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‘Gen Y’ Proves The Future of Social Entrepreneurism is Alive and Well

I was extremely impressed when I recently volunteered as a judge for Enactus, a non-profit international organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action.  Through this organization, university/college students across 36 countries develop new, or refine existing, entrepreneurial projects within their own communities. Competitions are held regionally, nationally and eventually internationally, until one winner for the year is selected.  As part of a judging team that included many other business leaders across the community, I was blown away with the research, ideas, passion and social drive each of the teams brought forward.

I walked into the lobby of the hotel where the competition was being held and the buzz of hundreds of students talking, practicing and nervously pacing was palpable.  The judges were ushered into boardrooms and given a presentation on how to judge and specifically what to look for in the presentations.  The student groups had only (a very quick) seven minutes to present their best projects, from conception to outcome to us.  As judges, we were asked to focus our questions, feedback and comments on how the projects supported three areas – people, planet and profit.

It was a full day of presentations, but with all of the nervous energy in the room from the many teams the day flew by.  The projects dealt with educating on entrepreneurialism in the community; providing business planning advice/support for struggling local entrepreneurs; small business initiatives to clean city streets of refuse and to grow fresh produce in Canada’s north; aiding military wives to get their business idea off the ground; and many more.  The presentation skills and the deep understanding of developing a business were mature and insightful.

The winner for Canada was a team from Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management. Their CigBins project was launched in July 2014 in Vanier and has since completed a pilot in Toronto. CigBins is a cigarette butt collection and recycling program that has cleaned more than 100,000 cigarette butts off city streets and generates revenue while doing so.

I left the competition extremely impressed and with a great deal of infectious enthusiasm.  I had been given a glimpse into the future of social entrepreneurialism and I can confidently say Gen Y is tackling it head on.

Jennifer Langlois

Operations & Sales