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Social Entrepreneurship-Helping Yourself, Helping Your Country

26 November 2013

Miltiadis Nedelkos attended the 2013 Global Social Entrepreneurship Institute at Indiana University, a summer institute for European student leaders as a Fulbright awardee. The Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and is administered by the Fulbright Foundation.

For years, many people have been waiting for the government to solve our most pressing problems. This, I have come to learn, is not a viable solution. Political action has its limits. One answer, I am convinced, lies in the power of the people, especially young people, to assume personal ownership of their futures and to implement their ideas in business, as social entrepreneurs. Having spent five intensive weeks this summer delving into social entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business of Indiana University as a Fulbright grantee, I am convinced that young Greeks can have a promising future—by creating value with bright, bold and innovative ideas that benefit both themselves and their society.

"Why business?" you might ask. Businesses of every kind, shape and size have power, money, and influence, from the small shop around the corner to the big chains in every city. Businesses are the key cogs in our economic system and are key to major change in Greece. There are more than 820,000 enterprises in Greece, 99.9% of which are small and medium enterprises). Rather than simply re-jigging the taxation system to make the numbers work in its favor (for a while), the Greek government should use the power of these businesses, and thousands more new ones, to create social, fiscal, and economic value, a permanent solution that generates steady interest as it grows. Everyone, even small players, contributes, so when we look at the whole picture the results are more than encouraging. People just need the right skills sets to create sustainable and profitable social enterprises2.

The old business model no longer works. The world around Greece is changing and we must adapt to this change. During my time in Bloomington, I had meetings at companies; I saw how the new model of co-shares, NGOs and NPOs (nonprofits) work, and what kind of impact they have in their societies. Young people in Greece need businesses that are self-sustaining, achieve maximum social value, involve society (so that people consider themselves as a viable part of it) and operate at a low cost. This model empowers people and builds on their capabilities. In turn, these entrepreneurs grow to care for their society, volunteer more and support other, local SMEs.

For many Greeks, who bring a social consciousness in their approach to the market, and who appreciate smaller scale enterprises, a model such as Fairtrade might be an attractive option.

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries, societies and economies3. Working as a middleman between these two groups, Fairtrade sidesteps other distributors in the supply chain and helps the weakest but most valuable part of society, the food producers, have sustainable jobs. Fairtrade also provides food to consumers at reasonable prices. With agriculture such an important part of the Greek economy, this is just one model that might be adapted by young Greeks looking to make a living—and make a difference.

I have seen many examples of social entrepreneurship that could work in Greece. Helping yourself by helping others is a great way to gain independence, to earn a living, and to change society. It is a go-go for businesses, for people, and for our country.

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