Moving the Economic Flywheel

One Job for America the outstanding brainchild of the Bay Area’s Carla Emil represents the kind of out-of-the box but practical idea we need right about now.  Across the country, businesses are responding to Carla’s grassroots movement and on-line registry that aims to galvanize every company in America to create at least one job to put people back to work.

Job creation is the solution for our economy – which acts like a kind of flywheel.  When it’s cranking slowly with few people working and too little spending, the lack of demand suppresses job creation slowing the wheel further.  As more people go to work, demand increases, accelerating job creation and spending – the flywheel starts spinning.  That’s the virtuous circle One Job for America is trying to reinforce.

This meshes perfectly with the goal of the nonprofits that have just joined REDF’s portfolio.  They were in San Francisco last week sharing ideas and deciding how to work together and with REDF to create not just one job each – but many more jobs – all of them targeted to people with the highest rates of unemployment.

If more nonprofits joined with their for profit colleagues to create jobs around the US, that flywheel would be spinning!

Job creation and economic development was the subject of the grantee meeting I attended in Washington, D.C. last week of the little-known Community Economic Development/Job Opportunities for Low Income Individuals (CED/JOLI) programs administered by the federal Office of Community Services (OCS) .  OCS has made grants to hundreds of community development corporations and nonprofits all over the country to create enterprises and jobs.

My speech focused on results and resilience.
“We have to roll up our sleeves and implement well.  It’s not glamorous but it is necessary”; and despite the trying times, “Just as we support the people we serve to be resilient in the face of setbacks and challenges, we need resilience in our programs.  When we learn what works, or who should be targeted, we should adjust.  If a few grants don’t work or a venture doesn’t work – learn and try again.”  (the full text is here)
In 2011, the President is transforming the CED/JOLI program to focus on bringing fresh, local food to low income communities to fight the growing epidemics of obesity and diabetes.  This  Healthy Food Financing Initiative includes funding from OCS, a loan program through local community development financial institutions and resources from the Department of Agriculture.  Funding announcements are likely to be out this month.

I met people from the Wholesome Wave that are increasing the purchasing power of people with low incomes so they can buy fresh food; while expanding farmers markets, and erasing the stigma of using foodstamps at farmers markets.

While the food initiative is badly needed, the decision to turn the OCS programs that once funded significant business and job creation to only one purpose, while cutting the funding by more than half, reflects some of the misplaced priorities emerging as Washington competes to cut spending.

Meanwhile, those of us living in local communities use what resources we can find to do the most good, while relying on the creativity and entrepreneurial grit at the heart of America to keep on creating jobs and reviving the American Dream.  One Job for America. Sign up now.  One job at a time – we can and will turn that flywheel around.