Social Innovation in New Orleans

One of the main reasons I write my blog is to spark ideas for social innovation. So I get very excited when I hear or read about what other social innovators are doing in their communities. Currently, there is an innovative idea that is being proposed to help accelerate the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. James Andrews writes on his Key Influencer blog that Friends of New Orleans is looking to bring a Presidential debate to the city.

The awesome thing is that the city has everything in place to make this happen, including the funding and hotel venue.

You can help make this happen. This campaign is targeting your Governor, members of the US Senate and members of the US House of Representatives. Click here and follow the directions.

In many ways it seems New Orleans is forgotten until it’s time for a political photo op. There is still so much work to be done. This could be your opportunity to get involved in the rebuilding even though you don’t live there. Let’s pull together to make this happen for the people of New Orleans. The deadline is September 11th.

Empowering Champions,
Paul Wilson, Jr.

Link to Friends of New Orleans: http://friendsofneworleans.change.org/nonprofit_page/nonprofit_events/94511?event_id=14757

Tags: , New Orleans, economic development

Community Development Visioneering

In our communities today it’s easy to see the problems of crime, homelessness, poverty, illiteracy, disease, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, abuse, corrupt leadership, and so on. What is much harder to see, though, are the solutions to the myriad of problems that are negatively impacting the lives of children and adults in our communities every day.

As I described in my last posting, Visioneering Diversity Value, visioneers are able to execute positive possibilities in situations that others only see as problems (click here to learn more about visioneering).

I have a vision to see impoverished communities economically and socially empowered through the development and expansion of minority owned businesses in those communities. My conviction is that in a country that is considered to be the richest in the world we should have a lot less people living in impoverished conditions.

I believe it is possible to engineer practical solutions that can be utilized to improve the lives of millions of people, from New Orleans to Africa. I also believe the most overlooked and untapped resources needed to improve these communities already exist within those communities.

Based on our current situation today, those of us who are committed to positively impacting other people’s lives need to start doing things differently. It is imperative that we start bringing together entrepreneurially-minded people in corporations, minority businesses, faith-based organizations, advocacy agencies, and other relevant groups to develop comprehensive yet practical plans that will empower people to improve their living environments.

This team needs to be willing and able to think beyond traditional community development models and failed experiments of the past. From an entrepreneurial perspective, there has to be a willingness to take risks and try new approaches that have never been attempted before.

The process of engineering a community empowerment plan such as this takes passion, time, strategic planning, creativity and innovation, discipline, and patience. Short-cuts are not an option. And neither are quick fixes. My idea for this type of plan would include key components, such as:

  • Providing education in the areas of business, economics, finance, and public policy.
  • Training on how to successfully develop and operate a small business or micro-enterprise.
  • Developing business incubators that can be used to expose participants to situations in which their new knowledge and skills can be applied.
  • Creating an overall atmosphere that removes barriers and establishes opportunities for success.

If economic empowerment and community development are areas that like myself you are passionate about, here are some things that you can begin doing today to make a difference:

  1. Start seeing situations through the perspective of possibility versus the purview of problems. Your perspective of a situation will change your response to the situation. Nothing is impossible.
  2. Talk passionately about your ideas with other people. You never know what type of resources someone else may have to invest in your vision. However, because most people are probably going to be more pessimistic than you are, don’t allow them to dampen your enthusiasm.
  3. Collaborate and brainstorm potential solutions with other like-minded people. You don’t have to be a “lone ranger.” You may have only one piece of the solution puzzle while someone else may have another.
  4. Start small. You don’t need a complex strategic plan to begin to implement your ideas. Starting small is probably the best way to test some of your ideas to see if they work before trying to impact a large group of people.
  5. Be the change you want to see in your community. It starts with you. Don’t complain about something that you’re contributing to or that you’re not willing to do anything about.

One of the things that people need the most, but is in short supply is… hope. They need more than just hope, though. They need hope that’s backed up by action. They need to be equipped with knowledge, skills, tools, and encouragement to succeed, so they can develop and execute a vision for their lives that is greater than what they may have ever thought was possible.

There is no problem in this world that cannot be solved with the right combination of faith in God, passion, ideas, time, money, and perseverance. The question is are you going to be a “problem-peddler” or a problem-solver? I hope you will choose the latter.

Join me today to visioneer practical solutions that will empower millions of people to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

Empowering Champions,
Paul Wilson, Jr.

Check out these other articles related to this topic:

1) What Really is Empowerment?

2) Social Entrepreneurship Resources

3) Entrepreneurs Who are Changing the World

Tags: , minority business, community development

Remembering Katrina

This past week was the one year anniversary of the tragic events that occurred last year during and after Hurricane Katrina. This week also marks the one year anniversary of my blog, partly inspired by the destruction and despair that I witnessed as a result of the storm. The impact of those images compelled me to begin thinking of ways that I could help with the rebuilding efforts. I decided to use this blog as a platform for ideas and potential solutions. Here are a few of my first articles, representing my initial foray into the blogosphere…

My goal over this past year has been to be part of the solution for improving our communities, not just someone who complains about the problems. There are no easy answers for strengthening families, eradicating poverty, decreasing homelessness, eliminating teen pregnancy, increasing high school graduation rates, etc. Nevertheless, I will continue to brainstorm and develop solutions that can have a real impact and achieve significant results. There is still much work to be done and as the famous quote states, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

We all have something significant that we can contribute to improving our communities. To make it happen we just need to come together and work toward common goals more intentionally. Let’s be part of the solution together.

I look forward to continuing to encourage you to reach further, perform better, try harder, think broader, and dream bigger!

Empowering You for Success,
Paul Wilson

Tags: Katrina, economic development, community development, ,

Innovation from the Ashes

Check out this article on USAToday that talks about an American icon, IBM, that we built from the ashes of disaster. Enjoy…

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/maney/2005-09-13-flood-ibm_x.htm?POE=click-refer

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A New New Orleans

Check out this interesting article from USAToday

Finally some people are starting to think creatively about the rebuilding efforts in ways that will benefit all the residents of New Orleans, not just vulture-like real estate developers who only see dollar signs and ignore the plight of the people who need the most help. I believe there is an opportunity for prosperity for all of those who desire to live in New Orleans again. That includes large corporations, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and the poor who were previously forgotten and ignored.

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Re-Building Communities

Rebuilding Communities

By nature I am a builder, a developer. I see things that I believe are broken and I want to fix them. I see a lack of structure, and I want to put some in place. I see disorganization and I have a strong urge to bring organization. I see inefficient processes and I want to infuse efficiency into them. That is who I am and what I do. Therefore, it is very hard for me to read about the seemingly continual disorganization and discontinuity of the relief efforts. It is very clear to just about everyone that this country was not ready for a disaster of this magnitude that has impacted nearly 1 million people directly or indirectly. For a while, it seemed like chaos was king, with the response effort adding more misery and grief to lives that had just been devastated.

Once hurricane season is over (Rita is on her way), the focus should shift fully to rebuilding lives and communities of those who have been displaced. After all the cameras have left and the sensation has died down, there still will be tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands people that will be trying to find and pick up the pieces of their lives, literally and figuratively. Even those who have chosen to be permanently displaced (they don’t want to go back), will need help rebuilding their lives in their newly adopted hometowns. However, what is really waiting for them in their new cities? How challenging will it be for them to get jobs in markets which were already tight? If they lack the skill sets to get the jobs that are available in these locales, what other options will be available to them then? What is the plan in those cities whose populations have instantly swelled in weeks for what normally may have taken decades?

It will be very interesting to see which cities and communities are able to come up with the most innovative and effective plans to insure that their new residents have the opportunity to build new lives successfully and that the resources are made available to them to help them get back on their feet. For many, the displacement will prove to be a blessing in disguise, because it will open up new doors and opportunities that previously weren’t thought about or explored. However, this will only be true for those cities and communities that welcome these individuals and help them to find real solutions to their real problems.

Tags: Katrina, Rita, poverty, economic development, community development, ,

Blaming the Victim?

Although the Katrina aftermath and repercussions are going to be an on-going national focus for a loooooong-time, that will not be the sole purpose of this blog. Having said that…

It’s very interesting to me how many people are blaming those who did not evacuate, as if they purposely chose to be victims of this horrific event. It’s almost as if people are implying that the living conditions or situations were voluntary for the majority of those who stayed behind, i.e. the poor. There is no doubt in my mind that if 1) they could have predicted the severity of the storm, and 2) they had the means to get out, then they would have done so. Census records show that many of the areas that were most severely impacted are some of the poorest in the country, not just New Orleans! Therefore, even if they wanted to leave, which many probably did, they didn’t have the resources to go (i.e., no money for a car, bus, or plane ride, or an extended stay at a hotel). I’ve also heard many people saying that those who were evacuated to the Super Dome and the Convention Center should have had four to five days of food with them. Again I use the same argument, because many could barely afford groceries as it was, so to ask them to buy 4 to 5 days’ worth of food was really unreasonable…

We all need to recalibrate how we see the poor and how to help alleviate these conditions. There needs to be a new understanding of how to raise the level of poverty in this country. Yes, we need to require people to take personal ownership of their own conditions and their futures. However, if they don’t have the resources to pull themselves up by their “own bootstraps,” then how can they be expected to figure their own way out of their situation. People don’t just need to be told what to do. In addition to being “inspired,” they need to be EDUCATED and EQUIPPED for success. This is not a short-term fix or something that can happen overnight. There must be a long-term commitment – supported with MONEY – that will enable people to grow out of their current state and build a life that can be perpetuated to their children. Right now, poverty is reproducing poverty in a vicious cycle that must be broken with innovative solutions, not the same, out-dated programs that have shown only limited success, if any success at all. This commitment must come from the public and private sectors, IF we truly are committed to changing the long-term situation in this country, and not just providing a temporary, quick fix for those who have been displaced. Otherwise, let’s not make false promises or show temporary compassion. These people – Americans – deserve better than that.

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Silver Lining

It is truly heartbreaking to see the physical devastation that has happened in the Gulf Coast. It is even more heartbreaing to think of the lives that have been totally transformed forever by these catastrophic events. One of the key things that clearly has been exposed is the fact that abject poverty is not a thing of the past in this country. Instead, it might possibly be more prevalent now than in the past (which is truly sad considering all of the advancements that this country has made). Yet, there must be some solution that not only could help alleviate some of these problems, but assists people in developing a greater sense of purpose and self-worth, while also empowering them economically.

There is a silver lining in these dark days for the people of the Gulf Coast. The end of one era has created the opportunity for fresh beginnings to be built on new foundations of hope. It is my hope in this forum that I can bring some critical thought and creative ideas to help make the concept of personal economic empowerment a reality for more people. One key way to do this is through business ownership and entrepreneurship.

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