To entrepreneurship and beyond!

dries

Often I hear people saying that entrepreneurship is dead, especially with young people. And numbers do support this. When you look at indicators for entrepreneurship such as the TEA-index, we see that Europe is definitely not a top performer in the world. The United States leaves Europe far behind. These numbers open the door for some conclusions. Some of these are perhaps drawn a bit too quickly: “Young people are not proactive anymore and are content to just be comfortable in a job; they don’t stand on their own two feet anymore;” and I can keep going on. These statements are supported by numbers according to these people and, as we all know, you cannot argue with numbers. But still, when I look around in my own environment, I have never seen it more alive.

As a member of AIESEC I might not be part of the typical student environment but more and more often I’m meeting people who do not just sit around and wait for things to happen. They want to go and find opportunities and grab those.
It bothers me though, in this entire discussion, that the idea people have of entrepreneurship is a very narrow idea. They see entrepreneurship as a profession; they see it as someone who is self-employed. But there is so much more variety in the spectrum of entrepreneurship. It is a way of approaching life. When you work in a big company but you, on your own or in a team, drive change in this organisation, than that is entrepreneurship. Some people might call this intrapreneurship but the idea stays the same.

This type of entrepreneurship is driven by people who want to see things happen differently than how it is happening at the moment. With the current situation, right after the economic crisis, it is not so strange that youth can be the driving force behind the change. It is the future of young people that is at stake and we should not be satisfied by mere recovery after the crisis and going back to how it was before. No, we want to do things differently. We are accountable for our own future. With what happened in recent years we don’t expect the wins to be thrown in our lap. We will have to fight for it. The young people I know are prepared to take this challenge.

This type of entrepreneurship is driven by people who want a positive impact on their environment. It might sound a bit ideological and naïve but those are stereotypes that are often connected to young people. And why should they blame us for that? This give us the energy and drive to keep going, to keep giving 100% for a certain cause, to keep going the extra mile. When we look at past milestones in history in Europe, we see that young people were always involved. Think of the revolts of students at the end of the sixties. Nowadays we might not be as revolutionary and our protest might not be as controversial but we do have a very clear voice on where our society needs to go.

This type of entrepreneurship is driven by people who ask themselves the questions: Why are we doing it this way? Why is this not a better solution? Why do we not break out of our boundaries and move forward? Young people nowadays are inherently critical, some might say overly critical. They do not just accept what is happening around them. We have a deep-founded need to understand what is happening. If we don’t understand our environment, how can we change it? How can we impact it? How can we live in it?

There is a beautiful concept that sums up this attitude of young people, Generation Y. I believe we should rename it to Generation Why, though. We do not do things because that is how people before us did it. We are significantly different from the previous Generation X. Our typical characteristics can give us a bad reputation. People say that we are lazy, that we have a short attention span and that we have a sense of entitlement that is not justified. But we should not apologise. We just want the best, nothing less but, if we want that, we, as potential leaders, will have to take the necessary steps. We have what it takes: we are critical; we are ambitious; we are group-oriented and have the communication skills necessary to bring this to a good end.

We do not want to sit around and wait for things to happen. We will question our surroundings and take charge and responsibility to change things. Generation Y is motivated by purpose. So let’s all work together to go for a social entrepreneurship within society, within businesses and within our own live.

Article Signed by Dries De Schutter

Dries is currently a director for AIESEC in Belgium, an international youth organisation focused on developing leadership through international experience, and currently organising the Belgium Youth to Business Forum, which brings sharp young minds and opinion leaders among companies together.

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