.

As they age and become more knowledgeable and powerful as consumers, this generation will naturally gravitate towards and support the enterprises that agree with their outlook, increasing the momentum of social entrepreneurship in every societal sphere. Millennials, in other words, are increasingly demanding more integration of how companies make money and their values, applying a global consciousness to their purchases and investing in sustainable, impactful business models.

Following the Millennials is Generation Z – the teens, tweens and young adults born between 1995 and 2010 – who marketing research has shown to be as socially aware as the generation before them, if not more so.

Ultimately, it means the people living in or born during the technological age are having a profound impact on how businesses engage the world, and the survivors in the long term will be those companies that respond, and respond well, to this call to action.

– By The Philanthropic Collection –


The Philanthropic Collection™ is a boutique social enterprise,
where we tailor haute-couture brands for philanthropy.


Our appliqué is made up of global leaders, influencers and forecasters,
all creating conscious capital for humanity.