On Being a Social Entrepreneur

A social entrepreneur combines the skills of the business professional with the passion of an activist passion. Social entrepreneurs keep the project focused on the outcome and at the same time breath passion into the people they speak with, in their quest to find the necessary funding for the project.

My colleague Bianca Heynis and I believe that all young people in the Netherlands really can have their dream job and be fulfilled in their work. What we know is that young people with a migration background have less chance of landing that job. It is easy to say that discrimination is at the heart of the matter. We know from an abundance of research that came out last year that other big problem is lack of functional networks. In other words, if Mum and Dad are working hard to put bread on the table they are not socialising.  If they don’t know many people outside their own cultural group, they can’t put their young people in touch with diverse people who can help them develop their careers. That same research indicated that the problem has been going on for a long time, and that it is not being tackled.

Introducing Back-Up Netwerkt!

Bianca and I developed a training package for schools, which we call Back-Up Netwerkt!. It both helps schools solve the problem that young people with a migration background have inadequate networks and are not experiencing the full freedom that their schooling could be providing them. We believe that a lack of functional networks is a totally fixable problem. The tools for developing a functional network are innate to all human beings. We just don’t always know how to use them. And we don’t share our networks with each other. Once we know how to use our connections as resources, we become unstoppable connectors. Why? Because once we know how to use our networks as resources, anything we want becomes easy to find. As well as that,  the quality of our relationships improves.

Bianca and I discussed our training package with researchers and people from a number of relevant ministries and city councils. They were very positive. Then we set off to meet school leaders. We traveled all over the Netherlands and to date, no school has said yes to this very simple solution. They want, in the main, to keep doing what they are already doing.

From a business perspective it could be time for Bianca and I to pack up and look for some other enterprise. But as an activist I can’t do that. We won’t do that. There is too much at stake. The future of these young people is at stake, the stability of our country is at stake and our own hope for a future in which all people can live in dignity, together, is at stake.

Inspiration from TED

With these thoughts running through my head, I came across a recent TED talk by Joanna Kerr, someone I have known and worked with for decades. She is passionate, smart, grounded, fun and wise. As well as that, she is able to communicate with anybody and has the gumption to do just that. Her talk was on compassion as an activist’s tool. Watch it here, it’s pretty good stuff.

Like Joanna, my activist career spans decades and is based on the premise that if something has to be done in the world, someone has to do it. It is about having the guts to look at what is not working and to find people to work with, to confront the problem and bring about change. But having guts does not necessarily bring glory! Being truly connected to people will. In that connection we will find our common ground and our desire to fulfill common goals.  As a social entrepreneur, rather than letting go of this project I have a new approach. I have compassion with the young people and compassion with their teachers. In 2018, we will get our program into at least 10 Dutch schools.

What is your school doing?

Will you join our challenge and make sure all young people have the ability to find the job they love?

You can mail us at Back-Up Netwerkt! BackUpNetwerkt@gmail.com


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