By Kevin Madigan
An interesting though unconfirmed statistic emerged during a breakout session Feb. 13 at the BBYO Summit on Jewish Teens: 72 percent of teenagers would like to set up their own business once they become adults.
“You have to believe you can do it,” said Sam Perlen of Nashville, BBYO’s Grand Aleph Godol for 2014-15. “Becoming an entrepreneur is about having a vision, knowing your goal, how you want to change the world and the community around you.”
He cited a friend who recently launched a website that sells clothes to teens. “People who wear his clothes now can go out and be proud.”
The dozen participants around the table for a discussion facilitated by Jewish educator David Bryfman agreed that technology has facilitated teens’ creativity. “We have so many more ways now to get things out,” said Perlen, speaking for his peers. “You can do so much with social media. Being able to get your word out there can really help you feel like you can make a difference with it.”
Much of the discussion centered on defining relevant terminology; innovation, for example, was described as the ability to turn a fresh idea into a systematic way of doing something better. The result needs to be a measurable improvement — more efficient and less costly.
Howard Wohl, a past BBYO chairman, said it’s difficult for existing nonprofit organizations to be innovative. “Their customers’ requirements, their stakeholders, their funders’ demands, all push them in a direction that does not lead to innovation.”
Others agreed that it’s impossible for a Jewish Federation or a Jewish Community Center to be an innovator but said that within those agencies, innovation can and does take place.
The term “social entrepreneurship” came up often. The teen who establishes a campaign and organizes the masses for the social good would be a social entrepreneur, one participant said. If an individual comes up with a totally new way to galvanize the community or spins it in a new direction with amazing messaging, that person is being socially entrepreneurial.