In July 2010, 51.1 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 years old were unemployed, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Furthermore, these statistics show that low income youths are the group that has been the most negatively impacted.
According to the Child & Youth Well-Being Index, 1 in 5 children live in poverty in the United States.
Youth employment is important for the individual to break the disastrous cycle of poverty. Without gaining work experience during these years, youth are more susceptible to dropping out, delinquent behavior, engaging in violence and even teen pregnancy. But when a youth is able to find stable employment, opportunities are presented that will lead to a positive financial change.
Another alternative can be low-risk entrepreneurship opportunities that the youth are passionate about. With the growing trend of technology, and it being second nature to this generation, this option may provide hope for these grim times.
Is government the only answer to these problems? Can non-profits make social change alone?
With the rise of the B-Corporation and the L3C business entities, social entrepreneurs are providing valuable products and services while adhering to a set of socially responsible principles, and making a substantial social impact. If you throw in a twist of the web with that equation, there’s a lot of untapped opportunities awaiting in the near future.
Just think about the billions in revenue companies such as Google, Facebook and others in Silicon Valley generate! If we can expand the web startup culture to urban areas around the country (and around the world for the matter) imagine how much change that can bring…particularly economic independence.
The Need In Urban Communities
In addition to the need for more economic opportunity,
1. Disadvantaged youth need an outlet of empowerment due to various socio-economic challenges they face.
2. College students are looking to gain experience in a field of study or passion while attending school.
3. There’s a huge lack of African American, Hispanic, and Women new media entrepreneurs (while being the highest consumers of new media)
4. Local businesses and aspiring talent need dedicated support and consultation on how to effectively use the web to gain exposure.
Web startup incubators, which are highly concentrated in California, have created significant amounts of wealth for young people throughout the past several years. Young entrepreneurs bring their idea to the incubator, and the incubator provides capital, connections, and resources to build a working prototype of their web app in exchange for a small percentage of equity. A good example is Y-Combinator, which had aboard a startup that sold for $200+ Million.
(Here’s a great blog post that explains the opportunity incubators/accelerators represent – http://ow.ly/3N3WS)
Imagine if startup incubators were established at college campuses in urban areas throughout the country. Not only are college students presented with more career opportunities, they also get a chance to help youth that’s less fortunate to experience the same opportunity. With all the open source and low cost solutions around today, the barriers to entry for creating a web startup are little to none. It’s time for Gen Y to show disadvantaged youth how to do so as well so we can level economic self-sufficiency in this country and diversify new media.
Lets Disrupt Youth Poverty
Gandhi said “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
If you think about it, most crime and poverty stems from the lack of a quality education and wealth in local communities. Incubators can act as a complementary educational resource and spark massive job creation. Many people think wealth is money. Money is only a mechanism to exchange value. Wealth is the creation of something people want. If we want to create more wealth in local communities, we have to be passionate about solving problems that people want fixed so they can transfer value to us. Incubators are the foundation of this process.
Thousands of years ago, the Fertile Crescent created a huge spark of self-sufficiency for hunter gathers. Today, the Internet is “The New Fertile Crescent”, and has the opportunity to close the huge wealth gap that exists in this country if applied in the right manner.
Imagine a world where everyone experiences ownership in a career path they have a passion for (so they’re happy and self-sufficient) while having a “Pay-It-Forward” type system in place so future generations and the less fortunate can experience the same opportunity. Imagine a world that encourages sustainability, social justice, local social relations, collaborative production, and social media utilization. This new world can come to fruition by implementing a new economic model, Producism, which aims to make everyone a sustainable social entrepreneur and initiate Collective Economic Empowerment via the web.
Some people may call me crazy for thinking we can live in a world like that. But as Margaret Mead so eloquently stated..”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Drew Little is a Web Social Entrepreneur and Economic Activist on a mission to use the web to help end youth poverty, promote diversity, and provide an outlet for the youth to pursue their passions as social entrepreneurs. He is the founder of The Illuminated Ventures Project (IllVP), and creator of a new economic theory, Producism. Follow Him on TwitterSuscribe to the podcast