The next generation of social entrepreneurs?

Amid the talk of troubled families and approaching the anniversary of the 2011 summer riots, it’s tempting for many to pigeonhole young people as feckless and hopeless. A Europe-wide project, however, aims to encourage a new generation of social entrepreneurs into the movement for social change.

There are an estimated 11m EU citizens involved in the social businesses and Brussels-based JA-YE (Junior Achievement Young Enterprise) Europe Social Enterprise Programme aims to motivate young people to find solutions to socio-economic problems, boost their employability and give them practical skills in enterprise and ICT skills.

Teams of young entrepreneurs aged 15-18 from 10 European countries have just competed in JA-YE’s (which is funded by businesses, institutions, foundations and individuals) first competition to create social businesses. with the entries judged different countries.

The winning enterprise Nomeno (“No means no”), from Norway, developed Safe and Sound, a bracelet with a warning whistle that helps summon help in an emergency. The team is donating profits to the to the Norwegian National Association for Victims of Violence. Second place went to Russian young people, for the social enterprise TrustCane to create advanced walking aid canes.

Think Fit, a team from Tre-Gib School, Carmarthenshire, representing the UK, came third. The project, aimed at boosting healthy living, created activity cards in different languages to encourage children to exercise. The social business also produces branded water bottles, T-Shirts, high-visibility tabards and bags. The young people have also created Welsh, French and Spanish versions of the pack.

I suppose the niggling concern I have is how easy it is for kids to access the kind of scheme run by JA-YE- not being an education specialist, I’m not certain how schools would have things like this on their radars. That said, with much focus on the lost generation of n’er do wells, it’s worth nodding anything that aims not only to raise aspirations, but teach practical skills to make young people more employable.