In the UK, there are a million young people who are not working, not at school and not in any other sort of training. With few opportunities to improve themselves, these teens and 20-somethings risk becoming a lost generation. The UK is letting potential talent go to waste.This might seem an odd opening for an article in corporate venturing, but the corporates can really do something to help. I am not just looking for funding that has the potential to be returned, but I also want to tap into your business brains, your experience and your leadership skills.I am the chief executive of Big Issue Invest (BII), the social investment arm of Big Issue magazine sold by the homeless. We provide finance to social enterprises – businesses that solve social problems – and we have invested more than £18m ($25m) to date in enterprises that include chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, which offers apprenticeships to marginalised young people; social care organisation Turning Point; and War Child, which is expanding its work rebuilding the lives of children in conflict zones. This is not charity – this is different. The enterprises we support are expected to provide both financial and social returns on our investments. It is a tough expectation, but we work hard to make it happen. We have just launched a world first: the Spark Corporate Social Venturing Challenge, which will invest £500,000 in 10 early-stage social enterprises as well as providing them with mentoring and business support to ensure they are resilient and effcient. These enterprises will be using technology to help some of those million young people who are not in employment, education or training. They will be assisting young people to improve their academic achievements, combat emotional issues, increase confidence and get into work. We might invest in a start-up enterprise such as Future First, which mirrors those fee-paying-school old boys’ networks by building online communities of state school alumni and sells access to the portal to schools. Or we might support We’re Altogether Better, the trading arm of award-winning charity BeatBullying. This organisation develops and sells to local authorities, schools and youth organisations proven digital support programmes such as CyberMentors, a peer support social network which gives advice to young people about bullying and violence. This Spark Corporate Social Venturing Challenge has already attracted big-name partners. Our principal partner is the Nominet Trust, a foundation established by one of the world’s largest internet registries. Software provider…

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