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Philanthropy and...Job Creation

April 05, 2011

Job_creation Whether you interpret the jobs report that was released Friday by the Labor Department as promising or disappointing, the fact remains that the country is still mired in a joblessness crisis, with an unemployment rate of close to 9 percent. Amidst the talk of how the job market is faring in the business community, nonprofits in the U.S. are quietly creating jobs by cultivating entrepreneurship, ensuring that new jobs are both environmentally sound and pay a living wage, testing (and proving) the viability of worker-owned businesses, and advocating for the necessity of subsidized employment programs.

The Foundation Center and IssueLab joined together to interview six nonprofit and foundation leaders working on the urgent issue of job creation. Learn more about their unique perspectives on the issue and what they think is missing from the national discourse.



Stangler_dane Dane Stangler
Research Director
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

The Kauffman Foundation's Approach:
Support and develop programs that make entrepreneurship a more viable option and commission research measuring the impact of entrepreneurs in the United States and the global economy.

Q: What's missing from the discourse?

A: "We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. One reason for that is that policy makers often frame private sector job creation exclusively in terms of the size of businesses. Research increasingly shows, however, that the age of businesses is much more important in terms of net new job creation. Young firms — particularly those that grow — are the most essential piece of job creation in this country. Researchers at the Census Bureau have done an outstanding job of sorting data on firm creation and job creation by age. This has contributed to precision in terms of understanding data but also illuminated larger questions about the nature of entrepreneurship. We are only at the beginning of understanding this phenomenon, which is critical to economic growth."


Howard_ted Ted Howard
Executive Director
Senior Fellow for Social Justice at the Cleveland Foundation
Democracy Collaborative, University of MD College Park

Democracy Collaborative's Approach:
Work with the Cleveland Foundation to create worker-owned cooperative businesses that build longer-term wealth for residents of low- and moderate-income communities.

Q: What's missing from the discourse?

A: "At the federal level the discourse is feeble....We are in a situation where if we don't watch out as a country these eight million jobs that we lost are going to be lost for good. This 9 percent employment is going to become the new norm.

"We have systemic problems in this country that are going to require something other than tinkering at the margins....The issue of job creation and local economic development is not just an economic issue but is a very fundamental issue about the future of our democracy. A lot of democratic theorists agree that the future of a democratic state becomes deeply imperiled when you have tens of millions of people frozen out of the system and that's what we've got. It's a very serious situation, and so we have got to try new approaches to not only create jobs but also to create wealth."


Walz_jo Joanne G. Walz
Community Philanthropy Officer, Promoting Economic Vitality
Minneapolis Foundation

The Minneapolis Foundation's Approach:
Fund with an equity lens, supporting initiatives that address barriers for employment for African Americans, women and refugees, and bringing the public and private sectors together to align funding efforts.

Q: What's missing from the discourse?

A: "I haven't seen evidence of the level of creativity and innovative thinking needed to make changes as rapidly as warranted. Unless we can get some synergy with the changes in education in terms of higher education and postsecondary options and begin to blend that with internship options and mentorship programs from not just big business but middle-size businesses and little businesses and entrepreneurs, especially in our more diverse communities, we're not going to adapt as quickly as we need to.

"There's a significant opportunity with the retirement of the baby boomers. We haven't done enough to create strategies to transfer knowledge and empowerment from baby boomers to the younger generation, who are going to take the hit and the responsibility of moving forward. So the national discourse has helped, but we really need to speed it up and get it on multiple tracks in order to make the changes we need."


Shanley-hope_sarah Sarah Shanley Hope
Director of Strategic Growth
Green for All

Green for All's Approach:
Employ a bold strategy that leverages public dollars, attracts private investment, and mobilizes civil society to create an inclusive green economy in which everyone has access to opportunity and the earth is sustained.

Q: What's missing from the discourse?

A: "What's missing is the immediacy. There is no question that we must take a long view — focusing on good jobs and a healthy environment for all — but the immediate, deep crisis afflicting Americans seems to be lost. Even with a righteous mission, if you're not talking about job creation today and relieving the crisis facing poor and working families, it's hard to get people engaged on your agenda. Looking at want ads is more urgent to folks than e-mailing members of Congress."


Alpert Sharon Alpert
Senior Director, Programs and Strategy and
Program Director, Sustainable Environments
Surdna Foundation

Surdna's Approach:
Support the development of a new energy economy by funding national, state, and local policies and projects that are creating jobs in the energy efficiency, manufacturing, and transportation sectors and playing a bridge-building role between those places of innovation and national policymakers.

Q: What's missing from the discourse?

A: "The national discourse around the green energy economy has focused a lot on renewables and less on energy efficiency until recently. We think energy efficiency is a key area because it's ready to go -- the jobs can be created today and can begin to help businesses and homeowners and consumers immediately reap the savings of a more energy efficient home or a more energy efficient place of business. The savings goes back into the economy, but more importantly, it is one way we can create champions for the new energy economy. We're very interested in having a better national conversation about the mismatch between skills and current job openings out there for the Americans that are out of work. I'm heartened when I hear the national discourse look at the jobs that can be created in a new energy economy and in infrastructure investments, in particular. I get disheartened when I hear that the jobs are not out there or that they are not 'new jobs', which really misses the point. There is plenty of evidence to point to across the states -– from Massachusetts to Ohio to California –- of new economic value and real jobs and new businesses being created in the new energy economy."


Rynell_amy Amy Rynell
National Transitional Jobs Network and Social IMPACT Research Center

The National Transitional Jobs Network's Approach:
Ensure that publicly supported job-creation programs serve those that need them most by advocating for strategies that help the hardest to employ; document and evaluate these job-creation efforts.

Q: What's missing from the discourse?

A: "The large gap between available jobs and people in need of work requires continued discussion about the role of subsidized employment programs to support disadvantaged workers and struggling businesses through the recovery. There is widespread agreement among economists that people with low incomes are very good stimulus engines because they will spend their earnings, thereby supporting local businesses and helping to preserve other jobs. We are very concerned that a very successful job-creation effort for disadvantaged workers, funded through the TANF Emergency Fund, was not extended and allowed to continue. Given the lackluster recovery on the jobs side, those dollars would have continued to bolster low-income communities in key ways."

Those are just a few perspectives from nonprofit and foundation leaders working on job creation. What do you think is missing from the national discourse? What efforts are your organizations undertaking to foster job creation?

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Posted by Ross Eisenbrey  |   April 06, 2011 at 05:47 PM

I totally agree with Sarah, Ted, and Amy that there is no longer a sufficient sense of urgency about the jobless. Michigan reduced its unemployment benefit entitlement to 20 weeks from 26 (Michigan!), a startling example of how uncaring government is growing. The notion has taken hold in Congress that deficit reduction is more important than job creation even though we still have 4 or 5 unemployed workers for every job vacancy. If corporations with record profits won't create jobs here in the U.S., the government must find a way to create them, either directly or by changing tax and trade laws to induce the private sector to bring jobs back to the US.

Posted by David R. Dangler  |   April 12, 2011 at 03:55 PM

NeighborWorks organizations serving rural areas remind us that small investments in rural communities can have enormous impact. One home purchased or one job created in many communities can represent the majority of the economic movement in that reporting period. By extension, a few rural households with jobs can become the economic tipping point for sustaining schools and main street businesses, core elements in strengthening communities. So what seems to be missing is the translation of economic recovery plans into rural terms and evidence that those translations have been incorporated into our overall recovery thinking.

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