The next big thing

Dropping my son and daughter at college for their respective Freshman years, I not only experienced the unique mixture of sadness, pride, and elation that accompanies these fraught moments; but also spent some time thinking about the job market that will await them next summer, and four years from now.

I thought about how the economy sputters along, and no one seems to know where the ‘next big thing’ is coming from.  The newspapers today told us that we can’t count on the technology sector for big job growth, and President Obama’s Labor Day suggestion of a new infrastructure ‘bank’ and $50 billion of funding to create jobs repairing roads and bridges hardly registered for most people who are either pedaling as fast as they can to hang on to the jobs they have, or holding their breath as they try to make it through yet another week of unemployment.

Meanwhile, John Tammy of Forbes tells us:  “But while it’s exciting to contemplate the giving nature of Gates and Buffett, if their true desire is to help their fellow man, they should hoard every penny of their significant wealth… Some will no doubt benefit in the near term, but the removal of limited capital from the productive parts of the economy will ultimately reduce our standard of living, drive up unemployment and make individuals more — as opposed to less — needful of charity”.


Sean Stannard-Stockton’s Tactical Philanthropy blog offered up some choice comments on Tammy’s suggestion, noting that the nonprofit sector is a huge part of our economy, with millions of jobs and active investments in the building blocks of our economy – education, scientific experimentation, etc.

From REDF’s perspective, the irony is perhaps even more pronounced.  We are using a mix of philanthropy and government funding (through the Social Innovation Fund) to invest in the creation of businesses that in turn provide jobs to people who would otherwise be economically unproductive, and would require public subsidies to meet basic needs, while cycling through costly systems such as prisons and homeless shelters.

Quite the reverse of Tammy’s notion, the philanthropy flowing into these ‘social enterprises’ provides capital that drives down unemployment, and makes people less — as opposed to more — needful of charity.

We invite Mr. Tammy to come visit organizations like New Door VenturesCommunity Housing Partnership, and Buckelew Programs.  See what philanthropic capital can do when deployed productively.  There’s more than one way to stimulate the economy.  And given the paucity of solutions flowing from for profit private sector businesses, or our nation’s capital for that matter, maybe it’s time to look for ‘the next big thing’ elsewhere.

What do you think?  Where is the job growth of the future going to come from?  How can it include more people who have traditionally been excluded from the workforce, while also employing millions of people who were working, but now have been frozen out of an economy that is anemic when it comes to job creation?  What is the ‘next big thing’ to stimulate job growth?