I have always been ambivalent about taking hook line and sinker the general notion that millennials are lazy, self-absorbed, arrogant and lacking in civic mindedness and vision. Loosely dubbed as Generation Y, Generation Me, Digital natives, and Rent Generation, the millennials are the most-studied generation ever. My ambivalence springs from the many studies saying that millennials are not arrogant, merely confident and they are conscious of health, economic and environmental issues, are civic- oriented, compassionate, team players and results oriented—all positive qualities.
My ambivalence became even more heightened when I accepted being a judge in the Philippine national competition of Enactus—an international, non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. The word Enactus is an abbreviation of the organization’s mantra that says, “We believe investing in students who take Entrepreneurial Action for others creates a better world for us all.” The competition was about searching for a university or college-based team that conceptualized and implemented an entrepreneurial project that impacted a community by empowering its citizens to improve their lives in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner. The winner of the Philippine competition would go on to compete in London this September against winners from other countries.
The Enactus competition was participated in by nine universities and colleges across the country. Each participating team was composed of several college students who had to study what a community needed and then develop an innovative entrepreneurial project that allowed the participating beneficiaries in a community to make money or augment their income using raw materials that are indigenous to their communities. The teams had to show how their respective projects empowered their beneficiaries, how much they earned from the enterprise and how the projects can be sustained.
What I saw in the presentations amazed me. The winning team—students from the Holy Trinity College of General Santos City—showed that because they saw the need to address poverty in General Santos City, as well as the various skin problems suffered by many of the residents of a particular barangay which resulted in their lack of self-esteem, the students developed an organic soap product made from the leaves of the Neem tree which grows abundantly in that city, turmeric or yellow ginger and virgin coconut oil. They showed that their project had helped many families earn more money while solving their skin problems in the process. They have likewise taught their beneficiaries in General Santos City to produce Graviola tea—a health product—from the leaves of the guyabano. The Holy Trinity team helped the families involved in the two projects to make their packaging world class for effective marketing. Most importantly, the champion team helped the beneficiaries register the businesses to ensure economic sustainability.
The first, second and third runners up, namely: The Sultan Kudarat State University-Access campus, Sultan Kudarat State University-Isulan, and the Nueva Vizcaya State University, presented entrepreneurial projects too that had an impact on their respective communities, empowered the people and ensured economic, social and environmental sustainability. These millennials have successfully debunked the negative impression people generally have against their generation. Yet, the curious factor was, these millennials were all from the poor regions of the country. What struck me—as well as the other judges—was that the bigger and more prominent schools in Metro Manila did not join the competition, for reasons not known to the organizers. From Metro Manila, only Adamson University participated. Most of the participants were schools in Mindanao and, in fact, the top three in the competition all came from Mindanao.
One cannot help asking, do the students from the colleges and universities populated by kids from wealthy families represent what is negative among the millennials? Could they be so uninterested in improving the lot of poor members of the Philippines society that they did not wish to be bothered with joining this competition that brings out in students a spirit of caring, civic mindedness, compassion and a desire for empowering others through entrepreneurship?
I’d like to think that I am wrong and that the negative impression of the rich-kid millennial is unjustified. But then again, they must take the challenge to disabuse people’s minds that they are self-absorbed, arrogant and lazy. There are more competitions of this nature by Enactus in the years to come. I cannot wait to see them finally participating.
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