I like to think of myself as a socio-economic entrepreneur, supporting for-profit businesses that have a “Giving Back” mentality, often referred to as “Social Enterprises”. While many Social Enterprises engage with non-profit organizations and they may support the same social causes, their methods can be as different as their typical approaches to funding their social impact initiatives.
For the most part I do not get heavily involved in non-profit business development any more. Why social enterprises rather than non-profits? A personal perspective I have to admit. I see too many being created as “hobby” businesses, quite often by individuals who have a personal connection to a cause but not the personal resources (or they do not want to exhaust their resources) to get involved. In some cases, individuals or organizations use non-profits to scam those who would like to support a believed good cause. Some are just looking to create a job for themselves. In other cases, people with hearts of gold wind up spending dollars that could very well be better spent and have greater impact elsewhere.
As with most rules, there are exceptions and I do get heavily involved in education projects, specifically the creation, development and support of charter schools in underserved communities throughout the U.S., many of which, by law, can only operate as non-profits. Of course, there is the personal satisfaction in “serving” and how wonderful that I am involved in such a noble and just cause – but I think we are missing a key point and thereby a real opportunity to add significantly to the American economy while “doing good”!
I recently watched the documentary “Teach Us All”, (http://www.teachusallfilm.org/), talking about how little we have progressed in providing equality in education. Sure, making America and the world a better place for all is something to aspire to but let me take off my “social” hat for a moment and don my simple “business” hat and make a few bullet points:
· In an ever-evolving world economy, the typical American student achievement would rank 38th out of the top 71 developed or developing countries according to the Pew Research Center (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/).
· Our global leadership in education plateaued around 1990 which is when the gap between white and minority student achievement stopped narrowing. Coincidence? (https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/the-costs-of-inequality-education-is-the-key-to-it-all).
· The general consensus of leading business strategists and economists indicate our systems and methods of education are not getting us ready to create the jobs or ready the workforce of the future. A great article in the NY Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/upshot/how-to-prepare-for-an-automated-future.html?mcubz=0) provides some expert insights.
· Incarceration versus education? Only a small sample of evidence and facts from the U.S. Department of Education (https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/report-increases-spending-corrections-far-outpace-education).
· State and local spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of funding for public education for preschool through grade P-12 education in the last three decades.
· The United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population yet more than 20 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.
· According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, two-thirds of state prison inmates have not completed high school.
· One study also shows young black men between the ages of 20 and 24 who do not have a high school diploma or an equivalent credential have a greater chance of being incarcerated than employed.
· Researchers have estimated that a 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates results in a 9 percent decline in criminal arrest rates.
I could go on but think you get the message. The question that needs to be answered is what are we going to do about it? By “we” I mean the business leaders and concerned citizens. What should we expect the government to do? Not much unless we push so hard that they succumb to the pressure. Ok, but where do we start? I want to get people to understand that this is not going to be changed overnight and we cannot do everything today. At the risk of sounding like I am prepared to “write off” those underserved people of today I would like to first try to stop perpetuating an unsustainable situation by focusing in on 3rd grade education in underserved communities and here’s why:
· A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. “Third grade is a kind of pivot point,” said Donald J. Hernandez, the study’s author and a sociology professor at Hunter College, at the City University of New York. “We teach reading for the first three grades and then after that children are not so much learning to read but using their reading skills to learn other topics. In that sense if you haven’t succeeded by 3rd grade it’s more difficult to [remediate] than it would have been if you started before then.” (http://gradelevelreading.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Double-Jeopardy-Report-030812-for-web1.pdf)
There is no one expert who knows it all or any one answer to any of these problems but I strongly suggest you read the article from the Pew Research Center The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training found at http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/03/the-future-of-jobs-and-jobs-training
Is getting involved the right thing for you to do? I hope so! If you want to explore opportunities to have an impact please visit us at ImpactNavigators.com, send me an email at William.Brown@impactnavigators.com or follow us in Twitter @IN2Outcomes