We’ve Moved!

August 1st, 2015 by Admin

Christopher and Gregg are no longer blogging here.

For Christopher’s latest writings, see his columns on social innovation for the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer entitled “Doing Better at Doing Good.” Follow him on Twitter: @cgergen

For Gregg’s latest writings, see his Triple Crown Leadership blog posts. Follow him on Twitter: @gvanourek

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Dropout crisis in focus

September 30th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, September 23, 2009

Nationwide, it is estimated that 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year. This is nearly 1-in-3 – or an average of 7,000 students per day. These numbers are even more devastating among minorities; almost 50 percent of black and Latino students don’t graduate on time.

The costs of this epidemic are tremendous. According to the Cities in Crisis 2009 report, in the 50 largest U.S. cities, the median income for high school dropouts is $14,000 – significantly lower than the median income of $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. Nationally, high school dropouts are the only group of workers who saw income levels decline over the last 30 years.

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that high school dropouts from the class of 2006-07 will cost the U.S. more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. Furthermore, dropouts are more likely to end up in jail, rely on public programs and do without health insurance than those who stay in school.

Clearly this is not just an education problem – this is a community problem. So what are we doing about it?

One initiative worth paying attention to is the dropout campaign being waged by America’s Promise Alliance. Founded in 1997 by Gen. Colin L. Powell and currently chaired by his wife, Alma Powell, the organization is a cross-sector partnership of 300 companies and nonprofit, faith-based and advocacy organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

They have turned their attention to the nation’s dropout crisis, and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have hosted more than 35 dropout summits in cities across the country. The summits are designed to bring together city leaders, citizens and student advocates to develop workable solutions and action plans. This has led to important community building within these cities, and these communities are starting to share their activities with one another as a spirit of cross-collaboration helps drive this work forward.

Leaders from 12 of the participating cities gathered in the District last week to talk concretely about how they can deepen their work in their respective communities. Prior to the meeting, each city team published a short description of its on-the-ground initiatives.

In New Orleans, for example, 30 community organizations have come together to create the New Orleans Kids Partnership. With the intent of letting no child slip through the cracks, the organization provides wraparound support for students up to age 19 in designated schools, with a focus on () (read more)

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Quantity vs. quality in work, life

August 15th, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, August 12, 2009

As the summer wanes and Labor Day looms, we would do well to take stock of our working lives. After all, on average, the working American spends 93,000 hours at work over a lifetime. And with the national unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, those who have work are wise not only to thank their lucky stars, but also to make the most of it. Those on the sidelines are smart to be proactive and creative in setting themselves up for gainful employment.

What’s mostly lost in the unemployment statistics is that many Americans are in the midst of a reframing process when it comes to their outlook on work. Americans take the least amount of vacation time in the industrialized world. On average, we receive 14 days of vacation per year. And we don’t even take the time we have. According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans leave 439 million vacation days unused every year (an aggregate total of 1.2 million years), and more than a third of American workers take fewer than seven vacation days a year.

According to writer Steve Rushin, “In England [where workers get 24 vacation days], leisure and pleasure rhyme. In the United States, leisure rhymes with seizure.” He cites studies that correlate taking vacations with a reduced risk of death from heart disease for men and less depression for women. Although work hours declined steadily in the industrialized world between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, men today report working 100 more hours a year than in 1976, and for women it’s 200-plus more hours. Yet a recent Salary.com survey revealed that workers admit wasting about a fifth of their time on an average day gossiping or surfing the Web.

Of course, what matters most isn’t the quantity of work but the quality of work and our productivity. One recent trend is the “results-only work environment,” which gets people out of “workaholic” mode by letting them leave the office when their work is done.

That quality of work hinges on some interesting things these days. In the past, one could rightly expect compensation, prestige and promotion to lead job seekers’ priorities. Not so today. According to a 2007 survey by consultancy BlessingWhite, 4 in 10 respondents indicated work that challenges or stimulates them is the most important factor in choosing a job, and 2 in 10 indicated they are primarily looking for work that satisfies their personal values, while only 7 percent indicated that a move “up the ladder” was their top priority. Currently, the traditional notion of a “career path” is falling by the wayside for vast swaths of the citizenry.

Today’s shrewd organizations look to brand the employment experience they offer with meaning-filled pizzazz. For example, at CLIF Bar, employees are paid to work out during the workweek and are supported by full-time trainers on staff, not to mention sabbaticals and incentives for going “green” at home and in their commute. At Ernst & Young, employees are paid to volunteer – and get to use their specialized talents and skills in the process. (read more…)

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An Entrepreneurial Obama

July 20th, 2009 by Admin

Despite their differences, both major parties agree on one thing: small businesses are the primary driver of economic growth in America. President Obama has said much about the need for small business support, and has focused some of his administrations’ recovery plan on that support.

This includes lowering fees and increasing guarantees to 90% for SBA loans,  as well as calling for more entrepreneurship in education (particularly in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Read more in this excellent piece by Jonathan Ortmans, a senior fellow of the Kauffman Foundation.

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Even topless dancers can be connectors

June 26th, 2009 by Admin

If you’ve read The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s hallmark work, then you’re familiar with Gladwell’s three characters that combine to make things tip: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

Mavens are hubs of valuable information. Salesmen sell. And connectors connect. But topless dancers?

Even a topless dancer can be a connector, as Todd Taskey blogged about in Business Management Daily.

Who knows how long will it be until you tip? All you can do is keep dancing…

Check out the rest of the story here.

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Business for Peace

June 24th, 2009 by Admin

Congratulations to Anders Dahlvig, winner of the 2009 Oslo Business for Peace Award! Dahlvig became the CEO of IKEA in 1999 and has led the home-furnishing giant to unprecedented levels of socially engaged business. A brief bio on Dahlvig:

‘Anders Dahlvig started working for IKEA in 1984 and has held various positions since, including Store Manager, Country Manager of United Kingdom and Vice President, Europe. He assumed his current position as CEO in 1999. Under Mr. Dahlvig’s leadership, IKEA has placed sustainability at the heart of its product development and supply strategy. Thus, for instance, in 2000, the company has introduced IWAY, which stands for “The IKEA Way of Purchasing Home Furnishing Products”. This code of conduct defines what suppliers can expect from IKEA and what IKEA requires from its suppliers in terms of legal requirements, working conditions, the active prevention of child labor, environmental protection and forestry management. In 2007, IKEA decided to do even more and started a number of joint projects with the WWF on climate change, in order to reduce carbon emissions caused by its business.’

The annual Oslo Summit for Business and Peace addresses the ethical and responsible aspects of business; this years focused on a call for ‘Conscious Capitalism,’ and a new wave of social awareness in business.  Learn more about it here: Oslo Summit.

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Work, Reinvented

June 24th, 2009 by Admin

Despite the recession, many Americans have been able to rework their jobs and reinvent their work/life balance. This is a key component in creating the good life as you see fit. To read more examples of this, check out Work Reinvented (link to Forbes article).

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Where can the path lead?

June 18th, 2009 by Admin

For an exciting example of truly leading a whole entrepreneurial life, check out Location Independent.

After getting exhausted by the rat race and laid off, Lea & Jonathan Woodward chose to redirect their lives toward independence and their desire to see the world, while making a difference. The result? They now run their company, Kinetiva–a company dedicated to building communities of progressively-minded people who want to shape their own lives rather than accept a typical one–from various locations around the world as they travel and experience their dream life.

Learn more about their exciting journey and their work at Location Independent.

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Greenest city in America

June 3rd, 2009 by Admin

From  The Washington Times, Wed., April 22, 2009

At about 9:25 p.m. on May 4, 2007, the tornado siren in Greensburg, Kan., sounded its warning. Most of the city’s 1,574 people probably didn’t pay much attention, given how common tornadoes are in the state.

This one was different, however. At 9:45 p.m., an F-5 tornado arrived in full force. The funnel had a footprint 1.7 miles wide – wider than the city itself – and winds up to 205 mph, the highest ever recorded. Once the storm had finished its work, 11 people had died, 95 percent of the city had been leveled, and fewer than a dozen homes were left standing. Hardly any walls were standing, and most people had lost all of their material possessions. Virtually all of the local businesses had been destroyed.

The city, which had been named for D.R. “Cannonball” Green, a stagecoach company owner who had helped to form the city, faced an existential question: Should we rebuild at all? Some could say it was a dying place with a dwindling population, scarce jobs and generations of high school graduates fleeing to bigger cities.

But something remarkable happened in the wake of the maelstrom. In a large circus tent set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency outside of town, an intrepid group of survivors hatched a plan to rebuild their home as the greenest city in America – the most environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient in the nation. The goal is to power the city with 100 percent renewable energy and attract a booming green trade that will be the envy of the world.

Several months after the twister hit, the city council approved an unprecedented and historic plan that would have all public buildings conform to the platinum rating of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, the holy grail of such ratings. (read more…)

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Search Institute a beacon for youth

June 2nd, 2009 by Admin

From The Washington Times, Wed., March 25, 2009

It has been said that generations are shaped by defining moments such as World War II, the Vietnam War or the countercultural movements of the 1960s. In the midst of today’s recession and its attendant credit crunch, housing bust and global downturn, where does that leave today’s youth – particularly the Millennial Generation, born from 1982 to 2001?

Today’s youth have been getting mixed signals. On the one hand, they have come of age during a boom in business entrepreneurship (Google, YouTube and Facebook) and social entrepreneurship (Ashoka, Teach for America and microlender Grameen Bank, which earned the Nobel Peace Prize) as well as a surge in the use of communications-related technology (social networking and texting) and a growing green revolution.

On the other hand, they have been witnesses to (and, for some, participants in) two wars, Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, an obesity epidemic, climate change and Wall Street meltdowns. They have seen multiple bubbles burst, and it has been widely predicted that today’s youth will have a lower standard of living than their parents. What a difference a decade makes.

Some might read the tea leaves and predict (read more…)

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