Guest post: The New Creative Economy and How Crowdfunding can support the Next Generation of Passionate Entrepreneurs

The following is a guest blog post by my friend Anthony Paglino who will contribute every Wednesday leading to the March 27th release of the iCurious Travel: A Cultural Guide to China, available exclusively on iTunes. Follow Anthony on Twitter @iCuriousTravel  or on Google + for updates.

Social entrepreneurism aims to solve social problems through entrepreneurial spirit.

Social entrepreneurism aims to solve social problems through entrepreneurial spirit.

At the beginning of 2012 I found myself running in circles in a job I had outgrown, stifled by unimaginative and indecisive management. Hungry to fulfill my inner potential, I yearned for a path to create a meaningful life that had value not only to myself but also significance to my friends and broader community.

The question remained, “how can I achieve that?”

Looking both inward and outward, I developed a strong understanding of who I am as a person including my interests and skills, as well as the powerful shifts in the basic fabric of human life developing in the 21st century.

It was a few months later that I had my plan in place. I quit my day job and worked tirelessly through peaks and pitfalls to make my dream a reality.

This story is a 7-part series on how I successfully used the principles of social entrepreneurship, crowdfunding, and my passion to build a prototype for the next generation of digital travel guides. My intention for this post is to encourage more and more young people to take their lives and their talents to construct a more hopeful future.

My story is not a unique one. I am just one of nearly 80 million Millenials in the U.S. born between 1980 and 2000. Shifting economic forces and emerging technologies have left a whole generation of talented individuals with an outdated playbook on how to succeed in life. It is now our responsibility and challenge to rewrite the rules for how to lead successful lives in this new economic landscape.

Richard Florida, author of  The Rise of the Creative Class and editor of The Atlantic: Cities explains that every person has creative potential; an untapped resource that will be the building blocks of the next economy and a re-imagined global society.

“The tectonic upheavals our economy is enduring are the result not just of financial shenanigans by the global One Percent, but of a deeper and more fundamental shift — the passing of the old industrial order as it gives way to the emerging Creative Economy,” Florida says.

This coming creative economy will rely more and more on the emerging field of social entrepreneurship where performance isn’t measured solely in profits and return, but also a positive return to society.

Social entrepreneurs the world over have come to the realization that it isn’t enough to just make profits anymore: You have to solve a problem that makes yourself, your community, and the world a better place in the process.

What does social entrepreneurship look like in action? It is inherently more out-of-the box, bold, daring, and full of imagination.

A duo of dudes in D.C. asked the question “Can you have a good time and give back to a great cause?” Well yes you can, because Nick Vilelle and Raj Ratwani opened a bar that donates 100 percent of its profits to charity. The bar called Cause is coined a philanthro-pub and has partnered with various charitable organizations and socially minded vendors to combine fun with giving back.

In Trenton, New Jersey, Terracycle takes obscure garbage and upcycles the hard-to-convert materials such as used office supplies, personal products, and candy wrappers into anything from fences, plant potters, and school bags made of Capri sun boxes.

We are moving into a brave new world, and past barriers that have kept young entrepreneurs out of the game are being demolished, paving the way for new opportunities.

Increased access to education is just one fundamental reason pushing this shift toward the creative economy.

Expert instruction is no longer confined to universities and admissions specialists. Anyone with Internet access can teach themselves how to plant a garden or change their oil via YouTube.

Higher education has been flattened and democratized, available at a fraction of the cost of a traditional four-year degree through online programs like the Khan Academy, Coursera, and Udemy where you can learn how to develop mobile apps and view thousands of lectures and hundreds of hours of content for less than $150!

All you need to bring to class is your drive and attention.

With the world literally at our fingertips and with so many smart people to collaborate with and learn from, we now have more tools and opportunities to take necessary action to be the change that large corporations, government bureaucracies, and outdated institutions have not been flexible enough, quick enough, or courageous enough to enact.

However, even with social entrepreneurship and increased access to education as guiding principles, radically different business models won’t be enough to transform the economy from the ground up.

One of the biggest barriers facing young creatives is a lack of financing. With the introduction of online Crowdfunding in recent years, the age of static business proposals have become obsolete, replaced by dynamic online donations that engage wide audiences and raise profiles.

Companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made crowdfunding ubiquitous and have taken a revolutionary and evolutionary step toward gathering people with shared interests and common goals to financially and emotionally support people with the drive and motivation to make change in both small and large ways.

Access to funding and education are a good start, but are not enough. The essential ingredient however to making your dreams real is your passion.

Moving forward into the creative economy, your passion will be your most marketable skill. Your passion is the one quality that you bring to the table that cannot be commoditized, automated, shipped off or outsourced.

I have lived to tell the tale and I want to share my successes and failures using my own misadventures in crowdfunding with you, so that you can have a better chance at being successful.

In part 2 of this series, How do you harness your passion to solve a social need? I will share the inspiration for my passion project, and how I uncovered an opportunity to transform an unsustainable mass tourism industry into a more democratized experience. Based off of my time working in the travel and hospitality industry and passion for languages and long distance cycling, I set out to build a prototype for the next generation of digital travel guides based around facilitating more direct human interaction in one of the most obscure travel environments on the world, rural China!

Posts will be released every Wednesday leading to the release on March 27th of the iCurious Travel: A Cultural Guide to China, available exclusively on itunes. Follow me on Twitter @iCuriousTravel  or on Google + for updates.

I look forward to you joining the conversation. What do you think is the biggest obstacle in facing young entrepreneurs today? Where do you think is the biggest opportunity for young entrepreneurs to succeed?

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