Friday, September 05, 2008

Youth Entrepreneurship Conference 2008

Spent the day at RP, participating in the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference. First, I have to say that if I were 16 years old today, I'd pick a poly over a JC anytime. Sounds like heresy, but at least based on first impressions, the difference between the two institutions is quite stark.

I suppose there are reasons why there should be such a gap. The poly is a direct route to working life, whereas the JC is only a stepping stone to a uni campus so a JC can afford to provide two extra years of childhood for its students before they proceed to the next level of... not work but further study.

No uniforms, just a dress code. Poly students express themselves by the products they purchase directly from the market. Whether it's hoodies, funky Ts, trendy jeans, or whatever else, they dress like how people of their age are supposed to look like. That puts them directly into the real world 'cos they are making their own choices as to how they wish to fit in. Every poly student is an individual. There's a confidence about them, and they carry themselves with dignity that comes from the knowledge of having attained a measure of adulthood.

That's so unlike our JC kids who continue to wear a uniform that they've been wearing since kindergarten, made to stand in rows, and there's always some adult who's directly responsible for their work, discipline and well-being. So wide is the gap between them and the world. 16-18 are formative years for a young adult, and I'm worried the JC approach may be teaching them to simply conform to external norms and pressures, rather than guiding them to find themselves and create the niche that they will occupy in society in time to come.

Kids who go to JC are supposed to be the cream of their crop. They deserve better.

The Conference made me rethink the model for our future economy that I've been envisioning in the last couple of entries. My initial concept had a serious flaw: it was inherently selfish, overly competitive, and ultimately unsustainable.

There also has to be a measure of social responsibility -- people doing things to benefit people. Catering to just the better-off will only enrich the already-rich, while everyone else continues to be exploited. That's about the kind of economic model the Roman Empire had just before it fell. Let's not go there. I missed a step so let's backtrack a bit.

For the first time, I paid attention to what Elim said about channeling profits back into the community through Social Enterpreneurship. That's not just a cynical PR exercise by big business, they really do look at methods to pick the downtrodden up by their bootstraps and put them on an even footing as the rest of society. It's not just the segment that have traditionally been lacking in cultural capital, but also the disabled ("disability is only a matter of context"), the psychologically afflicted, and the elderly poor that can benefit from Social Entrepreneurship initiatives. Basically we help them discover what they are good at, and what they like to do, put a value on it and help them find a market that will pay for it. Again, customization is the key. Now, that's a sustainable business.

So a major correction in my economic theory. How our country will survive is by creating opportunities that will raise the competitiveness of the traditionally non-competitive -- that's a huge market indeed, especially in our immediate region -- so that the overall wealth of the region increases and everyone will have the means to obtain whatever they need or want, and there'll always be someone who can anticipate and supply the demand. And, you know what, that's a much more wholesome enterprise to get into.

And on a separate note, M2 has come home at last! In biological terms, it seems he had the equivalent of a bad sprain, and thankfully nothing worse. He had his dents beaten out and resprayed, tires rebalanced, wheels and steering realigned, and he's running again. Now I'll just have to deal with the insurance company. >.<

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