Skilling up kids for a future of making change

By: Amanda Miller

Philanthropy is a pretty big word. It can be difficult to pronounce and its meaning can be confusing. When we explain to children what philanthropy means, we talk about it meaning ‘a love of humanity’. When we break that down, the kids understand that anything we can do to help others is ‘philanthropy’.

This does not just mean writing out large cheques, which is actually meaningless to kids, but rather means kids giving their time, collecting goods, using technology to spread awareness amongst their peers and the community and coming up with innovative solutions to problems.

With our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talking about kids needing to have the skills of agility, flexibility and to be innovative and entrepreneurial, the time is ripe for kids to develop these attributes through ‘philanthropy’, and the work they can do to make a difference. Through Kids in Philanthropy, we have found that if you inspire and empower kids, and raise awareness of the issues in their communities, they will naturally innovate and come up with ideas to bring about change.

I recently read Facebook post from Wyatt Roy MP that said “In an exciting age of technology disruption, we should ask the next generation of Australians not "What job do you want?" but "What problem do you want to solve? How do you want to make the world a better place?". Our kids are fortunate to be growing up at a time when they are recognised as being changemakers, and as a valuable part of the community able to make a significant difference. If we can develop a sense of empathy, and an awareness of the issues that exist, and we then empower our kids to take action, the world will no doubt benefit.

This sense of taking action, and of innovating in doing so, will equip our kids with the attributes they need for their future. As a recent study published by the Foundation for Young Australians, entitled ‘The New Work Order’ found, there is ‘a significant opportunity to sure up our nation’s future by investing in the next generation and backing them to create the kind of world they want to live in. Core to this will be a generations of enterprising young people who are job builders and creators, not only job seekers.’

By encouraging kids to solve some of the problems the world is facing, we will be building a generation that is enterprising and creative. They are skills that kids can develop by thinking about the issues in their community, making a plan for a project or initiative to try to deal with these issues, and then actually carrying out their plans and seeing the outcomes. Whether it is organising a garage sale, coordinating a blanket or food collection through school or starting a social enterprise selling goods where the money is donated to charity, kids will need enterprising skills to carry these ideas out and will learn many lessons along the way.

One example comes from my own daughter. At age 10, a year or so ago, Hannah decided to make a book on ’10 Ways to Change the World’. Hannah designed the book online, I helped her print it and she sold it at a stall to raise money for charity, whilst at the same time spreading her message about the simple ways kids can, in Hannah’s words, ‘Be the Change’! A year later, aged 11, Hannah decided to use an online video program to make a short clip about her ’10 Ways to Change the World’ – this can be shared on social media and with friends, family and school and will hopefully inspire others to take action. Hannah took initiative to do this herself, used free online software and now has a finished product she can use to spread her message.

Another great way to build these skills in kids and to grow young changemakers is to expose them to social entrepreneurs. My husband and I work in impact investing and come into contact with many talented, inspiring and driven young social entrepreneurs. Part of their training is bringing them home to our place, to pitch their ideas to a panel of tough critics – our three kids! The questions our children ask are insightful and interesting, as they usually see the ideas from a different perspective. After social entrepreneur Jordan O’Reilly pitched his new online platform in the disability space, HireUp, to our kids, our 14 year old son Zac said that he couldn't wait until he was old enough to work at a place like HireUp where he could earn money and do good for the world at the same time. Our eight year old son Gabe asked if he could invest his pocket money in the business! Providing these role models for our kids, and showing them the value of being enterprising and of caring about the world, will grow a generation who will blend profit and purpose, money and meaning.

Amanda Miller

Amanda Miller is a Co-Founder of Impact Generation Partners, an intermediary in the impact investing space advising purpose-driven enterprises and connecting them with investors seeking a social or environmental and financial return. She Chairs Kids in Philanthropy (KiP), which aims to grow the culture of giving and social changemaking in Australia by engaging children and their families in meaningful opportunities to learn, grow, develop leadership, develop empathy and to become changemakers now and in the future. Amanda has been on the Nexus Australia Youth Summit Organising Committee since its inception 2013. Amanda also Chairs Philanthropy Australia's Melbourne New Generation of Giving group.

Dec. 08, 2015

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