Guest post by Buddy Waddington, Foster BA 2010
This fall I had the great honor of being selected as a Young Challenger at this year’s Global Social Business Summit. What’s a Young Challenger? Good question. What’s social business? Now that’s a great question.
Social business is a growing concept where basic for-profit business principles are used to solve social problems. Instead of simply donating money to charity to address an issue, social business involves building a sustainable business around the issue in an attempt to solve the problem in a lasting way. The person who coined this specific term and achieved widespread success is Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, who developed the idea of microfinance to address poverty in Bangladesh. The Global Social Business Summit is the leading forum for social business worldwide, and brings together experts from corporations, civil society, governments, and academia. The day prior to the summit, selected Young Challengers – youth under 25 from around the world – meet to discuss the concept of social business. They then attend the main summit, armed with questions and perspectives aimed at challenging the political and corporate leaders in attendance, regarding their vision for the future. This year the event was held in Vienna, Austria. And it was amazing.
The Young Challengers’ meeting and the following summit were incredible. To paint a picture of this experience, I got to sit at a table with an investor from Luxembourg, a government professional from the UK, a microfinance manager from Norway, and a corporate executive from Paris, all there to discuss social business funding ideas during an exploratory workshop. I spoke to a social entrepreneur from Bosnia who is using a beekeeping organization to merge communities that are on opposing sides of the Bosnian war conflict from over 15 years ago. I got to know peers from several different countries who are already mobilizing movements to change the world. I presented in front of the Queen of Spain. And, I got to meet Professor Yunus, hear him speak in many sessions, and watch him perform the “Gangnam Style” dance. No joke.
As a humble guy from Renton, Washington, I was positively overwhelmed by my week in Vienna. But, as a recent graduate from Foster School of Business, I was hit with a serious call to action. All of these interactions with so many inspiring and influential professionals showed me that social entrepreneurship is no longer a topic meant to be studied, with only an aspiration of doing “something” in the future. The global stage welcomes entrepreneurs of generation Y to come forward with business ideas that disrupt the current way of doing things, now. I hope to mobilize a social business idea during 2013, and I hope that I am accompanied by other Foster graduates who do the same. Bringing social business into the mainstream of corporate America could define our generation, but not unless young entrepreneurs take action and start something now.