A survey last year by the financial firm Deloitte & Touche found that two-thirds of those ages 18 to 26 prefer jobs that permit them to contribute to a nonprofit group.
In recent years, more than 30 business schools, including those at Georgetown and Harvard universities, have launched social entrepreneurship programs. The number of law schools that support pro bono programs or require students to work in them rose to 145 this year, from 100 in 2001, according to an American Bar Association survey.
Pamela Hartigan, co-author of the new book "The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World," said today's young idealists differ from their predecessors.
"In the 1960s and 1970s, politics was the way we thought of changing the world. But young people today. . . believe that change is going to be brought about by business and market discipline," Hartigan said. "And so they seek to set up enterprises, not to pad their pockets, but to transform what is broken in our societies in a long-lasting way." She added that some get restless: "They are very impatient about not having a job that's meaningless."
Ashoka, an Arlington County-based organization that funds social start-ups, created a program in the mid-1990s for would-be entrepreneurs ages 12 to 20. Ashoka's Youth Venture has launched more than 2,000 projects worldwide, at least half of which are still active, including a new team of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students who plan to install energy-saving light bulbs in poor neighborhoods, funding the project with babysitting and tutoring money.