Grant to “The Future Leaders’ Program” for the implementation of its 5th cycle for 2013. This pioneering programme of corporate social responsibility is addressed to postgraduate students of Greek universities. The students are called upon to prepare a proposition/organisational plan for a non-profit institution, with guidance and support from high-ranking executives of companies operating in Greece. Future Leaders is a non-profit association established by companies that operate in Greece with a heightened sense of responsibility and the willingness to make an active contribution to social actions aimed at development, creating opportunities for young people and encouraging their awareness of social issues and their active participation in resolving them. www.futureleaders.gr
In December 2008 the centre of Athens was shaken by constant violence which involved, among others, children, teenagers, young people who felt that an entire social system was against them. Young people who expressed in violent ways their opposition to a social system that isolated them, a world they didn’t like and which they fought in the most dramatic way, contributing to its ugliness. The images of indiscriminate violence by the young reflected the despair and lack of direction for an entire generation and the sad realisation that a Pandora’s box had opened which would not close unless, amidst all this degradation, there emerged understanding and willingness for actions towards a single objective: to change the conviction among the young that society was the enemy and that they should engage in constant war with that enemy… a war with casualties, a war with no victors.
The aim was clear. It was seen by some people who felt shame about what had been bequeathed to the new generation and caused so much anger. It was envisioned by parents and others who saw in their daily lives in the city centre a battlefield pulsating with life that wished to become death. It inspired some professionals who considered themselves partly responsible for what was happening—and reacted. Their idea was named Future Leaders, and it could penetrate the lives and minds of hundreds of young people, dozens of successful professional adults and many more who stood literally on the fringe, some expectantly and some hopelessly, for a helping hand towards a better life amidst objective obstacles, real pain and inescapable, palpable problems.
The idea was started by Kris Amiralis, then Head of the ΗΑΥ GROUP and currently chairman of BETTER FUTURE, and it was simple and ingenious: young people, recent graduates of undergraduate or postgraduate schools, are called upon to help non-profit organisations to work better, to increase the public’s awareness, to be heard, to mobilise supporters in their work and improve the lives of thousands of people in need. They are joined by experienced executives as intermediaries and valuable helpers, who are called upon to share their knowledge, knowhow and experience for a good cause. A triangle of mutual support to the benefit of all.
The young participants are selected not only for their proficiency in their studies but also for their personality traits and their willingness to contribute to society with their powers and knowledge; for the need to give back to those who needed them what they themselves had been given in abundance. Dozens of executives from some 50 ‘major’ companies in the commercial, industrial and services sector offered to help, become “advisors” to these young people and contribute to the final outcome. At the same time, young and older professionals, with or without experience, joined forces for the benefit of people in need and at the same time for their own good.
“Every year, the mentors who take the podium to tell their own story within this drive speak with emotion about how—and how much—this joining of forces has changed their life. They no longer see the young in the same way; they don’t approach their role in the workplace as they did before. They feel the need to evolve and move forward. They work to relieve the pain of people who cannot act autonomously and evolve, even if they want it. They realised their own unlimited potential. They felt the dynamic and wished to introduce it to their own workplace. They realised that knowledge needs momentum if we are to move forward together”.
All this effort meant a parallel benefit to the young people, who formed a network of acquaintance and communication with their peers—young individuals from different starting pints—as well as with the executives with whom they worked and who could continue to provide guidance or perhaps collaborate with them professionally.
“Through this process we turned our ‘children’, the participants in Future Leaders, into an active part of the future, and above all we confirmed the opposite of what they believed. We were there to help them; we were neither against them nor absent from their life. We helped their effort, and we remain here so that they never go back to feeling desperate, angry, remote from authority and the state”.
All this wondrous initiative was espoused from the outset by companies able to share the vision and join in. The TITAN Group, AB Vassilopoulos, Better Future, the Athens Brewery, the Hay Group, Minerva Oils, Sprint Communications, the Paul & Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation and then more companies such as PWC, Aon Hewitt, McKinsey, KPMG, Summit offered hands-on support for the realisation of the actions of Future Leaders and became valuable partners who shared in the anxiety, the obstacles and the hardships and enjoyed the wondrous fruits from these actions to all those involved.
“In Greece we are surrounded by a huge, inexhaustible civilisation which we often dismiss as irrelevant. Similarly, we often come across individuals in foundations and institutions who work wonders in promoting culture and we walk past them without realising their merit, their grandeur even. You have to pause and reflect on what they do, and that’s when you realise how important it is. The Paul & Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation facilitates knowledge, generates knowledge and works for knowledge—and it does it with focus, devotion and above all quality. Our collaboration was to us a fascinating revelation. We have them on our side, and this is great”.
* Discussion with Ms Anna Mamalaki, contributor to the Future Leaders initiative, Employee Engagement Senior Manager, Human Resources Division, TITAN Group.