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Transcript: How youth can take hold of the new age of social enterprise

Former prime minister Paul Martin speaks at the 2013 Liberal national showcase April 6, 2013, in Toronto.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University with Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today we are at a major McGill event where we will be hearing from former primer minister Paul Martin.

QUESTION – How should young people prepare themselves to be part of the social economy?

PAUL MARTIN – The Carnegie, the great steel magnum in the United States, essentially waited until he was virtually dead before he gave his money away. A fundamental shift occurred with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who are essentially giving away their huge fortunes while they are alive.

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I think that, and Henry and Nancy have talked very well about this, we are now going through the third wave which is where people, who don't have a ton of money, want to start do the things that they believe in when they are very young and before they get that money. Part of that is social enterprise.

The economy succeeds when it solves problems and the fact is that there is no shortage of problem to be solved. Our problem is that we keep talking about what will happen to the economy with an aging population (which I take quite seriously) but the fact of the matter is an aging population, in turn, creates problems that society is going to have to answer.

The increasing abilities in terms of health care to reach out through digitalization, and I was talking to Chancellor Steinberg about this earlier, creates huge opportunities. There are opportunities for young people: society is a little static, the economy is a little opaque, but the whole question that we are talking about up here is for young people to decide and take some of this into their own hands. Now, not every young person is going to be able to do it but to the degree in which more young people take this into their own hands is the degree to which they are going to be able to create the kinds of mechanisms that are going make them deal with those problems.

That is essentially what has to happen and really what I would say is what McGill is doing with this management course, recognizing social enterprise as an example and recognizing the goals of social enterprise, are along those lines. I think if you can continue to do that you will begin to deal with the issue of what are young people going to do. I don't think that any of us should neglect the fact that my generation has taken the best that this country's economy has and we are asking you to give us a pension on top of it. I understand the unfairness of that and there has to be a way that we give that back, but I think that if the young people in this country take advantage of those opportunities to meet what the economy has to do, and we in my generation basically decide that we aren't going to take the whole pie, then I think there is a real opportunity to answer that question properly.

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