Led by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, more and more of America’s wealthiest are committing their fortunes to charity. But the organizers of the Nexus: Global Youth Summit on Innovative Philanthropy and Social En... see the next generation of leaders as the true ambassadors of change.
The Nexus Summit, held Wednesday and Thursday in New York City, brought together hundreds of participants, including young wealth-holders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists from around the world for a conference dedicated to transforming the narrative of wealth away from materialism to social responsibility.
Jonah Wittkamper, U.S. director of Search for Common Ground, the global conflict resolution non-profit that convened the event, said that what limits young wealthy people from actively giving back is an “inspiration gap.” In other words, they have the money and the potential influence to start making a difference, but not the motivation or knowledge.
One of the main goals of Nexus was to create a “safe space” for the young and wealthy to connect with peers, non-profits, and philanthropic role models. Wittkamper hopes the ideas will cross-pollinate, “catalyzing the next generation of philanthropic leadership.”
Many of the remarkably young speakers agreed. Arkur Jain, 21, is the son of Intelius CEO Naveen Jain and the founder of the Kairos Society, an organization of collegiate entrepreneurs that focuses on how innovative business can solve the world’s problems. “Most young entrepreneurs don’t see the opportunities,” Jain said. “They need incentives and guidance.”
Will Meredith, 29, a director of his family’s real estate development business and son of former Dell Chief Financial Officer Tom Meredith, argued that pursuing social good doesn’t have to diminish financial returns. He pointed to a real estate project he’s been working on in his hometown, Austin, TX. “The long term social good is more important for the next 25 years,” Meredith said. “Ultimately, investing in the community reaps higher financial profits.”
Panel discussions explored many aspects of giving and youth, including online social movements, eco-entrepreneurship, and how to talk with your family about philanthropy. Wittkamper described how the conference was also designed to change the way other people approach wealth. “Non-profits have to learn to understand and appreciate the challenges that the wealth community faces,” he said.
“We’re there because we do care, not because we’re trying to get into Daddy’s credit card,” Justin Mayo said. The 29-year-old founder of Red Eye, a non-profit that works with members of the arts and entertainment industry, Mayo said part of the job of a philanthropic organization is to create a positive community around its contributors and volunteers.
An additional challenge the Nexus Summit tackled was connecting people from all backgrounds and parts of the world. Jessie Spector from Resource Generation, a non-profit that organizes young people of privilege for the public good, spoke about this problem during one panel. “We have common interests, but not the language to build movements,” she said. “It’s about finding a community to break down barriers to galvanize your resources and maximize your impact.”
That process may take years, but the participants of the Nexus Summit hope they have kick started a real movement.