How to empower the next generation of socioeconomic leaders?

It’s hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with the benefits offered by sustainability to our planet. By engaging in ethical and responsible activities that positively impact our economies, communities and wider ecosystems, we not only help to protect our planet’s resources but also one another.

However, for millions of people living in developing countries, the practical implications of embracing such behaviours often pose obstacles along this journey. That’s why it is so important for international stakeholders to form meaningful partnerships with local communities, helping to identify the reasons for these barriers and implement programmes that tackle global challenges collaboratively.

Unfortunately, the worldwide necessity for humanitarian aid continues to rise. For example, the United Nations (UN) and its partners have earmarked $41 billion to support 183 million individuals this year. However, some 274 million people are expected to require humanitarian support in 2022. Clearly, despite sizeable levels of investment, there remains a significant gulf between the number of people who require support and the international community’s present ability to provide it.

Social enterprises can help to eliminate this deficit by serving those who are working to drive grassroots change. Camps International, for instance, has built its business model around philanthropic aims, initiating socially responsible and sustainable projects across multiple continents to bring about a positive global impact. We understand that the communities with which we collaborate already possess the expertise, talent and dedication necessary to improve their circumstances, and will have been working tirelessly to achieve their goals long before our arrival. Our role is to facilitate these efforts.

At the same time, by pooling, organising and deploying the talents of young people through hands-on, experiential programmes, Camps International is helping to educate them about the benefits of greener lifestyles and the impact their choices have on the environment, conservation and sustainability. With the ever-escalating impact of climate change, the need to drive positive action among tomorrow’s leaders has never been more important. From building schools and installing water infrastructure to conserving local wildlife and facilitating reforestation efforts, younger generations are ideally positioned to provide targeted assistance to those who need it most.

When young people are given the opportunity to help build public amenities, plant trees or find practical solutions to alleviate food shortages, they not only learn how to overcome real-world challenges but also gain first-hand experience of how their personal actions can contribute to the betterment of their communities and the environment. In addition to harnessing our younger generation’s talents to drive positive change today, this type of engagement also serves to cultivate the socioeconomic leaders of tomorrow.

What’s more, such activities build resilience, empathy and skills for life. If we can empower participants to develop and internalise these important attributes at a young age, we will encourage them to help others in the future. After all, we are at our most productive when we have a purpose and understand why we are working to achieve something, and the same can be said of our behaviours. Young people who gain real-world experience of how their actions and the actions of others affect communities – both positively and negatively – are far more likely to pursue and promote sustainable lifestyles.

Young people are often outspoken and active proponents of worthwhile causes, and research shows that millennials and members of Generation Z are most deeply concerned about climate change. The role of social enterprises is to embrace this passion and help transform it into lifelong action. Nevertheless, we must take care to ensure this zeal for positive change does not mutate into a mindset of ‘saviourism’, a self-serving attitude that perpetuates negative stereotypes about developing countries. Camps International is built on the belief that genuinely ethical and sustainable work requires humility, collaboration and true commitment. We never tell people what they need because the communities we serve understand their requirements better than anyone else.

Future socioeconomic leaders must come to appreciate that – more than beneficiaries – the community stakeholders with whom they collaborate are their equals. By its very nature, humanitarianism rewards us with a sense of satisfaction, and this is no bad thing. Even so, the social, economic and environmental impact achieved by organisations such as Camps International should always remain our ultimate benchmark for success.

We know from experience that it is not easy to drive positive change, deliver learning opportunities and equip impoverished communities with the tools they need to achieve long-term sustainability and prosperity, all the while ensuring that facilitators keep sight of why they are supporting these causes. However, if we can play a role in developing the next generation of socioeconomic leaders, it will be worth the effort.

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